God Qualifies You: The Simplicity of God’s Commands with James Ford
Have you ever felt overwhelmed by God’s commands and the message He has given you? Maybe it’s because you’re not a pastor or a Bible scholar, or because you didn’t attend Sunday school regularly when you were growing up. But whatever your reason may be, there are two things you need to know: you’re not alone, and your message is still important.
This week’s Publishing Secrets guest, James Ford, knows firsthand that feeling of being overwhelmed. Though he lacked what some may consider “traditional” qualifications, God put him on a path to write a book on the four commands of Christ. Listen as he shares about his journey, the struggles and successes he experienced while writing and publishing his book, and how you can bring your message to life by trusting in God’s plan.
In this episode, you’ll also hear:
- James’s story of coming to Christ, falling away, and eventually returning to try again
- The Four Commands of Christ and what they mean for us
- Why it’s important to teach God’s commands in a way that is simple and easy to understand
- The difficulty of writing and editing — and why you should struggle through it
- James’s advice for the aspiring author with a God-given message for the world
Learning to Follow God’s Commands
James came to Christ at the age of 16, when he encountered Jesus as soon as he raised his hand to answer an altar call. “Jesus actually came to me in His glory state and touched me on my head, and then disappeared — gone. And then I just blew up with joy. I knew he saved me.”
From that moment on, James tried his best to follow God’s commands. However, even though people around James saw the positive change in his life, he had no discipleship or training. Over time, the excitement and joy faded.
“Moses came down from the mountain just glowing,” he explains. “And that’s how our hearts are when we accept Christ. Then life comes in, and the glow goes away. We don’t need to cover the glow anymore; it becomes dim and sometimes gone. Mine went, too.”
Realizing he was sitting on the fence — neither hot nor cold in his faith — James decided to walk away. Instead of dedicating his life to obeying God’s commands, he focused on becoming a successful businessman. He started out in carpentry, and then eventually started up his own development business. And for a while he was very successful. But it didn’t last. When a new technology complex drove interest rates to skyrocket, James lost everything.
With nowhere else to turn, James turned back to Jesus. “I gave my heart back to Jesus and said, ‘I’m going to try, but I don’t know how to do this,’” he recalls. As he started a family and moved from California to Iowa, James started studying, learning, and — as he’d promised — trying to obey God’s commands.
The 4 Commands of Christ
When James first received the idea to write his book, The Four Commands of Christ: Disciplines of Faith, he had no idea how to go about actually writing it. “I knew God wanted me to do something with this, but I didn’t know what it was,” he says. “So I started emailing all the pastors I knew.”
That still didn’t seem to lead anywhere, until one night James received a much clearer understanding of God’s commands, broken down into four basic commands from Christ:
- Humble yourself and submit
- Give your neighbor and yourself grace and mercy
- Go and spread the Gospel
James explains that many churches aren’t following God’s commands to love and forgive each other as they should. As a result, people who aren’t part of the church don’t want anything to do with it. Instead of seeing changed lives and miracles, they’re seeing Christians fighting each other and forgetting to show love.
As for the fourth command, “Go,” James believes this is something Christians must do every day, no matter how qualified or unqualified we may feel. The problem, however, is that Satan is very skilled at giving us excuses not to share the Gospel as we go along in life.
“The weeds come up and choke us out so we don’t do anything,” James says. “And we just go to church, and we’re good people. We’re Christians, and we do good. But God wants more for us. He doesn’t want just that — he wants a better, deeper relationship.”
As James has seen in his own life, our ability to follow God’s commands and share the Gospel doesn’t rely on our own qualifications. God is the one who qualifies us — our job is to listen and obey when He calls us.
The Power of Simplicity
The way James explains God’s commands in his book is very simple and direct, even though the commands themselves aren’t necessarily easy to follow. That’s because, according to James, it’s very important for the disciplines of our faith to be communicated in a way that’s easy for everyone to understand.
“Some scholars just make it so complicated,” James says, giving the example of someone with a PhD who can preach for hours on just two words from the Bible. “I think God gave this to me to simplify His Gospel.”
Each of us is called to reach a different audience, and there is certainly important work to be done by scholars who have dedicated many years to studying and teaching the rich details of Scripture. At the same time, there is also important work to be done by those who can explain Scripture in very simple, approachable ways.
“People want simplicity,” James says. “But they want to know how to do it. They want to be correct. They don’t want to be backsliders. They don’t want to be hypocrites. They just want to love the Lord, raise their children, and be good Christians. But they also need to tell people the change God has made in their lives.”
By following God’s commands, Christians can avoid falling into apathy and create spiritual structure for their daily life. That’s how we put on the armor of God — and that’s how we withstand Satan’s attacks.
Struggle Through It
When it came to writing The Four Commands of Christ and getting it published, James found the editing stage especially challenging. He had to do a lot of self-editing and rewriting to ensure the book was well-structured and stayed on topic. He even cut out an entire chapter because he realized the political content — while important — wasn’t the point of this particular book.
Through the process, James also learned the importance of working with an editor — but not just any editor. The first few editors James worked with didn’t seem to understand his message, or his writing style, but he finally found one who gave constructive feedback that helped him revise his work and make the book better.
Writing, revising, and accepting constructive criticism is hard work. But if God has given you a message, then it’s important to follow God’s commands and get that message out to the people who need to hear it. All that hard work is necessary if you want your message to accomplish the mission God has given you — to transform lives.
No matter how daunting it may seem to undergo the process of getting started, writing your message down, and then rewriting and revising to make your book the best it can be, it’s well worth it in the end. And the best part? When you obey God’s commands, God will walk with you every step of the way.
James compares the experience of writing his message to the crossing of the Red Sea in Exodus. “God said this to Moses: Tell Israel to shut up, sit down, and watch me do my miracles,” James says. “So I say to people: Shut up, sit down, and start writing, and watch Him do His miracles through your writing. You will be amazed!”
You never know what God will do with your book once you’ve obeyed the call to write. Even if your book only reaches one person, that person may go on to reach many, many more. “None of us knows what God’s plan is,” James reminds us. “He doesn’t say anything to us about the future, because He wants us to live in the now.”
You may have to struggle through writing your book as James did, but with God’s help, you can finish it. But remember that even after your book is finished, you won’t be finished with following God’s commands — and God certainly won’t be finished with you.
Bring Truth to the World
Maybe you are struggling through the writing or editing process right now, and you’re starting to wonder if following God’s commands is really worth it in the end. Or maybe you’re at the very beginning of your author journey: you have an idea, a message you know God wants you to put out into the world, but you’re not sure where to start. Whatever the case may be, James urges you to remember that you have a calling to bring God’s truth to the world.
“Whatever people write about — it could be an allegory, a story, actual things they’ve experienced that they want to share — that’s a truth of Christ in their life,” James says. “And it’s affecting somebody, even if it’s one person. And I think that’s our mission. That’s the fourth command of Christ. That’s a “Go.” You are discipling through your book.”
I am a layman who is saved by grace and have been a Christian for 42 years. I am a carpenter by trade and have been building buildings for 51 years. I have been on several church boards. I have been a successful Christian and I have been a lousy Christian. I have raised my family and they are all successful Christians and are a credit to their community. I am retired now and live with my wife in a small town in Iowa. Great place to raise our children. I am enjoying being with my grandchildren and writing about God. I can’t tell you why he picked me to write such Wonderful book about what God expects of us Christians.