Saturday, July 14, 2012

Joy in suffering

"My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing." James 1:2-4 Trials... afflictions... persecution... those situations that make it hard to believe that God is not only in control but is working all things together for my good, I should consider those times to be "all joy"? Just as true love is manifest not by loving those who are the most lovable, but by loving our enemies (Matt. 5:43-48), so true joy brought about by the Spirit of God is evidenced not in the easiest of times, but the hardest. Remember the story of Job? Our great adversary was not convinced that his righteous character and strong faith was anything more than an allegiance based on self-preservation, Satan thought that if God stopped blessing Job in every area of his life that Job would lose faith. The opposite turned out to be true and Job's faith was strengthened through the severe trials he endured. I live Job's life, I feel as though I have nothing in my life worth complaining about, my health, my job, my family, my church, the list would go on indefinitely were I to try to act upon that old gospel song and count my blessings, naming them one by one. However, what would my reaction look like if I fell into "divers temptations"? If my health, my family, my friends and my resources were all stripped away from me in the blink of an eye, could I say with Job, the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away, blessed be the name of the Lord? I'd like to think so, the truth is that a man who is ultimately satisfied with God will always be content, his greatest satisfaction is something that cannot be taken away from him. On the other hand a covetous man, one who looks to physical things - whether material or intangible - will never be content. So I write this now, and a time in my life when everything seems to be going my way, to remind myself that my ultimate joy must be in Christ or else it may be gone tomorrow. In this passage I'm called to ask myself, "If luxuries of this world cause me to have a leanness in my soul, (Psalm 106:15) oughtn't my prayers contain less requests for tangible solutions and more requests for trials that drive me to Christ?" C.H. Spurgeon once eloquently said, "I have learned to kiss the wave that throws me against the Rock of Ages." If the Captain of our salvation was made perfect through sufferings (Heb. 2:10) am I to expect anything less? Is it enough for me, the servant, to be as my Lord? (Matt. 10:25) That which will make me entire is not propinquity in a relationship, position in society, or possessions in my domain. God has promised only one thing that will put me in a state where I lack nothing, and that is the trying of my faith! So let me be tried, let me be like my master, who endured the cross and despised the shame for the joy that was set before him! (Heb. 12:2) And let me learn to be like those wise apostles who when imprisoned and beaten for preaching the gospel, rejoiced that they were counted worthy to suffer for the name of Jesus. (Acts 5:41)

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