On Sunday we began our study of the book of James with the familiar verse 2. Here is how it reads in the Message:
Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don't try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.
Considering trials a gift? Really? Of the many things we learn from the Bible, this can be a very difficult one to "get". How is a Christian supposed to react to hard times? What are we supposed to do when we are pressed on every side? What joy?
As I mentioned on Sunday, the joy is meant to be considered concerning what this test will prove in the FUTURE. Looking ahead, is it possible to believe that God is deepening our roots, strengthening our faith through a test? Looking ahead, can we perhaps recognize the value of the crown of life which is promised to all who stand the test (verse 12).
I want to remind you of three tools that may be helpful in the test you are currently experiencing, or the test you will soon experience. (By the way, James says "when you meet trials", assuming that trials will continue to come).
- Look Forward: During a trial, hold onto the promise of the crown of life! Don't get caught looking at today! Look forward to the glory of Heaven and the rewards God is storing up for you when you arrive. Yes, it is hard to take our eyes off of the "everyday" realities, but if you want to pass the test, LOOK FORWARD.
- Look Inward: In verses 14 and later, James tells us of another kind of "trial/test" which comes from our own desires. Sometimes we simply need to "look inward" and ask God the question, "What desires are within me that are leading me away from my faith and away from you?" It's never fun to find sinful passions and desires, but if we want to pass the test, each of us needs to be willing to LOOK INWARD.
- Look Upward: Finally, James reminds us in verses 16 and 17 that EVERY good gift comes from God. One of the greatest ways to defeat trials and stand the test in our lives is to develop a humble and grateful attitude. Thankfulness reminds us that HE is the giver of GOOD things, never the giver of temptation! There are two sources of temptation that exist, Satan (and the corrupt systems he has control over) and our own flesh. Remembering that GOOD gifts always come from God is a powerful tool when in the darkest and most difficult trial. You want to past the test? LOOK UPWARD.
To SEEK this WEEK
Our study of James will encourage us to dig in and SEEK wisdom. SEEK God. SEEK answers. Ultimately, to SEEK Jesus. He is the word "become flesh" and HE is what all scripture is about. As you continue this week, I encourage you to SEEK the following this WEEK.
- What is hard for me right now? What can I learn from it? How are you (God) deepening my faith?
- What are my doubts when I ask to know you more? How can I overcome doubts in my prayer life?
- What do I want more than you, God? What are the idols in my own heart? What desires are leading me away from You?