James 1:2 – …when you meet trials of various kinds…
James 1:19-20 – Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.
When we put our faith in Jesus, no matter what we’ve done or said before, we get the opportunity to be cleansed and made new by Jesus. You might think, “You don’t know what I’ve said or done,” but Jesus does, and He still makes you perfect and new and gives you the opportunity to create new habits and have a new life.
As I’ve been studying James to preach this series, I’ve also been studying brain science and behavior change. Secular brain science will tell you that you have two parts of the brain – one that almost autopilots things that you already know, for example brushing your teeth in the morning, and the other that helps you learn new things, like how you’re also thinking through everything you need to do and learn that day.
The problem is that, early in life, many of us have a trial, a trigger, we get angry, we have these behaviors, and these become habitual for us. You don’t even think about it – for some, you get angry, and you yell, or you get angry, and you drink, and that’s just how you’ve always been. That’s called an old habit loop – you’re triggered as anger and fear hit the panic button, your response is to act immediately, and the result is various short and long-term consequences.
Looking at James 1, written 2,000 years ago, we see the exact same thing. It’s incredible that the Bible is timeless but it’s always timely. Using words from James, when we’re triggered to anger in an old habit loop, the response is that we’re “double-minded”, “unstable”, we “blame God”, have an “unbridled tongue”, or are “self-deceived”. The result is “death”, to “pass away”, or “worthless religion”.
On the other hand, God has a new way for us, and the Holy Spirit can hardwire our brains because we are “beloved” and “pure and undefiled before God”. Now, when we’re triggered to hit the panic button and act, our response can be, again using words from James, to “count it joy”, “ask God for wisdom”, be “quick to listen” and “slow to speak”, and a “doer of the Word”. This results in “steadfastness”, “gifts from the Father”, being “blessed” and an “eternal crown of life”.
The great news is that no matter how many times you’ve reacted in the old, sinful way, reacting to a trial in the flesh, you don’t have to lose faith. You can press forward to create a new habit loop in the Spirit.
Where in your life do you need to have the Holy Spirit re-hardwire your brain to react differently in the future?
To get daily devos sent texted to you Monday-Friday, text DEVOTIONS to 99383. Click here to find the study guide and sermon series that accompanies this devotional series.