trials and Christian formation

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,[a] 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.

James 1:2-4

It’s interesting how James opens his letter. He is a straight talker, getting right to the point, and as a pastor, probably the James who was known as the pastor of the church in Jerusalem, he knew what people, and by extension what all of us need. Not that he wasn’t writing into a specific time and place, to a specific people, because you certainly can tell that he was. But brought forward to our day, the entire letter speaks volumes to us.

We flinch at trials. None of us wants them. Yet they’re a part of life, certainly something we can’t escape. And God’s word tells us that they are opportunities for us to mature and grow. Our reaction to what goes wrong then is important for our formation toward the person God created and is now recreating us to be in Jesus.

Perseverance, or endurance is important. Remaining faithful in the midst of the difficulty, or even burden. Not flinching, or trying to escape, knowing that God is at work in our lives through it. So that we’ll lack nothing of what we need in Christian character.

And the beginning point is so crucial: our attitude. We’re to count it all joy because of what we know is taking place in our lives. Count it so, regardless of our feelings. Another example of how faith doesn’t replace feelings, but goes before them. We’re not told here to be joyful and happy, but to count ourselves to be so. For a good reason.

In all of this we have to come near to God, and draw on his resources, as given to us in scripture. And we have to keep at this, of course. Doing our part, certainly imperfectly, but sincerely, and with repentance along the way, in faith. Believing that God is at work in it all, in and through Jesus.

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