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   Friday, May 14, 2010

"Count it all joy"

(1) “James, a bondservant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad: Greetings.
(2) My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, (3) knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. (4) But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.
(5) If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. (6) But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind.
(7) For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; (8) he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. (James 1:1-7)

It is the third word in that catches me and holds me with shame. You see James was not only a high priest of the Church, but he was also the biological brother of Jesus. James knew things, stories, about Jesus we will never know because they grew up together. Very few humans that have ever walked this earth can say that they were not only a high priest in Jesus’ Church, but that they were siblings of our Christ as well.

What blows my mind is what he does with this rare position of his. James throws it away. He proclaims himself a bondservant of his Savior, of his Brother. A servant. How many times have I addressed myself as a follower of Christ? A follower has a much loftier status than a servant. A follower has a right to question and to judge. A servant is obedient. A servant does not question his/her Master. A servant is not equal to his/her Master.

So which am I? Am I equal to Jesus? Do I have a right to question Him or judge His teachings? My free will, a very gift from God, say that I do; but my heart tells me different. When I accented Jesus as my Lord and Savior I gave up my free will, willing, and chose to be a servant of Christ. So why then do I still think of myself as a follower? Pride. The root of all evil.

Today’s world tries to convince me that I am no one’s servant. That servitude is wrong. So often the world tries to build me up as if I were a god myself; or that I could somehow find equal ground with the One true God; the God of Abraham; God the Father of our savior Jesus Christ. But the world is wrong. The Holy Trinity--Father, Son, and Holy Ghost--is so far beyond our comprehension. I can never be equal to Him. I am the servant of Jesus Christ. I am the servant of God the Father. I am the servant of the Holy Spirit. Why? Because I love them and there is no room for pride in love.

(2) My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials,

That love, that surrender, and that servitude does not exclude me from hardships. I do not get a free pass and an easy life because I choose to devout my heart and soul to the living Christ. I can’t even say I wish it did. This last year has been pretty bad for me; but there is little I would change. Each hardship has taught me something new. Every rough turn in my life has enabled me to help another swim through their own rough waters. In all my nuggets of pain I have found blessings that I can count as joy.

God did not put these trials on me. He didn’t instigate my pain or these rough waters. God is a good God. Those rough waters were coming my way and Christ stepped in to give me aid. He kept my head afloat. He made the bad times worth it due to the blessings I gout out of them. It was only through the power of Christ I was able to keep my peace. Through it all I was able to find a smile-sometimes through tears-and know it would all be okay.

I don’t think I counted enough joy in this last year. I know my own self-pity, frustrations, and pain kept me from seeing all the ways in which Jesus carried me, and God blessed me. I know I missed many chances to allow the Holy Spirit to work through me. I am trying to change that. It isn’t something easily changed. It requires a lot of two things: patience and trust. Something a servant should have their Master in spades.

(3) knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. (4) But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.

In a world filled with immediate gratification Patience is nearly impossible to find in people any more. I am often guilty of wanting things in my time, when I want them, and exactly how I want them. God, thankfully, doesn’t act according to my schedule and plan. He has His own. This very fact makes it very easy to slip into a “God why are you doing this to me” mindset. When we experience hardships, pain, and suffering it is so easy to blame God. It is true that He has the power to do anything so He could have altered everything to make it so you did not have to suffer. And I think the truth is God often does this. Think of all the ‘close calls’ you and your loved ones have had.

It can’t always be like that. If it were like that we would live in a perfect world. We don’t. Adam and Eve introduced sin into this world. And sin has been destroying it since then. It isn’t God’s fault when bad things happen; it is sin. Our sin, someone else’s sin, or just the fact that the world is no longer perfect and in the evil born out of the Fall of man some really nasty things were given life. So many diseases that aren’t God’s fault. But discussing the whole pointing fingers thing is an entirely different story.

The point I want to make is that God isn’t the cause; He is the solution. He is the light at the end of the tunnel. When bad things happen people find themselves in despair, lost and forgotten, because they didn’t have the patience to wait faithfully for God’s solution. Remember God does not work in our time. He works in His own time. Sometimes our own misery drags on longer than it should because we don’t turn to God soon enough, quick enough, often enough. We don’t have the faith in His goodness. We don’t have the patience for His time and His healing. I want it now. I want it my way.

This year has taught me so much patience. Now my patience isn’t perfect, but it does have a perfect work. It does work perfectly in me when I choose to practice it. That doesn’t mean my patience is flawless. What I am saying is that when I find my patience in my faith what happens inside me is perfect. When I find my patience in my faith I feel such peace. I am perfectly at ease. I no longer struggle or despair; I curl up against the chest of my Savior while He carries me through the thorns. The sense of peace is astounding.

Having patience in hardships isn’t about giving up. It isn’t about saying whatever will happen will happen. Because I am patient doesn’t mean I am completely resigned to accept whatever hardships come my way. My patience in my faith in Christ’s love and God’s goodness is a choice. It is a decision to look on it with the positive and loving light that no matter what happens I fully believe it will happen better in the end because of God. And I am willing to wait for that end to this storm with my Lord. It is about me being steadfast in the knowledge that God will handle things. Jesus will hold up His hand to calm my seas. I just need to wait for it, and to show Him I am willing to surrender my life until His hands.

(5) If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.

My decision of faithful patience didn’t come to me easily. Sometimes I still often struggle with it. I don’t have to struggle alone; thankfully. I often have to ask God for help. I often pray for the wisdom, faith, patience, and trust to rely fully on Him. I know He will give them to me. I know He will supply me with everything I need. I know this because of the above passage. It is just one of countless others that tells me the goodness of God.

He doesn’t negotiate. He gives liberally and easily. If wisdom and faith were skittles God wouldn’t keep His favorite colors to himself. When you asked for skittles He wouldn’t just give you one or two. God wouldn’t just pour a handful of skittles into your hand. God doesn’t just give you one bag of skittles and calls it good either. If you ask our Lord, in full faith, for ‘skittles’ you will find countless buckets of those rainbow colors all around you. There would be no end to them.

God only asks for one thing in return. Only one thing.

(6) But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind.
(7) For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; (8) he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

God only desires for us to believe Him when He tells us He is a good God. He asks for our faith. How trusting does it sound for us to ask, “God please give me the strength to get through this, but I doubt you will.” We might not say the last part, but God can see into our hearts and be wounded by the doubts that rest there. How can any of us claim to have a passionate faith when we don’t trust what we have faith in?

God made the world in six days. God covered the entire world in the grate flood. God parted the red sea. Jesus performed countless miracles. Jesus brought Lazarus back from the dead after he had been dead for four days. Jesus rose from the grave. The Holy Spirit moves inside you. Our Lord and Savior specializes in the impossible. He created this entire universe and all its natural laws. He has broken and ignored those laws countless times. If we have faith, and if we believe, everything the Bible teaches ..why should my small, tiny life be so impossible for Him to fix?

I am not beyond the reach of my Savior.

My life, my hardships are not too much for Him to handle. I am not too small, too unimportant, for my God to notice. He loves me. He loves me specifically with a love so intense I can’t comprehend it. He will answer my prayers if I just trust in Him to do so. If I can only manage patience to wait for His glory to shine through. Because it isn’t about my time. I am not a follower of my God and Savior who can make demands and question His authority. I am a servant. I am obedient. I am trusting. And I have faith that my Master will not lead me astray or let me wander in the high, rocky places of life like a lost lamb.

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