Monday, February 25, 2019

An Enduring Faith

“Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.”

(James 1:12 ESV)

As believers, we face trials of many kinds. We struggle with temptation. We struggle with sin. We struggle with disappointment. We struggle with difficult circumstances in life. And, of course, we endure various forms of persecution.

These trials can make it difficult to remain faithful. It seems, at times, that life would be easier if we only forsook the Lord. It seems that this world would be easier to navigate without the struggles brought on by our faith.

However, as we see in the above passage, we must remain steadfast under trial. We must persevere under trial. We must endure these hardships. And we must do so that we might receive the blessing of eternal life promised to us by God.

Our faith, you see, is not a one-time decision that we make. It’s not a one-time prayer that we offer. It’s not something given only to us at the time of our baptism. Faith is the ongoing state of a believer in Jesus. It’s a continuing trust in the Lord in the face of difficult circumstances.

Because we receive the salvation of God by faith, our faith must remain if we’re to receive it. We cannot turn from faith, we cannot forsake the Lord, and receive his blessing. We are not saved because we, at one time, had faith.

Jesus echoes this thought in Matthew 24. He’s discussing, in this chapter, all of the trials and struggles that will be faced by believers as the end approaches. And then, in verse 13, he says: “But the one who endures to the end will be saved.”

We, then, must remain in faith in the face of these trials. No matter how hard life may get, we must confidently trust in the Lord. We must not waver, we must not falter, when life gets difficult.

This, of course, is not something we can do on our own. We must rely on the Spirit of God for the strength to carry through. We must allow him to work in us, through his Word, that we might stand firm.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

The Source of our Standing

“Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, and the rich in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grass he will pass away. For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits.” 
(James 1:9-11 ESV)

It’s easy for us to misinterpret the things we see around us. It’s easy for us to misinterpret our circumstances in this life. This is true, especially, when it comes to our standing before God.

We tend to look at those who are lacking the blessings of this life and assume that they are excluded from the blessing of God. And the opposite is also true. We look at those who have everything this world has to offer, and assume they have received a larger dose of God’s favor.

Such thinking is dangerous. If we are lowly, it can leave us in despair. It can cause us to deny the work of the Lord in our life. And if we are rich, it can give to us false hope. It can cause us to trust not in the Lord, but in ourselves and the worldly blessings we possess.

The simple reality is that, even if we are lacking in wealth, influence, or prestige in the world, we have become a child of God through faith in Jesus. And, if we possess this faith, we can rejoice in our exaltation despite our outward circumstances.

We can rejoice because of our high standing. We can rejoice in the tremendous blessing the Lord has bestowed upon us. We can rejoice because, even though we appear lowly in the eyes of the world, we have been exalted by God.

In the same way, if we have wealth, influence, and prestige in this world, our faith will lead us to acknowledge our lowly position before the Lord. We'll recognize that our life in this world will one day come to an end. We'll concede that the blessings we have received in this life will one day pass away. 

This may not seem like a blessing. It may not seem to be something about which we can boast. But the reminder of the temporary nature of our life is, indeed, a blessing. It forces us to look not to ourselves nor to our wealth, but to the Lord. And it leads us to boast in everything God has done for us.

May we, then, find our worth and our standing, as well as that of others, not in worldly circumstance. Let us find it in the Lord and in the sacrifice he’s made on our behalf. Let us find our worth and standing in the promise he’s given us.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Asking in Faith

“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.”

(James 1:5-8 ESV)

As believers, we know that we are saved by grace alone through faith alone. We understand that it’s in no way dependent upon any inherent goodness we claim to possess nor upon our actions. In fact, we believe that we are completely undeserving of God’s forgiveness and salvation.

However, we often fail to realize that this is true of every blessing God has to offer. Every blessing he gives is bestowed only by his grace. And every blessing he gives is received only through faith.

We see, in the above passage, that this is true of wisdom. We are encouraged to seek wisdom from God when it is lacking. We are encouraged to bring our request to God, knowing that he gives generously to all. But we are told also that we must do so in faith.

We must ask in faith without doubting, James tells us. We cannot, at the same time, ask for wisdom and doubt that God will give it to us. We cannot, at the same time, ask for wisdom and question that which is given.

He goes on to compare a person who doubts with a wave that is driven and tossed by the wind. It isn’t the Lord that determines his direction. Every change of the wind, every change of circumstance, does so.

A person who doubts is a double-minded man. His thoughts not only reflect those of the Lord and his Word, but those of the world. They reflect the sinful flesh which he inhabits.

Such a person is unstable, lacking a foundation. His life is not established upon something that is sure. It’s established upon that which easily shifts, causing our life and our faith to crumble beneath us.

A person who doubts, James says, must not suppose that he’ll receive anything from the Lord. Because his blessings are received through faith, we are unable to receive them when we doubt. Our uncertainty, our lack of faith, hinders us from obtaining them.

Whatever we need from the Lord, be it forgiveness, salvation, wisdom, material resources, or strength, it can only be received through faith. Let us, then, present our needs to the Lord. But, as we do so, let us trust in him. Let us ask in faith without doubting.

Monday, February 04, 2019

The Blessing of Trials

“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.”

(James 1:2-4 ESV)

We all face trials in life. As we live in an imperfect world filled with imperfect people, we endure difficulties of various kinds. Circumstances arise that not only make our faith challenging, but do the same with life itself.

We don’t enjoy these struggles. In fact, most of us view our trials as a curse. As we encounter them, as we deal with them, we often question God. We don’t tend to think that anything good could come of them.

James, however, encourages the opposite mindset. He says that we’re to count it all joy when we experience trials. We are to face them gladly. We are to count them as a grace. We are to count them as a blessing. 

We’re to do so because of their effect upon our faith. These trials test our faith, he says. And the testing of our faith produces steadfastness. It produces endurance, perseverance, and patience.

The implication, in the words of James, is that these qualities would not be developed apart from trials. They would not be produced without hardship. We would remain in an infantile state as far as our faith is concerned.

This is why he goes on to say that we’re to let steadfastness have its full effect. We’re to do so that we may be perfect and complete. We’re to do so that we’ll be lacking in nothing.

He isn’t suggesting that we’ll be sinless on this side of eternity. What James is saying is that we’ll become mature in our faith. And, as a result, we’ll reach the goal of our faith. We’ll receive the blessing of everlasting life.

Even though we don’t consider them such, it’s clear that our trials serve as a blessing. It’s safe to say that none of us welcome or enjoy the trials we face. But, even so, these trials are used by God to bestow his blessing upon us. They are used to build our faith in him that it might become more sure.

Recognizing this, we can approach our trials differently. We can approach them confident that God will use them for our good. We can approach them knowing that they will be used by God to establish us in faith.