James 1:2-4 ‘Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.’
As I look often into the heart of my Perfect Saviour, I see more and more how Imperfect I really am. This is not with a spirit of condemnation but it releases me to love more and judge less, to surrender the things that hinder my relationship with Jesus more readily and to be present with other Imperfect people where they are at.
James is speaking to Christian Jews in this passage above and he knew through firsthand experience that to get through this life, we needed perseverance. He was speaking to a people scattered among the nations and facing many trials. This text is applicable today as even now I can sit and count many in just my life alone who are in the midst of hard things. Loss of loved ones, addictions, illness, financial strain and the day to day of just pressing through sometimes. James is saying your trial is not the time to rejoice less, your sickness is not the time to pray less, your loss is not the time to love others less but a time to practice the joy, peace and love Jesus died for us to have.
I love that God gives us a choice, ‘Consider’ it pure joy, or think carefully about if before making a decision. We can choose the opposite of joy and there have been times when I have done that. This does not make the process go away or any easier, in fact it is probably more difficult because my attitude stinks. If I have learned anything in this life it is that if we choose the opposite of God’s heart for us, we will get to try and learn that again in another form, another time. He is true to His promise that He will finish what He starts in us until the day of Christ Jesus. Decide right here and now that He is for you! Decide that the fire you may be in will burn off the dross and just leave pure gold in your character. Decide that He loves you! Period! Perseverance actually means steadfastness in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success. Decide to look for Jesus in every situation. I love what I read yesterday. Exhale the world. Inhale Jesus. Blow out your circumstances, inhale the life of Jesus. I don’t say any of this lightly, I have been in many situations that seemed like a dark blanket that I could not get out from under. Keeping my eyes on God was my only lifeline.
Last week I was returning from taking my daughter back to her home a couple of hours away. I ended up in the middle of a severe thunderstorm. As I was driving in the pounding rain that forced me to pull over when my wipers couldn’t keep up, I was praying for all the people in my life that are in the midst of difficult times. God showed me that when we are in the midst of a storm, it sometimes never feels like it is going to let up, the pressure feels almost too much to bear. The thunder rattles us to our soul and the lightning blinds us to the truth, the darkness and heaviness of the clouds weighs in on our perception. But God…sends a vehicle with flashing hazards to light the way and if you look in the distance you can see a break in the darkness of the clouds, even a little blue if you squint hard enough. And you press on toward the light and hope of the storm letting up so you can stop hydroplaning through your life and let God have control of your wheel. As I prayed I kid you not, He set out a rainbow in different parts of the sky to light my trip the rest of the way home and to be reminded of His promises for life.
God knows you and is for you and is patient with your imperfection. Press on and don’t stop looking and squinting and choosing joy and love in your consideration. Look for the ones that have their lights flashing to walk with you toward your rainbow. He doesn’t intend for us to persevere alone. Our confidence is in God who will safely bring us home.
Jude 1:24-25New International Version (NIV)
24 To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy— 25 to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.