a resolution that can stick

My brothers and sisters, whenever you face various trials, consider it all joy, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance complete its work, so that you may be complete and whole, lacking in nothing.

If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God, who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and it will be given you. But ask in faith, never doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For the doubter, being double-minded and unstable in every way, must not expect to receive anything from the Lord.

James 1:2-8; NRSVue

I’m not much into New Year’s resolutions. I do have kind of a half-hearted one that I’m not sure exactly how to carry out, but that’s not really relevant here. I will say that not only would I break resolutions in New Years past (probably distant), but I would likely forget them altogether.

Scripture has a special pull and not only influence, but power in that it is inspired by God so that God’s word, especially in Christ and the gospel, but also in specific ways related to life can come to us. But we have to have ears intent on listening and hearing along with a heart set on doing whatever it is that we believe God is telling us.

In this case from the scripture quoted above from the book of James, we’re referring to a mindset, even a discipline in how we approach the inevitable trials of life. We’ve touched on this before. What is interesting is the recent revision of the NRSV telling us that we need to “let endurance complete its work, so that we might be complete and whole, lacking in nothing” (emphasis added). This actually seems to be quite true to the Greek, and clever when you think about it. Again, we’re to let endurance complete its work, so that we end up being complete and whole.

If we set ourselves to do this, committed to that, it’s actually one of the many things from scripture which can be fulfilled. I’m not talking about perfection, as if we’re always going to get it right, and never break it. So in that sense, not. But in the long haul, yes, this is a kind of resolution as we’re resolute to follow through on this, even when at times we need reminding. And life itself will remind us, when we’re up against it, and failing in this regard.

God will help us continue on and grow, so that we get better at all of this, even if it does seem painfully slow at times with numerous setbacks. But if we keep at this, in time we’ll begin to see the difference, so that it isn’t just more breakthroughs for us, but becoming more of a settled disposition in us for good. That indeed God did help us in this as we become more and more complete and whole, at least clearly on our way to that. In and through Jesus.

peace of mind

Those of steadfast mind you keep in peace—
in peace because they trust in you.

Isaiah 26:3

Shalom is the transliteration of the Hebrew word translated “peace” which means more than inward tranquility and rest. As translations indicate and considering the context, here it could mean safety (NET), as well as the flourishing of humanity and creation. Peace of mind comes with the sense that all is taken care of, that all will be made well, and in the end be well as in whole, no longer broken.

I think in this life we have to hold on to promises like this, because so much seems in flux, unstable, threatening: undermining what is good. We certainly do need peace of mind, which is often the way this Scripture passage has been applied, even if that’s not its precise meaning. It certainly is included. And notice that it’s dependent on whether or not we trust in God. When we do, no matter what, God will give us God’s peace. This reminds me of another Scripture passage, Paul’s words to us:

Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:6-7

Notice that the promise here is not that everything will turn out just the way we like. We know better than that in this life. But that no matter what, God will be at work through our prayers is implied, with the promise that God’s peace which surpasses all understanding will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. We need to hold on to this promise and not let go of our faith, putting that faith into practice by doing what Paul tells us to do here. God will always answer. According to our faith, it will be done for us. And God values our efforts, even though inevitably imperfect.

We know that in the new creation we’ll live in God’s care with no concerns whatsoever, whole and fully at peace in the love of God. But even in a world which is often turbulent and tearing at the seams, we can still have God’s peace. Yes, right in the midst of the storm. And in spite of so many things we wish would be different. Peace of heart and mind. In and through Jesus.

fragmentation

It is wonderful to experience a wholeness that would embrace everyone, and knows not just a few close friends. That is the oneness Jesus brings, and in which we are meant to live. Instead we live in fragmentation, jumping from one thing to another, all in a quest for the wholeness which seems both elusive and illusive (an illusion).

Grace in and through Jesus draws us in, into the unity and wholeness of God. That is the life in Jesus in which we are called to live. Jesus expressed it in this way:

My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

Yes, we need this in our individual lives before God through Christ. And we need it together; in fact this oneness unites us not only with God, but with all who are in Christ. Only as we live in this wholeness together will the world take notice and see something of the reality that is more than just words.

the broken

I wish I would have lived my life without the chronic sense that something was terribly wrong with me. And yes, something terribly wrong across the board, with the universe. Though people who don’t seem to have my problem never cease to amaze me, especially those who seem so adept at doing what I wish I could do better.

Of course there are exceptions and moments in time when all seems well and good. When grace brings in a sense of overwhelming peace. This happens in measure. But by and large, I go on day after day feeling broken and subdued for the most part. Nothing new, but made even more assuredly so by my own sins, even though the Lord has protected me.

I would like to get better during the years I have left. Actually I think in some measure I have gotten better over the years, and am still in process that way. But we inevitably see the stark contrast between ourselves and others, and we know the wear and tear of life has taken its toll on us. I get to the place where I simply give up becoming substantially different.

Yes, I would like to overcome the sense that something is wrong, although that sense can help me keep coming again and again to the Lord, realizing that my only hope and life and eternal good is from him.

In another sense I need to accept myself just where I am. Yes, I can’t be so and so. In large part that is because we’re all gifted differently. And the Lord is at work in my life to help me grow and learn to do better in his grace. Doing better in the sense of being more at rest and peace.

Until then and beyond—I hope always, no matter what—I will continue to come back to the Lord over and over again, by his grace. I will hopefully grow in my sense of need and dependence on him. And I will also grow in my sense of interdependence on others in Christ’s body, the church. Along with this, I will also be able to identify with the down and out of this world, even with the worst of sinners, since I myself am one with them. While at the same time being one with Jesus along with others in Jesus, being restored and remade in his image together for the world.