The Wisdom of Stage Fright
Who’s the star of your life? You or God?
Morning. David Sorn. Lead Pastor here at Renovation Church.
The drive to become famous is becoming a high value for many people in our culture…especially young people.
In fact, according to a recent study, fame is now the 2nd most desired thing in young people.
Most of them don’t even know what they want to be famous for, the study said, just…famous.
There was another study done at UCLA about the values TV shows express to kids (or more specifically pre-teens) over the decades.
The study said that most kids in the 1960’s would have watched The Andy Griffith Show and The Lucy Show, kids in the 1970’s watched Laverne & Shirley or Happy Days.
The study said that in the 60’s, and 70’s, the number one value communicated to kids in shows was: “Community Feeling.” Mayberry.
In the 80’s and 90’s, it was actually pretty similar.
The number one value communicated to kids through shows like “The Facts of Life” or “Saved by the Bell” was: “Being part of a group”
TV Shows talked about the values of others
Even in 1997…Being kind to others was the 2nd most common value shown on TV shows for kids.
Present day: That’s 13th.
In the 2000’s, the main shows preteens were watching were Hannah Montana and American Idol…
..and what has now taken over as the number one value communicated to kids is “being famous”
This is not a completely new trend either.
We’re just a bit more unashamed and blatantly obvious about our desires nowadays
This has been the product…of a shifting culture over the last 50 years, not just the last 15.
For a long time now, most of us have been living in a culture where life is supposed to be about us.
WE are supposed to be the star.
And everyone else around us is just supposed to be a part of our entourage.
You know what an entourage is, right?
It’s the group of people who hang around a really famous person (typically a musician, or famous athlete, or politician) and do everything to make that person happy.
And today, as we resume our More Than Words series on the Letter of James, James is going to talk about that sort of life-philosophy and contrast it with what He calls “heavenly wisdom”
If you’re new to Renovation this Fall, we have been walking verse-by-verse through the James’ Letter in the Bible in 2016 (on and off) and will be resuming our study this morning in chapter 3.
James is a letter that is all about practical faith.
It’s about how to possess faith, not just profess faith
In other words, if you truly believe in Jesus…we ought to see it in your life…not just hear you talk about it.
We sometimes say, “Faith isn’t just a recipe, if it’s real, you’ll bake the cake w/ your life” (thus the cake in the video)
EXPLAIN THE TWO WISDOMS
So let’s get into James’ letter this morning.
(James 3:13-18) – NIV
13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.14 But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth.15 Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.
17 But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.18 Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.
This is a passage about two types of wisdom.
Earthly wisdom and heavenly wisdom.
The type of “wisdom” that comes from us…and the type of wisdom that comes from God.
And James is really clear, right from the beginning, that wisdom is not what you know, but how you live.
Verse 13: Show your wisdom by your deeds…
Wisdom is the right knowledge…lived out.
So what is that first type of wisdom, “earthly wisdom” (or the wisdom of this world)??
The wisdom of the world can be summarized by this phrase, “I need to do what’s best for ME.”
This is why the Bible is like no other book.
James wrote this 2,000 years ago, halfway around the world, and it sounds like it was written specifically for Americans in 2016.
Earthly wisdom says:
“What’s the next best step for ME?”
“What’s best for MY career?
“What’s best for ME in this friendship?”
I’m a bit too old for the generation that wanted to be famous…but I can constantly remember being told, “David…you just do what’s best for you”
And it sounds like a really helpful little platitude.
It sounds good, but it hurts so bad.
James warns us…don’t harbor that kind of earthly wisdom
It’s full of “bitter envy” and “selfish ambition” he says…both in verse 14 AND 16.
When you live out the mantra of “Do what’s best for you”…you’re living like you’re the star.
Like it doesn’t matter what people around you, or God Himself thinks about how you live, what matters most is that you do what’s best for you!
This is really, really different than the life-philosophy Christianity espouses: Christianity is not “Do what’s best for you,” it’s “Do what’s best for Him”
Christianity is not about “Live for yourself,” it’s about “Deny yourself.”
When we live in earthly wisdom…we live like we’re the star.
But Godly wisdom says, “We’re supposed to live like we’re in the entourage…and God is the star.”
