Sunday evenings at Grace, we have just begun a study of James, that "right strawy epistle." We're only four verses into the book, and already I am challenged and encouraged.
Who isn't familiar with the perplexing phrase: Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds... Joy? Trials? Together, in the same breath? Come on, James, I need you to connect the dots for me.
In unpacking these first few verses, Pastor Billy said something that put this familiar phrase in a totally new light. The words used for "trials" (v. 2) and "testing" (v. 3) don't just mean all the truly difficult, painful, awful stuff that hits us in this life. Those words carry with them an additional meaning: trails and testing are circumstances designed to reveal, with the intention to validate. Kind of like exploratory surgery, to provide an accurate diagnosis.
Designed to reveal what? Well, to reveal what I truly believe. I claim to believe in the sovereignty and goodness of God. But, in hardship and grief, do I seek instead some other form of comfort? Do I find in the darkest valleys that there is, alas, no comfort? Do I doubt that a sovereign God is lovingly working all things, all things - even terrible things - to my good? That He is uses these painful trials to mold me into the likeness of Christ? That He will indeed accomplish that good work He has begun? That this is all for my ultimate good and His glory?
But here is how I was encouraged...When I am "under the knife" and my heart is laid open and bare, one of two things is going to happen. I am going to see sin, self, and idolatry - putrefying gangrene - which, having been exposed, can then be dealt with through repentance, prayer, and renewed reliance on my faithful surgeon. Nasty stuff. But God isn't afraid to give me a dose of hard medicine, and with it healing. OR, when my heart is laid open and bare, I will find that my confidence, my comfort, my assurance truly are in the atoning work of Christ on my behalf, in the great goodness of this mighty and merciful God. Through trials and testing, God shows me what I really believe, and He draws me inch-by-inch closer to Himself and to the truth. Either way, it all comes only to good for the children of God.
As a child, I memorized this verse from Ecclesiastes 7: When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider this: the Lord has given the one as well as the other. The happy and the heart-breaking, the pleasant and the painful - the Lord gives them both. The all-powerful, all-wise God, who loves me perfectly, He sends them both. For my good. And that knowledge, Dear Reader, brings me great comfort. Comfort and joy.
2 days ago