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Saturday, June 14, 2008

Lacking nothing

I have just spent the most glorious hour immersed in God's Word, and I'm excited, and I'd like to share it!

Just four verses mind you. FOUR! Out of the whole Bible, just four verses have gripped me and excited me - what does that say about how much more there is to discover in the whole of the rest of the Bible? An exciting thought in itself, no?

So anyway, I've decided to start studying the book of James. I read it through this morning and thought well, that there is a mine packed full to bursting with pure gems of wisdom on how to live an authentic Christian life. I also remembered why I've been putting off reading this book - it's scarily challenging! But I figure that's a good thing and actually pretty much what I need.


This is what I focused my attention on this morning:

"James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,

To the twelve tribes in the Dispersion:


Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing."

(James 1:1-4)

Firstly, James refers to himself as a servant of God. What does that mean? I decided to hold that thought, slightly amused by the fact that he just says "Greetings". Simple, to the point. I love Paul's lengthy openings to his letters, but I love this too...straight to the point!

Anyway, James clearly has a point to get across. Oh and he's written this to the twelve tribes in the Dispersion (NIV says "scattered across the nations" - maybe a little more helpful in understanding what that means). That thought held too. (I'm at full capacity now)

What's the first point he makes then? About trials. I wonder, does this suggest that the people James is writing to are suffering? Also, is it a generic letter? To the twelve tribes...(thought retreived). In which case, is James acknowledging that whichever Christian he writes to, they will at some point in their walk with God go through trials. That trials are simply a given when it comes to being a Christian - they may be of 'various kinds', but they will happen...?

This seems to fit with my personal experience, and also encourages me that whatever James has written here, it can apply to me too (apart from the fact that it's the Word of God).

v3. you KNOW. They KNEW that testing = steadfastness. So why is he saying it? A reminder perhaps?

(slightly relevant tangent insertion: I studied part of Jonah with two friends last night and we were talking about how Jonah just forgot who God was...and yet when he described him to the sailors, who didn't know him, they recognised instantly how much God was worthy of their respect. How often, we said, do we as Christians just forget who God is?)

Remember what you ALREADY KNOW. This isn't new teaching, and it's trustworthy anyway because it's God's Word, but you can also know it to be trustworthy from the experiences you have had. You already knew it before I reminded you of it.

How did they know? Well how do we know anything? Through what we're told, yes, but also through experience. Surely the people James was writing to had experienced testing....and had experienced the result of of faithfulness through testing - that is, increased steadfastness. But we so easily forget this when the next trial comes along. Which is why we need reminding.

So...count it joy when you meet trials? Why? Because of the end result! Steadfastness. And what that leads to....perfection and completion! Surely we want that....

This is the wonderful revealed 'secret' of suffering and trials - God in His mercy and grace uses them for our good!

I guess not everyone's experienced this. Or, maybe a better way to put it would be to say people have experienced this to varying degrees. But me, personally....I KNOW, through times of struggle, I KNOW from these experiences that my faith has been tested and it has developed steadfastness within me. I often don't feel like it, but I know that I am a more mature and steadfast Christian now than I was two years ago. And I know that's a result of God's grace to me in testing times. And I know that means I can praise Him for those trials. Because I'm very glad I'm more mature and steadfast now!

But there's more isn't there...

"And", v4. And = more. And = don't stop there. Don't stop at just having joy in trials. Don't stop at wanting to be steadfast. Understand WHY steadfastness is so good.

Doesn't sound a particularly great word, does it, 'steadfastness'. Doesn't sound 'cool'. or fun.
What does it mean anyway?

How about steady. Un-moving. Fixed. Anchored. (BB Motto- Sure and Steadfast)

And what does it achieve? v4. Perfection and completion. How does being steadfast, being anchored, have the effect of perfection?

Well, if you're anchored in God...