The goal of our lives is to support the true star.
You’re His publicist to the world.
You’re to introduce people to Him.
You’re serving Him.
Your life is about making sure that HE’S glorified.
And therefore, any wisdom, or any part of your life that is about furthering YOUR cause, and not ultimately His, is earthly wisdom.
WE DON’T THINK WE’RE SELFISH
Let me stop us for a second.
Because for many of you, this has been largely ineffective in your hearts and minds so far.
And here’s why: Almost none of us seriously think we have a problem with this.
Most of you have said, “Phew! A week off! Bummer for that person sitting next to me though!
In fact, we are extraordinarily bad at seeing this particular weakness in ourselves.
In a New York Times Magazine article entitled, “I’m OK, but You’re Selfish,” they cite a fascinating poll that tells us:
Only 17% of us say we’re too overly concerned about ourselves, but 60% of us think that most other people are overly concerned about themselves.”
In other words, almost none of us think we live selfishly (like we should do what’s best for us), but we absolutely think that the majority of other people live this way!! J
We’ve got an self-awareness problem here!
Yet, let me even ask you, “Where are you NOT living in the mode of doing ‘What’s best for you’” ?
Give me 3 different ways in your life, in the last month or so, where you’ve consciously said, “This decision doesn’t feel like it’s going to be best for what I want right now…I’m not sure it’s going to make me happy…but it’s best for God…so I’m going to do it”
Most of our day is centered around the question of “What’s best for ME today?” rather than “What’s best for Him” or even 2nd best “What’s best for others?”
Should I get up early and pray or should I just hit the snooze button?
Should I eat healthy like my body is the temple of God or eat 6 Egg McMuffins on the way to work?
Should I drive like I’m just another person on the road, or should I drive like a I own the road and these slow grandma-mas better get out of my way?!
Should I ask my co-worker who’s really struggling if I can pray for them, or should I just check my fantasy football team and pretend like I’m working?”
Should I help my kid w/ their homework, or should I just hide with my phone in the bathroom?
Should I spend time thinking about how to use my money to glorify God or plot out my next purchase to make me happy.
I could do this for 90 minutes…and I’m going to…just kidding.
We live, plain and simple, like we are the star.
Like the point of our lives…is to make US happy.
THE BREAKDOWN OF WORLDLY WISDOM
Again, it all sounds like a good idea…but it breaks down…painfully…over time.
When you live like life is for you…and even God is in your entourage (just another somebody you can throw in to help make YOU happy)…
…it’s going to get ugly.
James tells us that earthly wisdom breaks down for a few reasons.
I’ll give you 3 of his reasons:
1) Because selfishness is always messy, 2) Earthy wisdom is incredibly short-sighted and 3) Earthy wisdom is actually demonic (I’ll explain)
Let’s start with the messiness of selfishness
Look at verse 16 again if you have it front of you:
(James 3:16) – NIV
16 For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.
When everyone’s living for themselves, it’s messy.
A lot of workplace environments are like this.
Everyone’s trying to live for themselves and their own careers; not the task at hand or the company’s goals
And that can get really messy.
Full of disorder and every evil practice…am I right?
The Bible’s not exaggerating here.
Let me give you an example of where selfishness can get messy.
Right now, the Vikings are 4-0…the Packers are not (and I’m not sure which one makes me more excited J )
But part of the reason that you have good teams, like the current version of the Vikings, or the New England Patriots of the last 15 years…
Is you have players who all buy into a system;
They’re not just concerned w/ their own pursuit of stardom.
When team members submit to the principles and strategies of a great coach, everyone wins, and everyone thrives!
But if everyone on the Vikings says, “Who needs Coach Mike Zimmer…I want to do it my own way! I want to do…what’s best…for getting my own stats…for ME!”
Well, then good luck…they’re going to lose every game.
And it’s going to be really messy.
If you always live by the worldly mantra of “Do what’s best for you,” your life will get messy.
Pastor Matt Chandler describes the disorder and messiness this way:
“The more your life is about you, the more miserable of a human being you're going to be.”
Do you want a miserable marriage?
Always do what’s best for you
Do you want a super strained relationship with your kids?
Always do what’s best for you
Do you want to be despised at work?
Always do what’s best for you
It’s INTUITIVE when you think about it!
