Before I forget, let me thank all of you who have been praying for our Vacation Bible School for the past few weeks and months. We served a record 79 children this past week -- many of whom come from unchurched families -- and nine of them made a decision to accept Christ as their Saviour (in addition to several others who re-affirmed their faith or expressed that God was working in their hearts to draw them toward Him). I realize that VBS is a huge investment for our little church family each year, but let me encourage you that it’s so absolutely, totally worth every penny spent and every erg of energy expended.
Having said that, we’re all a little exhausted this week, so it was as much a blessing for the Worship Team as it was to the rest of our congregation to have the VBS kids and their crew leaders up front to lead our music in the service this week. Several of those songs are painfully catchy, and I’ve found myself absent-mindedly humming a few even this morning -- but more to the point, their lyrics are good reminders that God is there for us when we worry, or when we feel alone, or when life just seems to get too big in our eyes to handle. It’s not that He always takes those stressors out of our lives, but rather that He so consistently and faithfully walks through all of them alongside of us and reminds us that we’re not limited to our own limitations.
We talked about that a bit as part of our message this week, as we finished up the Book of James (side note here: I almost scheduled this differently, since I figured that the fifth and final sermon in a series that’s all about James getting in your face about taking your Christianity seriously may not be the best idea for a Sunday when we’re inviting all of our unchurched VBS families to join us, but God kept nudging me to do it anyway -- and, given a few of the conversations that we ended up having with some of them afterwards, I think that maybe God knew what He was doing).
On the surface, James is covering a bunch of unrelated stuff in this final chapter of his book (greed, patience, grumbling, etc.), but when you look at it, he’s really pulling the overarching themes of his letter together -- we keep thinking of ourselves as long-term citizens of this temporary stop-off, and that messes with our perspectives across the board. If we really believe that God is real and that God is good, then we should live like that in our day-to-day lives as ambassadors here -- we shouldn’t grumble and conflict with one another as if there were a finite number of resources that we need to fight one another over (whether those resources are money, respect, love, grace, or whatever). God will judge our hearts and our behaviors toward others, so it’s not enough just to believe right things -- we need to actively, lovingly live out those sincere beliefs in sincere actions.
And over all of that, James keeps emphasizing the crucial importance of prayer -- actually, personally talking with our Lord, singing praises to God, praying for one another -- reminding ourselves that life is so much bigger and better and richer than just what we get so caught up with here.
As I summarized to someone after the service, James is basically saying, “Do you really put your faith in God? Really? Great -- then that needs to matter to you. And then that needs to change what you do every single day…”