Oh and another thing, James acknowledges that trials, difficult situations will test our faith. Will be difficult. What does 'testing' of our fatih mean? Doubt? Quite probably, although from my reading of James as a whole earlier I noticed he has other things to say about doubt, but I'll get to that soon (in a couple of days/weeks at this rate of reading!)

So anyway, it's ok to feel tested! It's ok, and natural, and will happen that our faith is tested in and through difficult situations. We cannot, don't have to, and should not face difficult situations with a blind optimism. That sounds a pretty daft way to face difficulties and trials. Almost denial. Sometimes maybe we think we should just blindly say "It's ok, God will sort it", which is all very well if you truly believe that but I think sometimes we (I) feel a pressure to say such things because I don't feel 'allowed' to be tested. I don't feel 'allowed' to doubt. I don't feel 'allowed' to find things difficult if I'm a Christian.

RUBBISH! James states quite clearly "when you face trials", "the testing of your faith", which implies quite clearly that we WILL face trials and our faith will be tested. He doesn't say "If you're weak and find yourself tested, if your faith is weak and you start to struggle". No. Your faith, whoever you are as a Christian, will be tested.

Freedom in that thought alone.

So, no blind, false optimism or denial. But we SHOULD count our trials as joy. We should let our testing drive us to be anchored in God. We should take our testing and doubts to God and let Him remind us of what we already know - that this situation is going to work for our good, by His love and grace.

There's also a sense of responsibility. 'And let'. Don't stop. Don't forget. Don't put an end to it. Persevere, I guess. LET steasdfastness work in you. Let God work in you. In fact, this will happen naturally if we do the first bit, if we go to God. If we are seeking to be steadfast in Him, the natural result is that He will work in you to bring you to perfection and completion...LACKING NOTHING.

When we face trials, we often feel like we're lacking something. Sometimes we think we know exactly what it is we're lacking - love, security, a roof over our heads, money in the bank, a sympathetic boss, friendships...

Sometimes, it's hard to put a finger on what is lacking, what exactly wouldmake the situation better.

Always, we will lack nothing if we anchor ourselves in the Lord (nothing of value). Because when we think we know what we're lacking - IS that what we actually lack? Or do we simply lack perfetion and completion in the BIBLICAL sense. Do we lack steadfastness in God?

These are such hope-filled verses! James is so clear - THIS is what perfection and completion really means. Not the situation changing to how I want it, but growing in steadfastness, remembering that we are anchored in the Lord. Lacking nothing.

Woop for the God of my salvation!

And THIS is why we count our trials as joy. Because we focus not on the trial itself, but on the opportunity it presents us to anchor (or re-anchor) ourselves in God.

Trials = blessings!!!

This is hard to grasp. And perhaps slightly weird. But it's true! It's the wonderful, exciting revelation of God's Word that He is full enough of mercy and grace to use even our struggles to bring us joy. And perfection. And completion. True completion.

The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. The amazing truth is that when I'm going through even the hardest of trials, when I'm at my weakest, when I feel that I nothing, I can remember that, anchored in God, steadfast, I lack nothing. I can glorify God and enjoy Him even when I feel there is nothing else to enjoy and I have nothing to offer in glorifying God.

James said he was a servant of God - is he here teaching us a little of what that means? What it looks like?

And back quickly to Jonah...I was talking about what we'd studied with another friend (yes, I have several) and he said something quite simple, but quite profound and very on the mark and very helpful.

"So often we are like Jonah, but God is always like God."


God is always like God.

I want to follow the teaching of James. Not because of James, but because he points me to God. He points me to my anchor. I want to be like Jesus, humbly meeting trials head on, focusing on the end result, not the present suffering. When you MEET trials, James says. I want to meet them, square in the face, knowing that I am anchored and steadfast in the God of salvation and that I can run to him when I am tested, that I can stand firm in Him when I am tested, and that when the testing is over (especially when, on that glorious Day, it is finally and completely over) I will be steadfast, perfect, complete. Lacking nothing.

And, therefore, having everything.


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