This is what’s so good at the Bible…but the culture screams so loud and we rarely pick up the Bible…and thus, we don’t think straight.
But always “doing what’s best for you” will produces the rotten fruit of: anger, resentment, hatred, conflict, jealously, envy, you name it.
2ndly, earthly wisdom breaks down because it’s incredibly short-sighted.
It only thinks about “doing what’s best for you” in THIS incredibly short life
But that’s not wise!
That’s like someone investing in the next 5 seconds instead of the next 50 years.
Nothing wise about that
Earthly wisdom is not only short-sighted in its scope of the actual length of your eternal life, but nearsighted in how its own wisdom constantly changes.
Earthly wisdom is different everywhere on earth, and constantly changing.
You can’t even trust that what the world tells you is currently best for you!
What you might be ridiculed for doing or thinking today, you might not have been 50 years ago.
And know this: The most current and popular thoughts of the day on how we should live in 2016, WILL…I repeat…WILL be ridiculed in public 50 years from now.
Earthly wisdom (on what’s best for you) is not grounded in anything. It’s always changing.
You can’t trust it.
3rdly, earthly wisdom will break down and fall apart in your life, because James actually says its demonic.
Meaning, there’s a spiritual evil to it.
Listen, if we intellectually can believe in a spiritual good (God, angels you name it), then it’s not unreasonable to believe that there is a spiritual evil.
And that spiritual evil is bent on deceiving you to think that you are the star!
In fact, that was part of its first-ever lie.
When Eve was in the Garden…Satan deceived her into thinking that SHE was the star!
It was, “Eve, why don’t you just do what’s best for you…and eat the fruit.”
How’d that turn out?
Earthly wisdom always looks appetizing but ends up being messy.
Lecrae, probably the most famous Christian rapper, and honestly, one of Christianity’s most unique thinkers as well, says this in his song, “Background”
“so if you need me I'll be stage right
Praying the whole world will start embracing stage fright”
And that’s my hope for you today:
That you would embrace the WISDOM OF STAGE FRIGHT.
That you would have a little healthy fear about being the star of your own life.
Can you trust the Bible…that if you live this way…it’s messy?
We were meant to step off the stage.
Just be a part of His entourage.
But what does that look like?
Let’s take a look.
HOW HEAVENLY WISDOM ACTUALLY WORKS
The fruit of heavenly wisdom, Godly wisdom, is quite the opposite of earthly wisdom.
When we live by Godly wisdom, it’s not messy.
First of all, what is Godly wisdom?
James doesn’t explicitly define it, but more focuses on the fruits of it.
The books of Psalms and Proverbs tells us where Godly wisdom starts:
(Psalm 111:10) – NIV
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding. To him belongs eternal praise.
Now, the Hebrew word for “fear” doesn’t translate well in English.
It’s more like “Awe” or a “incredible respect” …is the beginning of wisdom.
So what is that saying?
It’s saying, Godly wisdom STARTS when you understand that you are a tiny member of an entourage, and God is the one who deserves all the glory.
Life’s wisdom starts there.
And therefore, we need to let go of some of our worldly thinking, and start to recognize some eternal truths:
We don’t really know that much
We’re just sinners who just keep making mistakes.
We don’t even really know what’s best for US.
Our God knows everything!
Including what’s best for us!
Godly wisdom recognizes that life isn’t about you.
That our lives were meant to bring Him glory…not us.
And when you realize that, you will absolutely live your life differently…because most of us don’t live like that at all.
And you’ll begin to see these fruits in your life that James talks about
James says that when we live in Godly wisdom, our interactions will have the fruit of being pure, peace loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy, good fruit, impartial, and sincere.
That’ sounds great…BUT WHY will your life be like that?! How does it work?
Many have said it this way:
Wisdom from the world produces pride in us, wisdom from God produces humility in us.
In part because…when you’re not living for you and your own ambitions, you’re a whole lot more relaxed!
You’re just happy to be serving this amazing God…and He gives you so much joy doing it!
But when you’re trying to live in this false narrative that life is about you being successful and happy and squeezing the most out of it…it’s exhausting trying to make it work.
Because it doesn’t work!
And we get frustrated that it doesn’t work!
