“22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25 But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.”
– James 1:22-25
There is this sort of, cliché aspect of Christianity that gets overlooked by long time Christians. We hear scripture verses or quotes all the time and we file them into the drawer labeled “WHATEVER.” Over time, God becomes this really bright masterful guy that sits on a glow-in-the-dark throne. This big guy in the sky who sprinkles blessings on us like pinches of salt. We make him appear like a self help genie when we lose people we love, or when we make a bad financial decision, or when our little worlds crash around us. The most unfortunate part about all of this, is forgetting about the “WHATEVER” drawer. The Jesus Junk drawer.
I was raised in the church. I went to private schools. My exposure to memory verses and the Bible was probably abnormal in comparison to most church goers today. There are children in the public school system who have never even opened a Bible or even know what a Bible verse is. I think I was very fortunate in that respect, to have this exposure to everything. I wasn’t just limited to one thing, I saw all sides growing up; no matter how hard my parents worked to shelter me. The one thing that subsequently stuck with me, aside from the bad habits I gained doing bad things, were the Bible verses I heard or memorized day in and day out.
Here are a few examples:
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;”
– Proverbs 3:5
“I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”
– Philippians 4:13
1 How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked,
Nor stand in the path of sinners,
Nor sit in the seat of scoffers!
2 But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
And in His law he meditates day and night.
3 He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water,
Which yields its fruit in its season
And its leaf does not wither;
And in whatever he does, he prospers.
– Psalm 1:1-3
“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us”
– Ephesians 3:20
These are just a small handful, I learned tons more over the years growing up. I never thought they would do anything for me. After all, these things were shoved down my throat. I couldn’t get a decent grade at a private school unless I knew these verses. The irony of it all is how, these verses, these tiny gold nuggets, they were little seeds planted in my heart. Dormant seeds. All they needed was the right watering and the perfect gardener to do it.
We hear these verses today in church. We see them in frames and on wood blocks all crafted to hang in our homes. They are on magnets to put on our refrigerator, they are on key chains and bookmarks. These verses are everywhere. Throughout my life experiences so far, I would venture to say these verses are highlighted to remind us of who God is in our lives. We lose a job or a spouse and all of a sudden, we are trying to do all things through Christ who strengthens us. We are in a financial bind and can’t understand why we can’t catch up, so we learn to lean not on our own understand but are forced to trust in the Lord. Think about that for a minute. Think about every situation we encounter, good our bad and how these clichés begin to make sense out of the everyday solutions we need.
Now that we have acknowledged this, we can move on to the hard part: Applying these verses to ourselves. This is where the rubber meets the road. This is where every tool God gave us gets used. Every Biblical screwdriver and wrench in the box. It’s almost like God allows things to happen, sits back with his popcorn and says, “Alright, lets see if this guy knows how to use these tools.” Or maybe He is like that boss that, on the first day of work, hands you your tools and walks away saying, “There’s your tools, I assume you know what to do, I will be back later to check on you.” Since the time I became a Christian to this very day, I can remember every single time I left the “WHATEVER” drawer locked and also when I ran to it to turn it upside down. Most of us leave the “WHATEVER” drawer locked. How can you tell? Easy. We are all a mess, confused, lost. We are like the Christians described in James:
“6 But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7 That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. 8 Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.”
– James 1:6-8
Isn’t this so true? We see people we know or ourselves just trying to solve our own problems by doing the very opposite of what God tells us to do. We pander for solutions because we forget about God in the panic and surely the “WHATEVER” drawer is well, whatever. I can personally tell you of the little miracles God has done in my life that have made big impacts on me. The best part about those little miracles is the fact that I did what He wanted me to do (look to Him) and He came through. Let me give some examples:
You can call it happenstance or coincidence or whatever. I call it God at work. These things weren’t just provided for me, but they were/are stepping stones to strengthening my faith and trust. How can we trust people or God when we aren’t given any reason to trust them? On the flip-side, how can we learn to trust God if we don’t give Him a chance? James really blows all of us out of the water in those three verses. None of us will always do what we should, we will not trust God when we need to. I do think we would be doing God a disservice by ignoring or belittling the power He has. It’s one thing to ignore it but its another thing to say, “Yeah right, that doesn’t happen.” What a miserable, Christian life it would be to never experience the joy of His peaceful presence in the midst of a storm.
I want to end this by encouraging the reader to hold tight to those refrigerator magnets and cheesy framed scripture art. If your kid comes home from Sunday School with a memory verse, memorize it too. If you hear your pastor and small group leader saying the same little verse over and over again, write it down. Don’t forget who God is and how magnificent He is. Don’t forget how much He loves you and me. Don’t forget that no matter how far you are from Him, He is never far from you. No matter how terrible of a state your relationship with God is, redemption is for you. Trust. Just trust.