Friday, August 2, 2013

Consider It All Joy

After the initial greeting to his audience, James, the writer of a small letter that follows Paul’s letter to “the Hebrews,” says the following: “Consider it all joy, my brothers, when you meet with various trials.” It may sound like an odd piece of advice, but for the first century Christians, it was a running theme and their modus operandi. For example, one of the first beatings the apostles faced was at the hands of the religious leaders that were trying to intimidate them into submission. One might think that such a severe treatment would be a “real downer” for them. But instead, they were actually honored to stand up for Jesus and rejoiced over it.

But James cites another reason to be joyful. In verse 3 he says that successfully meeting trials adds endurance to our personal repertoire of Christian maturity.  But it is one thing to have lived through a trial, it is another thing to come out spiritually unscathed. Hence, in verse 4, James advises that we need to learn from the trial so that we emerge “complete and sound in all respects, not lacking in anything.” That is easier said than done, especially when the trial we are experiencing seems to drag on without letup. Discouragement can easily set in, followed by doubts, wondering if any of this has any purpose—does God really see it and care?

James may have anticipated that feeling and so he continues in verses 5-8: “So, if any one of YOU is lacking in wisdom, let him keep on asking God, for he gives generously to all and without reproaching; and it will be given him. But let him keep on asking in faith, not doubting at all, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven by the wind and blown about. In fact, let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from Jehovah; he is an indecisive man, unsteady in all his ways.”

What is the “wisdom” that we may be lacking? Jesus spoke of this in his “Sermon on the Mount.” He reasoned with his audience that “not one of them [sparrows] will fall to the ground without your Father’s knowledge… Therefore have no fear: you are worth more than many sparrows.”

Peter states it succinctly: “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time; while you throw all your anxiety upon him, because he cares for you.”  (1 Peter 5:6, 7)

Yes, wisdom should tell us that God does care. But like a child squirming because it doesn’t want to get a medical shot (injection), sometimes we may get pouty and fight against the trial. Admittedly, I have personally felt a situation that I’ve been enduring for nearly 2 decades “is hopeless.” I’ve even felt as Job did: ‘Just let me die and bring me back when things are better.’ (Job 14:13) Really, no one in their right mind would desire to go through what I’ve been through—especially as hopeless as the situation seems to be.

But that was the whole reason for my writing this article—to remind myself that giving into feelings of hopelessness betrays a lack of faith. That is definitely not how I want my God to know me. I want to have full confidence in Him and demonstrate it by standing firm in the faith.

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