“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” -James 1:2-4
This week at teaching and worship we are continuing our study of the book of James, specifically James 1:2-4. These three short verses are packed with action steps. James says to consider our trials pure joy, to allow our faith to be tested in order to produce perseverance, to have patience in the midst of struggles, and to evaluate our attitude during trials! Hmmm, I would like to meet this James, how about you? There are a few things I would like to share with him about my own life, my own struggles, my own testing…and they would not be framed within an attitude of joy. If I’m honest, they most likely would be verbalized from a posture of despair. Who is this James and what does he know that I don’t? If James is anything, he is a realist, and he is challenging his readers to not only hear God’s truth but also to put it into action. Yes, trials are going to come! Yes, each of us will face difficulties! Yes, we will find ourselves stuck in the mire of life! But the proof of one’s genuine faith is the result of a changed life. And a changed life comes from navigating an uphill and rocky terrain. Friends, are you clipped in for the climb? James knows that God has a lifeline around each of us. He knows that God will never leave us and that God will never let go of us. He knows that in order to embrace our trials as he suggests, we must become doers of God’s word. It starts with faith. And only through the testing of this faith are we taught perseverance and steadfastness. We cannot expect God to grow us and to mature us spiritually if we don’t experience the process of sanctification, the process by which we are cleansed and healed. James instructs us to not become polluted by the temptations of the world but to become cleansed by the love of our one Holy God.
“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” -Psalm 51:10
So, how do we do it? How do we become ‘cleansed?’ What are the action steps? It starts with forgiveness. David provides us with the perfect example by means of his imperfect behavior. In Psalm 51 we find him pleading for God’s mercy and forgiveness. David knew he had hurt many people and he felt the immense pain from his decision. So he took action, he turned his face up to God and he confessed, repented, and asked for forgiveness. And through God’s grace, he was cleansed from within. Which of your life’s trials has caused you the greatest pain; yet, yielded your greatest growth? What did you learn from that trial and how did you put it in to practice? James did not waiver when his own faith was tested because he knew, like David, he was being purified. We must be more like James. We must wash the lens from which we view our struggles because God expects different behavior from us. We cannot simply claim His peace in the midst of our troubles and call it a day. We must use the lessons learned from those trials for His glory and the continuation of His kingdom. Our commitment to Him is found in our action steps and is completed when we walk our talk.
God bless each of you…see you Thursday.