Sunday, December 20, 2015

Consider it pure joy

What was it that caused me to turn to James 1 this morning?

I think I was reflecting on joy and how I have some room for growth in that area, and I was wracking my brain for verses that could guide me. I don't know if you're like me, but my thoughts turn to "Consider it pure joy..." That's an easy-enough-to-remember intro to a verse that it sticks in my mind.

It's the rest of the passage that's hard.

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you..." (NIV)

I took a peek at The Message version since sometimes it helps provide a deeper understanding of the passage, and I was not disappointed.

"Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don't try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way..." (MSG)

What a rich, challenging passage. Not only are we to be joyful in the good times, but in the times when we face trials (struggles, testing, etc.). The biggest heart squeeze during today's reading of this passage was the encouragement not to "try to get out of anything prematurely" (or to "let perseverance finish its work"). How many times have I impatiently prayed for deliverance from a challenging situation? We've got to admit that we want life to be easy and comfortable. Plus, we compare ourselves to others - or at least what we perceive of others. What if we had the opportunity to walk through life with the person we thought "has it all going for them?" I bet we would be surprised at the struggles they face: relationally, financially, spiritually, physically.

Whatever it is we face, it can be a situation that will mature and develop us if we let it. If we don't let it, we find ourselves complaining our way through. We're impatient and not pleasant to be around. We become those people we don't care to be around because they bring us down. I want to choose an attitude of gratefulness and hope for the future, persevering through whatever challenges come my way.

And so I was convicted today. I pray this conviction takes root in my heart and displays itself through my attitude and actions.

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