Navigation – by David Baalbergen
Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. Of his own will he brought us forth by the word
of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures. James 1:16-18
This past Sunday Brad spoke on James 1:12-18. I would love to focus today on the latter part of that section. It really stood out to me as he was reading it from the stage huddled over his pillar-like stand as he slowly rocked back and forth.
First, there is this idea that someone can be deceived on the character of God. We, hopefully, know that God is unchanging; He is unshifting, He is steady all the time, and leads us perfectly. He is the good shepherd, the keeper of our souls, the granter and sustainer of our salvation. God is good. To put it in the form of another allusion that will help us understand what I, and hopefully James, are getting at here is that God is like the North Star. He is our coordinates in dark times. He illuminates our way when nothing else is available. God is good, all the time.
Sailors in the old times before smartphones and satellites would use the stars to navigate at night. They would find the North Star, get their bearings and be on their way. Sometimes, however, they mistook the North Star for another. You see, there are planets in our solar system that travel around, unlike stars. In fact, in ancient Greece they are called “πλανήτης (planētēs)” which means “wanderer”. If a sailor were to look at one of these he would follow a temporary trajectory, that would lead him off course and the next day be different. All this came to my head while Brad hugged his podium as he read these words.
This interested me and Monday morning I went to the Greek. In verse 17, the word for “variation” is “παραλλαγή (parallagē).” This is a compound of two words, “παρά (para)” and “ἀλλάσσω (allassō).” These coupled with the previous Greek word “οὐ (ou)” (meaning “no”) can be translated, “not in close proximity to change or shifting.” Now that we have struggled through some ancient sailing techniques, astronomy, and some New Testament Greek, let’s get to the main point.
God is good all the time, and all the time, God is good. God is the better North Star that is not placed amongst the varying stars and planets that will lead us into temptation, sin and eventually death, but God stands out from the rest, in no way can his works be mistaken for evil. He clearly brings us forth from our dead, depraved states and parades us into His glory through salvation. This is awesome! God saw us: lost in our dark world, in our dark sin, heading towards death. He intervened through the redemptive work of his Son. But He did not leave us here on this dark world as lost. He is bringing us forth. He is leading us, guiding us towards Him.
Time to get real. This breaks me. So often I feel as though I am on this world with sin throwing itself in my face and I feel abandoned. I feel as though every morning I wake up to run the gauntlet through sin towards nowhere. Until eventually my tired, defeated body stumbles into glorification. This is not the case. This is a lie. I have been deceived, as noted in verses 12-16. God has not left us here to root around in our sin and temptation. God has guided our way through the darkness, through the pain, through the struggle. God has not abandoned us, God has set himself as “a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105).
And not only that, I am not some broken vessel attempting to make myself holy. I am among the firstfruits of his creation. We are highly valued. We are the best of his produce. This is not our innate nature, but this is a status attributed to us because that is how God sees us.
Alright, so finally, thank you for taking time to read this, dear brothers and sisters. Know that you are valued, that you are cherished. You are not left alone to struggle with your temptation and sin, but God has descended, died in your place, and has made a path clear for us through his Word in Scripture. Take heart, my co-heirs in Christ, for we are not abandoned, but, “[e]very good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.” (James 1:17-18)
David Baalbergen serves as Youth Minister and plans to pursue ministry opportunities for the rest of his life. He currently attends Kennesaw State University and is studying History Education.