[Trials and testings are synonyms for sorrow, poverty and punishment]
Thanks to consumerism, T.V. evangelists and peddlers of a soft gospel- that tells us God is more concerned with our comfort than our transformation- many of us hide, hate and repent from trials.
North American Christianity holds within itself a underlying appeal that some how because I have said a prayer, go to a Church, or do a good deed my life is going to be full of all kinds of physical treasures and trinkets that will give me great joy, popularity and affirm my ‘rightness’ with God and the rest of His world. All REAL Christians drive big Caddies, that come equipped with a license plate that says ‘BLE-SSD’. If you are in North America and are reading this blog you have seen, or are believing, this Pablum version of the Gospel.
James- skeptic brother of Jesus, turned believer, ,comes to these Jewish believers (who have fled Jerusalem because they were being hunted down as criminals) as their fellow ‘bondservant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ.’ He writes to them because they have allowed all sorts of poor theology to creep into their understanding of the Goodnews that Christ taught, lived and secured at the cross. Poor theology always results in poor behavior. A poor understanding of the Gospel always results in a poor expression of spiritual life and a resultant emptiness of soul. You think I’m being too blunt? Wait until you start thinking on the words of James.
James gets right to it- like stepping into the octagon- the bell rings and James walks across the ring… doesn’t throw a warning jab- just a straight hard right to the jaw… it rocks today’s North American Christianity:
“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 nothing.” Jms 1:2 again in Jms 1:12 “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial…” No health, wealth, prosperity here! Straight up- ‘Blessed’ a beatitude- You are favored by God as you are remaining steadfast in the midst of all sorts of testing, trials, hardships! Rejoice! Count it a great gift and privilege from God! It will bring about something far greater than riches, fame, prosperity, comfort, and all the other trinkets of the world. It will bring about a depthness of life, a completeness of assurance in Christ, a soul that is lacking nothing.
How can I wrap my mind around this? What if my home and life has been uprooted by war, hate crimes, persecution? What if I just found out I have lost my retirement funds in the stock market? What if the doctor has just brought me the news that a dear loved one has died, or my child has cancer? Where does James point us to in various trials? A right trust and knowing of God!
Vs 5-8 A Surrendered Reliance on the Open-Handed Wisdom of God
Vs 9-11 A Determined Trust in the Providential Opinion of God
Vs 12-18 A Steadfast Commitment to the Goodness of God’s Love
Think these through… if you refuse to surrender, rely and commit to the wisdom, providence and goodness of the love of God shown to you through the giving of His Son, Jesus when facing temptation, trials, and testings you are left with only yourself. Self wisdom, self reliance, self commitment. Of course you are going to come up with a perverted opinion of why you are going through trials. A right trust and knowing of God, as seen through the love of the cross, allows us to surrender to the point of being made whole, perfected and complete in the midst of the trial and testing.
God’s not really that interested in your comfort, this life is a passing moment. He is more concerned with your transformation. A transformation that comes when we apply the hope of the Gospel to every corner of our life, relationships and heart, in the midst of all sorts of trials. You will discover that the grace of God more then sustains you to the point of deepening and filling you.