In the summer I heard reading from the book of James for, what I would have to admit, the first time ever. I am sure that there is a great amount of the bible that I’ve heard before and a great amount of common passages that I can recall but I have to admit that I’ve never REALLY listened before and never really appreciated what I was listening to.
The recurrent theme in my blogs lately has been of the things that get us through life…the good things and the bad. I’ve thought a lot about this scripture when I heard it and heard our pastor speak on it….
James 1 2-4, 12
2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
12 Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.
Wow… what a concept. To consider it pure joy to face trials. To think that we should celebrate the challenges, the trials, the burdens, the loss, the tragedy, the crisis. If you’d told me that 2.5 years ago, I would have told you to jump in the lake. And really, even now, I have a hard time with this on the surface. If you only read that first verse you would slam the bible shut if you were in crisis. But the next few verses are what make me think…it helps that I heard a sermon on this topic too LOL!
The testing of our faith brings perseverance. To persevere can be defined as :a steady persistence in a course of action, a purpose, a state, etc., especially in spite of difficulties, obstacles, or discouragement. Our pastor found synonyms for the word perseverance… to go up and through, to carry on, to endure and to maintain. The theological definition is continuance in a state of grace to the end, leading to eternal salvation. And to go up and through certainly seems like that state of being that you find yourself in when you are in tragedy. My faith has been tested many times… most certainly in our TTTS journey but many times before and since. Sometimes I just want to scream why??? Sometimes I want to say ‘I’ve had ENOUGH!!!’. Sometimes I throw my hands up and say ‘really God, you really think I can get through this’. And I’ve also been known , while tears stream down my cheeks or my heart races with the worry, stress and strain, to say ‘I give up…I can’t do this’. But I do it, I keep going, I push forward, push up and through. And I get through it. Full of questions and asking why but I get through it.
Asking questions is okay…He expects that. Last spring when the community I live in dealt with the loss of two volunteer firemen, lost in the line of duty, the minister at the service shared something very interesting and comforting with us. He told us that someone once asked Mother Theresa what she would say to God when she first met Him in Heaven. Her response was “You have a lot of explaining to do”. If she can question God then I think all of us certainly can!
But back to perseverance….. Can I really believe, in my heart, that I should be happy and filled with joy that I am being given a burden to carry and a crisis to endure??? I am not sure I always do that now but I promise you I never did it before. I didn’t give up my faith, I didn’t give up on God. But I wasn’t able to find joy in my loss or my challenges. But it most certainly does build character, give you wisdom and help you grow. It is a most challenging concept but I am beginning to understand how true it is. When you get through it, when you persevere, you know that you did it through strength, tenacity and courage. Where do those things come from? To me, I say the Lord. He gives us those gifts, He gives us the strength.
We are blessed when we’ve persevered, we have accomplished great things through faith and by not giving up, we have shown the Lord that we are ready for judgment, we are ready for the crown of life because we love and trust the Lord.
Sounds so easy, doesn’t it. It isn’t, it never will be. But then, neither was the trials that Jesus endured for us. He suffered so much more than I ever have and yet his faith never waivered, He knew his reward was the crown of glory.