Monday, February 13, 2017
Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles 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. James 1:2-4(NLT)
James, the half-brother of Jesus was revered in the early church for being a great man of prayer. According to some sources they even called him camel knees because of the extremely baggy callouses on his knees from spending so much time kneeling on the floor. And yet when I read about troubles being a big-time opportunity for great joy, there is an uncontrollable eye-roll that wells-up within.
And then we read the rest of his statement and it begins to make sense. The testing of our faith is something of which God approves. This is not to be confused with tempting. James later says (verse 13) that God never uses temptation on us; that comes from a different direction – namely the world, the flesh or the devil. But testing – ah, that’s from God, proof that you are a loved child the Father is developing. And what development that is!
The Development of a Saint
Saints are literally those whom God has made spiritually-strong through testing and setting-apart from the sinfulness failure syndrome. It’s a process of growing spiritually mature. James tells us that when our endurance, matured through testing is fully-developed, that spiritual growth will have brought completeness to what God desired in your life, nothing less! And that’s enough!
In a recent conversation with my bride we were talking about difficult times in the past and how we wish we could go back and make it better. The thought came that, of all the mistakes and missteps, there is nothing in my life that has ever happened from which God has not somehow brought positive results.
That doesn’t mean testing is easy; never said that! In fact there seems to be a definite correlation between the duration, depth and location of the testing and the meaningfulness of spiritual growth produced.
A Case in Point
The last thing in the world I wanted was another dog.But when Wellie showed up, he needed a home, and I guess God figured we needed another test (eye-roll suppressed again)! A few months after Wellie came to live with us his back legs stopped working and he became wheelchair-bound. I guess we were more depressed than he was; he still doesn’t know he’s disabled, except he has to wait to be lifted up a step or two. Otherwise he’s still playful, mischievous and generally unwilling to let even a 150lb German shepherd pass without a challenge!
Now, he’s still a lot of work, but that has become part of the family routine, and we deal with it. The positive spiritual maturity that has evolved in all of this, particularly for me, has been the willingness to be compassionate, instead of just feeling compassion. There is quite a difference between feeling an ache in your viscera over someone’s troubles, and getting hands-on to do something about it.
And that is definitely a kingdom of God reality. He could have stayed very comfortably on his throne in heaven; instead he chose the cross.
Have some troubles been working on you? That’s the Father crafting another saint!