Genuine happiness is to be found in following the pathway of obedience.
This is not the way the world sees it. In 21st-century Western culture, personal happiness and obedience to an authority are held to be mutually incompatible. But the Bible is clear: it is by obeying that we find ourselves “blessed.”
So how do we take this path?
The first step is simple: look intently into God’s word. The word James uses for “look,” parakupsas, is the same word used elsewhere to describe a looking that is not mere glance but rather a careful, considered focus (for example, 1 Peter 1:12; John 20:5, 11). To benefit from the Bible, we need to have a genuine desire to miss nothing of its truth and a genuine willingness to consider carefully what we are reading.
Second, make your study of the Bible one of steady perseverance rather than a burst of enthusiasm followed by chronic inertia. We are called to meditate on the law day and night (Psalm 1:2) and to keep returning to God’s word as our source of insight and understanding (Proverbs 2:1-5). As we do this we will notice, over time, that we are living more and more in line with God’s word and are more and more able to discern how God’s word applies in the situations we find ourselves in.
Third, act on what you read. If the word of God calls us to action but we give no expression to that, then it should be no surprise when we find ourselves disappointed and disheartened. Blessing is found not merely in reading God’s word but in living it. Ultimately, we are to respond obediently by doing what we have heard God say.
The formula that James gives is straightforward: Hearing plus doing equals blessing. We see this principle throughout the Bible, including in the very words of Christ Himself. After He had washed the disciples’ feet, Jesus turned to them and said, “If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them” (John 13:17). Knowledge, in other words, should lead to action, and the blessing is directly related to Spirit-empowered doing.
To help you look intently at what the Bible says, ask simple questions: What does this passage teach me about God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit? What does this passage teach me about myself and what sin to avoid, what promise to accept, or what command to obey? As you continue along the pathway of obedience through God’s enabling grace, the truth of His word will find a resting place in your heart and mind, and you will discover the freedom and blessing of a life lived God’s way in His world.
Jesus Washes the Disciples' Feet
1Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. 2During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, to betray him, 3Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, 4rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. 5Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples' feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him. 6He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” 7Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.” 8Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” 9Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” 10Jesus said to him, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet,1 but is completely clean. And you2 are clean, but not every one of you.” 11For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, “Not all of you are clean.”
12When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? 13You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. 14If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. 15For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. 16Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant3 is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.
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