“James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes scattered among the nations: Greetings. Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds”
There’s a mouthful! As I read that today, I thought about Face Book. I thought about how many New Life Church friends, Bible Study Fellowship friends, PCC friends, Hillsdale High School friends, Rainbow Girls, friends from ARCE, friends from Golden Gate Region, PCA, and Hair Friends I have on Face Book. I read James 1:1 and saw him writing to his friends scattered all over. As I write this, there are so many of you that I do not see in person, but I get to watch your activities and families grow and change as I read your posts, and see your photos.
I imagine that being scattered was very difficult in James’ time. They had to walk for days to see each other or to get a letter to one another. When the people saw that James was the author of this letter, they were probably overjoyed, as they had not heard from him in a while. James, being the brother of Jesus, probably also had encouraging and wonderful messages for them to hear. He begins by talking about the fact that they are scattered and facing trials.
If I had not heard from someone in a while, someone I was close to, and they knew what kind of shape I was in and how much I longed to see them, I would be very sad if they did not acknowledge my situation.
I went to a women’s retreat in the late ‘90’s, and saw a former church leader, with whom I had a close relationship. I was sitting in a wheel chair, because the MS had taken me down a few notches. This person never mentioned the wheel chair, never asked why I was in the wheelchair, and basically ignored the fact that I wasn’t walking, but was being pushed everywhere. I finally said, are you going to ignore the fact that I am in a wheelchair, and not even ask me why? At that she started to cry, and apologize. She didn’t know how to handle the situation so she tried to be positive and pretend it wasn’t there.
After talking about being scattered, James says: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds.”
James does not say that trials of many kinds are a joy to have. He doesn’t say, have a wonderful time with your trials. He says, consider it. Consider it pure joy when you face trials. Why would he say something like that?
James also didn’t say, if you have trials. He said, whenever you face trails of many kinds. The trials of life come in various forms, financial, relational, physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual, to name a few biggies. Shall I consider relational trials a joy? Do I cheer when I have financial trials? When my body or mind decide not to work, am I overjoyed? Probably not.
James asks us to do something, and then he tells us why:
Verse 3: “because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.”
Sometimes I don’t know, or at least I don’t want to know. Most have 20/20 hindsight. That is when understanding comes, when you look back. We can see the fruit on the trees after the fertilizer is applied, or when some say, s___ happens. It’s gonna happen, so get ready for some perseverance!
But I thought things were ‘all better’ when we became a Christian. Nope. A lot gets better, but most times, it gets worse. A sure sign that God loves us is when He trusts us with a trial of any kind. He is essentially saying, I want to grow some perseverance in you, so here’s a trial, that will stretch you beyond your comfort, and the result will be strength to go through the next trial.
Just like we exercise a muscle by stretching it beyond what is comfortable, then let it rest, and stretch it again, to build muscle, so the trials come, the ‘stretch marks’ as I like to call them. I think as we go along in the faith, we get more and more stretch marks until our smooth, unstretched skin is no longer visible. God calls that beautiful.
Just like the Goldsmith, who turns the heat really high, to cause the impurities in the gold to come to the surface, so God allows the pressure to become more than we think we can bear. The Goldsmith scrapes off the impurities and turns the heat higher. The Goldsmith knows the gold is pure when he can see his reflection in it. God longs to see His reflection in us.
Get ready for some pure joy. Just for you, a tailor-made trial is just around the corner. Perseverance is waiting to bless you, my scattered friends. I eagerly await the result.