Wednesday, October 15, 2014

JOY AMIDST TRIALS (James Chapter 1)

James 1:2-4, “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.”

In his response to his insurance company, a man described the events associated with his injuries, “I am writing in response to your request for additional information. In block #3 of the accident form, I put "trying to do the job alone" as the cause of my accident. You said in your letter that I should explain more fully, and I trust that the following details will be sufficient. I am a bricklayer by trade. On the date of the accident I was working alone on the roof of a new six story building.  When I completed my work, I found that I had about 500 pounds of brick left over. Rather than carry the bricks down by hand, I decided to lower them in a barrel by using a pulley which fortunately was attached to the side of the building at the 6th floor. Securing the rope at ground level, I went up to the roof, swung the barrel out, and loaded the bricks into it. Then I went back to the ground and untied the rope, holding it tightly to insure a slow descent of the 500 pounds of brick.  You will note in block #11 of the accident report that I weigh 135 pounds. But to by surprise at being jerked off the ground so suddenly, I lost my presence of mind and forgot to let go of the rope. Needless to say, I proceeded at a rather rapid rate up the side of the building. In the vicinity of the third floor, I met the barrel coming down. This explains the fractured skull, and broken collar bone. Slowed only slightly, continued my rapid ascent, not stopping until the fingers of my right hand were 2 knuckles deep into the pulley. Fortunately, by this time, I had regained my presence of mind, and was able to hold tightly to the rope, in spite of my pain.  At approximately the same time, however, the barrel of bricks hit the ground, and the bottom fell out of the barrel. Devoid of the weight of the bricks, the barrel then weighed approximately 50 pounds. I refer you again to my weight in block #11.  As you might imagine, I began a rapid descent down the side of the building. In the vicinity of the third floor, I met the barrel coming up. This accounts for the two fractured ankles, and the lacerations of my legs, and lower body area. The encounter with the barrel slowed me enough to lessen my injuries when I fell onto the pile of bricks, and fortunately only three vertebrae were cracked.  I am sorry to report, however, that as I lay there on the bricks, in pain . . . unable to stand . . . and watching the empty barrel six stories above me . . . I again lost my presence of mind and let go of the rope. The empty barrel weighed more than the rope, so it came back down on me, and broke both my legs.  I hope I have furnished the information you have required.” “Man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward” (Job 5:7). 

Someone has said that life is 10% circumstances, and 90% what we make of them.  “When in trouble and in doubt run in circles, scream and shout,” might be the response of some, but God calls us, as believers, to something better.  He has called us to “joy” (Cf. Philippians 4:4; 1 Thessalonians 5:16).  “Joy” is not the same as “happiness.”  Happiness is a worldly commodity that is realized to the extent that one’s circumstances measure up to one’s expectations.  “Joy,” on the other hand, is that Spirit-borne contentment of soul that is sourced ultimately in one’s relationship with God (Cf. Galatians 5:22; Romans 15:13). 

One of the keys to responding to trials in an appropriate way is realizing (i.e. “for you know”; James 1:2) that God has a purpose in them.  An adult will likely react in a different way than an infant when seated in a dentist’s chair for the first time because the adult is cognizant of what is taking place while the infant is not.  The realization of what God is accomplishing in us amidst the trials we face makes a lot of difference in how we respond (Cf. Romans 5:3-4, 8:28).

In trials faith is tested.  Gold is refined by fire (Cf. 1 Peter 1:7).  The heat drives the impurities to the surface where they can be removed.  Trials have a way of bringing “spiritual impurities” to the surface in our lives.  Attitudes, words, and actions--that are inconsistent to who we are in Christ—are made apparent.  Such things are then identified to us by the Spirit through the Word so that they can be put off in the process of spiritual growth into Christ-like maturity.

Andrew Murray was suffering from a terribly painful back, when a woman who was in trouble came to him asking for counsel.  He passed on to her some advice he had just written for himself: “In time of trouble, say: First, He brought me here, it is by His will I am in this place: in that fact I will rest. Next, He will keep me here in His love, and give me grace to behave as His child. Then, He will make the trial a blessing, teaching me the lessons He intends me to learn, and working in me the grace He means to bestow. Last, In His good time He can bring me out again--how and when He knows. Therefore say I am here, (1) By God's appointment, (2) In His keeping, (3) Under His training, (4) For His time.”

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