Imperfect Perseverance

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)

Doxology

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.

Processing in the Process

James 1:2-4 “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

Trusting God when you are in the midst of a process can be a difficult thing to do and even more so when it is a pressure cooker and more than one process is happening.  You may be in a position where running away from it all and trying to ‘figure’ it out in peace seems like a logical thing to do. You may just want to run away period, nevermind the figuring things out. Or you are just plain asking for a break in the process so you don’t feel stretched thin.

What if, your reaction to the process is what is making it more difficult for you? Now stick with me here, don’t close this window just yet. Have you heard the term that I know Joyce Meyer says, new level, new devil? Most of us resist brokenness but it is in this place that we know God better. Are you submitting to the dealings of God? Or resisting them? I heard a saying the other day that we do go from glory to glory but it is sometimes hell in the hallway! As we go deeper with God, He builds our character through process, we learn perserverance in our own training with Him.

Graham Cooke says, ‘If you let go of God in your development you will not be able to keep hold of him when the days get tough in ministry. Look for the majesty of God in the training ground. You cannot take ground from the enemy if he has ground in you.’ Our training or processes are part of killing off our flesh so we can give God our excellence.

Is it painful sometimes?  You bet your boots. I am experiencing some of that squeezing right now in my life and I haven’t been real pretty about it either. I have sworn and cried and questioned, like stretch armstrong on steroids, But God…I sing His praises, I find something to be grateful about, I am so honored to be His child and know that there is something redemptive in everything that we go through. My amazing friend Lee said in the midst of one of my struggles, what is the redemptive purpose in what is happening? What is being redeemed in me that God wants to refine? God is concerned about our growth and character.

We decrease so that there will be an increase of God. I was reminded last night that my word this year is Finish, James 1:4 “Let perseverance finish its work in you so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” Today I need to choose to circumcise my feelings from my beliefs because my flesh is saying to that, ya NO! I listened to a teaching by Bill Johnson called Faith Versus Entitlement  (see bethel church podcast below)- ouch, entitlement – the belief that one is inherently deserving of privileges or special treatment. He said that if looking at a problem doesn’t release joy then we aren’t seeing it right, we aren’t seeing that there is a divine purpose because on the other side, we lack Nothing.  Count it all joy means do the math because on the other side of the trial, in that place redeemed in us, we will lack nothing. Can you wrap your mind around that idea? Does it mean we are done? No. Pruning is always positioning us for a greater increase, a greater manifestation and purpose, God being greater in and through us. It always goes back to it is not about us, God won’t do it without us but we can’t do it without Him. I need to get over myself, bottom line. God’s grace is the only place where that will happen.

It is not about finding joy In the trial but in what the trial will bring. I believe it is a mindset, it is about our mentality when facing the trials in front of us. I heard Jim Richards the other day say that forgiveness is not a feeling, it is a decision. I believe this is applicable in trials as well, it is a decision to find the joy that we will be mature and complete, lacking in nothing. It doesn’t mean that there will be no pain or grief and I think a lot of the times that is my expectation because I seek comfort over growth more than I care to admit. Trials have the ability to make us bitter or better. We need to choose to send away our judgment and release our offence over our situations in order to see through to the end of it with Jesus.

I was in a position the other day that revisited an old wound in a new way. At first I was frustrated that there were still more layers to this hurt but when the person was sorry for the situation creating this reaction, I became grateful that because of this I was becoming more whole in order to minister better to others. Was it painful and did it suck? Absolutely! At my healing trauma class later that week our facilitator reminded us that all things are in layers and when one layer is exposed and allowed to heal in the light of Jesus it builds a better foundation and our tool kit increases to deal with the next layer that will come as God wants to go deeper. You see our healing is not to revisit things to be hurt again but to be free from them crippling us because Jesus changes the nature of things. I have been processing these truths as I write this out to you, tough stuff especially with an entitlement attitude that my life needs to look easy, but that was never promised, it is my false expectation. I want to have the capacity for life and service for the God that loves me, finish your work Lord.

https://itunes.apple.com/ca/podcast/bethel-church-sermon-week/id76583739?mt=2