Monday, October 3, 2016
Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing. If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind. Such people should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Their loyalty is divided between God and the world, and they are unstable in everything they do. James 1:2-8(NLT)
James spoke to people who were going through some pretty tough times. The early church suffered persecution, the kind of hardship of which our generation knows much less. The church at Jerusalem, the epicenter of the Gospel, was filled with people who were largely trapped in poverty. It may have been really difficult to get even basic employment for most Christians, perhaps because being a follower of Christ brought trouble, and who wants to hire that?
The advice James held up for poverty and trouble-laden people was to view those troubles as opportunities to grow spiritually. Anyone who stops long enough to look in life’s rearview mirror can see that. Nobody ever jumps for joy when they enter, or are in the middle of troublesome times, but the lessons learned are invaluable.
However, James also warned that when those troubling times come – when you do what comes naturally for a believer…when you pray…don’t look ahead, behind or to the sides...God wants your undivided attention.
And the illustration he asks us to consider is a storm-tossed sea. I’m not very “nautical” in the sense that I know next to nothing about navigating by the stars, or managing a boat, or even how to speak as a salty dog pirate. But I know something about rough waters as a metaphor for difficult times. Navigating through some troublesome times in my life and ministry certainly tested my faith, and it is that testing that also strengthens and toughens the line between you and God.
OK…I’ll say it…I wouldn’t trade anything for the darkest hours I’ve gone through!
And, truth be told, why would I? It is in those dismal and forsaken times when God has shown me that I am not alone; His presence grows near in thin places between belief and doubt.
C.S. Lewis wrote what a student of his taught him about reading:
We read to know we are not alone.
Borrowing that wise statement, let me back it up against the trials you may be facing today, the storm of a wind-tossed sea:
We face the day with our eyes firmly fixed on God
to find the closeness of His heart beating next to our own.
The story of Horatio Spafford is well known. A 19th century prominent attorney who lost nearly everything sent his wife and four daughters to England for a period of rest. Delayed by business, the father would join the family later. In the middle of the ocean the ship went down. Only Spafford’s wife survived.
Later as he took a ship to rejoin his wife, Spafford asked the captain to notify him when they got to the place where his daughters died. He faced an angry sea that had taken so much from him, and God gave him these words for us all:
When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
when sorrows like sea billows roll;
whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.[ii]
If you’re facing the waves today, don’t be tossed about; keep your eyes on Him. And let the beating of his heart tell your heart how to keep going.
It will be well with your soul!
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[ii] Horatio G. Spafford, It Is Well with My Soul, 1873