In my series of posts in which I paraphrase the bible in language that I feel is easier for kids to understand while still maintaining the integrity and (God willing) holiness of the text, I have begun James (For Kids) as part of my Matthew 19:14 Project.
You are going to have hard times in your life. But instead of looking at them as terrible, be thankful that the hard things are happening, because when you deal with them, you start to learn perseverance. “Perseverance” is the skill to keep on trying when something is hard or when we mess up. And when we keep practice perseverance and get good at it, we are mature. That means we can solve problems well and think before we act instead of messing up and giving up all the time. When we get good at perseverance, we are complete and we have everything we need.
Maybe you don’t feel like you are very smart, or maybe you feel like you don’t make good decisions. If you feel like that, ask God! He gives to everyone without stopping short! He doesn’t look at you like you’re too dumb or like there is something wrong with you. And if you ask Him, he’ll give you wisdom so you’ll be smart and make good choices.
Just remember, though, that you have to believe that God will give you wisdom! If you start to doubt (that means if you feel like maybe you don’t believe), then you are like a big wave on the ocean – when the wind blows hard, suddenly the wave takes on a new shape. Don’t change your shape! Believe hard! If you doubt, then you shouldn’t expect to receive anything from the Lord. Those kinds of people can’t make up their minds, and then they are always changing at the last second, and you can’t depend on them.
If you believe in God but you don’t have much, be proud of what you do have! Your belief in God gives you so, so much! But if you are rich, remember that you should think of yourself as low, because your riches could easily pass away. Think about a flower – when the sun shines down very hot, the flower shrivels up and dies and isn’t even beautiful anymore. Riches can be like this. You can be doing your normal thing, just like the flower was doing, and something terrible can happen without any warning, and you can lose all your riches very quickly. They are not something to depend on, but God is.
Remember what I said earlier about perseverance? It means to keep on trying when something is hard or when we mess up. Well, you can only practice perseverance when things are hard. It’s easy to keep going when nothing is stopping you! But when you keep trying when everything is trying to stop you, you get a reward, just like getting an A on a test! You get a crown of life! God has promised that to those who love Him.
Now don’t get confused. When you have hard times, don’t say that God is tempting you. God doesn’t tempt us to do evil. We tempt ourselves, because we have evil in us that wants to trick us and then drag us away. Evil tricks us into wanting it. “Wanting it” is called desire. And think of it like this: desire is like a monster baby still growing inside its mommy’s tummy. When it grows really big and is ready to be born, it becomes sin. That is, it becomes something that can separate us from God. And sin can even start out like a little baby monster – not a cute one, but a scary one – that can grow up and get very strong. As it grows up, it becomes death – the worst kind – the kind that separates us from God forever.
So don’t let sin trick you in the first place. The kinds of good things that you do want – those good things that don’t grow up to become death – every single one of them comes from God. He is made out of light, and He doesn’t change His mind all the time. Instead of being those scary baby monsters in the dark, God lets us be born with truth – His word – so we can be the light, and good and right things – the way He meant everything to be when He created it all.
Think about this: sometimes, we want to talk first and not have to listen or wait our turn. Sometimes people make us so mad so fast! Remember, though, that you should wait to speak. Then you have a better chance of thinking about it first and saying something good when it is time to talk. Don’t react in anger. Don’t let your temper flare up like fire does when gas is poured on it. That’s how things get burned up. When we get super angry, we don’t usually do the right thing like God wants us to. So run away from those wrong things – they are everywhere! Instead, accept that truth that God gave you about what is right, even when it is hard or hurts, because it can save you.
But don’t just listen to the truth and trick yourselves into thinking that is all there is to it. Actually do what it says. Think about how silly you would be if you did your hair all fancy and wore your best clothes and checked yourself out in the mirror, and then the second you walked away from the mirror, you forgot what you even looked like! It’s the same thing if you study the bible carefully and then walk away and don’t even do what you studied. So make sure you study that beautiful truth and then think about it, keep it on you, and actually do what it says throughout the day. Then you will get great things from God!
You can think of yourself as an amazing person who always does what is right, but if you go around blabbing your mouth all the time, you’re tricking yourself, and all that stuff about doing right isn’t worth anything. God looks at you as clean and doing right when you do things – look after people with no parents or who are left alone and those people whose husbands and wives had died. Those people really have it hard. Take care of them, and keep yourself away from sin, which is everywhere in the world. It can easily make you dirty like pollution does, so keep clean!