All God’s Chillun Got Trouble
“Whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy because you know the testing of your faith produces endurance” (James 1:2). This is not some fake joy or denial of suffering. This is not praising God for a flat tire or a grim diagnosis. Rather, it is a test of our true reliance. It assumes that there is a larger picture and we can only grasp a small portion of God’s purpose. Joy is defined by the knowledge that every experience we have produces endurance which contributes to the formation of our spiritual maturity, which eventuates in wisdom. Endurance is the repetitious practice of one’s faith in the middle of uncertainty, transition and loss. The repeated application of our faith in trial prepares us to be fit for God’s task. However, if we lack the wisdom of experience, then James tells us to ask, and God will give it to us generously, often by additional opportunities to respond differently in trial. Wisdom is the product of making bad decisions and then learning from one’s failures. However, if we are to profit from God’s lessons in dark times, we must shift our focus from distrust to faith, regardless of the severity of the pain or trial.
“But ask in faith, never doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind” (James 1:6). Having doubts is normal, but James is not talking about occasional questioning of God’s purposes; rather, he is referring to being perpetually obstinate, a refusal to learn from one’s experience and then justifying our unbelief so we refuse to respond in faith when the chips are down. He names this attitude as one who is of two minds, or a “double-souled” individual, who always insists on the reliability of one’s own perceptions rather than trusting in God’s perspective, which produces a constant instability, a vacillation from reliance on oneself to trusting in Jesus. For every experience we have is a tool for our spiritual wisdom. The one with meager resources learns to gain the wisdom of self-respect, that one’s value is not measured by the world’s definition of success. The one who has accumulated much needs to grow in the wisdom of humility, recognizing that our false treasures on earth give a false sense of security. But the blessed are those who keep the faith and refuse to surrender to the temptation to be blown by the winds of change and uncertainty. They will receive the crown of life!
Finally, James addresses the objection that God is intentionally permitting hard times in order to tempt us to do evil. No! The test isn’t in the trial, it is in our response. “One is tempted by one’s own desire, being lured and enticed by it; that when the desire is conceived it gives birth to sin, and when that sin is fully grown, it gives birth to death” (James 1:17). When we fail to trust God, or make poor, unwise decisions that are sinful, that’s on us, not God. There is no variation in God’s character. God’s purpose is constant without flaw, and is achieved through his word and will.
God is good, all the time; all the time, God is good!
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