And we work ourselves crazy trying to put on a false front that it is working!
“See…look at my life…I’m so accomplished (or whatever)…don’t I look…happy!”
We ALL do this!
I know a guy, that whenever he gets a chance, he’s tries to tell people what he’s doing that makes him unique, special.
A lot of us are like that.
Every chance we get, when we talk…what do you talk about??
We brag about what’s special about us…or our family.
Deep down, we just want to show the world that WE are significant.
And so we exhaust so much of our tie and effort trying to make sure we are significant…
When really, we should be spending our time trying to show the world that HE is significant.
One of the things that really stuck out to me about this passage is how many times James mentions peace.
As suburban Minnesotans, we are unfamiliar with a calm and peaceful life.
Our lives our busy and chaotic.
But did you ever think that perhaps that’s because we’re trying so hard to advance our own agenda?
And you’re teaching your kids that life is about advancing their own educational…and athletic agenda!
And if we just slowed down and focused on advancing his…maybe life would be a whole lot more peaceful?
What are you doing right now to purposefully live by “What’s best for God” rather than “What’s best for you??”
There are a thousand ways you could answer this…and I pray the Holy Spirit is leading you to some.
Here are 2 you could use right here.
1) We need 1 more person to go with us to Haiti.
Is that you?
If it is…it’s a great way to put aside the “What’s best for me” excuses.
Come talk to me after the service if that’s you.
2) Our church has only been growing since we started 7 years ago…often fast…right now…really fast.
We were averaging around high 50’s a week for kids in Renovation Kids last Spring.
We need your help serving in Renovation Kids.
And it’s not just helping.
It’s MUCH MUCH more.
It’s getting to teach and show kids…from a young age…Godly wisdom.
How to live life differently.
And in the process…you learn it yourself.
Every time you serve…you practice the discipline…of living out the principle of “What’s best for Him (and others)…not just you.
If you need to take that step, you can sign up on your connection card today.
But let me take us back to this idea of how Godly wisdom produces peace in us.
A lot of Christians I know aren’t all that peaceful…and one of the places this unfortunately shows up is in our interactions with others
James says real Godly wisdom is proven by deeds done in humility.
Not just what you know.
Unfortunately, I know all too many Christians, who are quite loud about what they KNOW and how others should live!
And yet, you don’t see that wisdom played out in the actual daily actions of their own lives.
James is talking about those very people in verse 14!
He says, “If what you truly have in your heart is selfish ambition…please don’t go around boasting…you’ll just deny the truth of God by the way that you LIVE”
Too many Christians make non-Christians uncomfortable…and they’re turning them off from Christ
Rather than sharing the Gospel and good news out of Love (which we are called to do)
Many Christians are known at their work or in their friendship circles, as the confrontational ones who are super opinionated on every issue and make everyone else feel bad and uncomfortable
This is not the character of a wise Christian the bible describes
James says a wise Christian is peaceful, gentle, considerate, full of mercy, impartial, sincere.
But a Christian that’s still trying to live their life as the star, is too wrapped up in being right…and thus…like James says, their selfish ambition creates a mess.
But a Christian that is committed to serving God & not themselves, trusts that God will work the situation out for His good, even if someone they’re talking with completely disagrees with them.
And that person cares first and foremost not about being right, but about representing who God is to people.
Wise people aren’t usually the ones that talk the most, but the ones that are admitting that they don’t know very much
They tend to be great listeners.
Because they’re not out to prove to everyone that they’re the star.
Pastor Jim Cymbala of the Brooklyn Tabernacle puts this principle this way, “Humility (which IS Godly wisdom) is the key to experiencing God’s power.
If you want God to really move through you in your life…get Godly wisdom.
If you want God to really move through your life…get out of the way.
It’s really hard to experience God in your life if you’re constantly trying to live like the star directing your own life.
Embrace the wisdom of stage fright.
Acknowledge it won’t work with you as the star.
Believe that it will work if you live with the purpose of making Him the star.
That if you embrace the Wisdom of Stage Fright…and live with the purpose of glorifying Him…it’s a whole lot less messy…and God will grow in you…a whole lot more fruit.
God didn’t create you to be on stage.
He created you for His entourage.
Let me pray.
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
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