Sunday, June 4, 2017, 8:15 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “When Pretty Things Get Broken.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read James 1 (select vv. ESV).
Various Trials (vv. 2-4)
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.
What is joy? Joy is “grace recognized,” i.e. “the awareness of God’s grace, his favor” (biblehub.com). Jesus, for the joy set before him, “endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb. 12:2). What was the joy set before him? His grace, which he was to extend to all the world via his death on a cross for our sins, and via his resurrection from the dead. It was the knowledge that his death and resurrection would mean life everlasting, and freedom from slavery to sin, to everyone who trusted in him as Lord, and as Savior of their lives.
So, can we be joyful and sad at the same time? Yes, I believe we can, because joy is not dependent on our circumstances. It is not conditional to our human emotions. Even in times of severe trial and great sadness, we can prayerfully and thankfully be appreciative of God’s grace to us, in its various forms, calling on him to help us in our time of need, even with tears streaming down our cheeks. And, that can be joy, because it focuses on Jesus, who is our compassionate and merciful high priest. So, we should “Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart” (Heb. 12:3). We need to just rest in him.
Yet, what does it mean to count it all joy when we go through trials? It means to recognize God’s grace in our lives, i.e. that he is doing things in and through us way beyond what we could even imagine. It means trusting in his sovereignty over our lives, believing that, “in all things, he works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Ro. 8:28). Yet, “good” is not necessarily what we want or desire, but it is what God knows is best for us, i.e. what we truly need for us to mature in our faith, and to have steadfastness (persistence) of spirit, and for us to be Christ-like in heart, mind, attitude, faith, word and in action. So, we need to believe him, submit to his Lordship over our lives, and trust him to work it all out according to his plans and purposes, and for his glory.
Need Wisdom? (vv. 5-8)
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.
When we go through difficulties and trials, we definitely need wisdom to know how to respond with grace, and to not let our circumstances or what others do or say to “ruffle our feathers,” i.e. “to cause confusion, agitation, irritation or annoyance” (yourdictionary.com). There are probably always going to be people in our lives who will try to “get our goat,” i.e. who will attempt to irritate us. But, we can’t let them. We need to rise above these situations, by the grace of God, and by exercising godly wisdom. We must put on the armor of God (Eph. 6:10-20), as well, in order to fight off the temptation to give way to our circumstances and to not trust our Lord.
Yet, when we pray for wisdom to know how to respond with grace and godliness to difficult trials, and to people who want nothing more than to trip us up, and God shows us what to do, then we need to apply to our lives what he shows us, otherwise it was pointless to even ask him.
Remain Steadfast (vv. 12-15)
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. Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.
Some days are better than others. Some days we feel stronger, and other days we feel weak emotionally or physically, and it is more difficult during those times when the trials come. Yet, we don’t endure and persevere in our own strength or willpower. The steadfastness of spirit doesn’t come from within our own flesh. It is supernatural. And, it comes as we yield to our God, cry out to him in our suffering, and trust him to work in and through our lives for his purposes and for his glory. It comes when we learn to rest in him, and we don’t feel like we have to make things happen ourselves, and when we lean on him for understanding and trust in him for his strength.
When we are tempted to give in, give up, blow up, or clam up, that doesn’t come from God. Now, there will be times when God will tell us to be silent, but that will not be all the time, for he has given us mouths to sing his praises, to proclaim his excellencies, to share his gospel, and to call people to repentance and to faith in Jesus Christ. It is Satan who wants to silence us, and to get us to give up, and to yield to pressure to compromise our faith so that people will like us, and so we won’t face persecution. Yet, Jesus said if we are ashamed of him and his gospel, he will be ashamed of us (Mk. 8:38). The devil will also send people along in our lives to try to trip us up, and to try to get us to blow it. We can’t give in to them for a second!
Yet, the devil is not the only force in our lives which tempts us to sin against God. We can be lured and enticed by our own sinful desires. For example, we may be tempted to compromise our faith, or to not speak to people about Jesus, or to dilute the gospel, because we want to be liked by others, and not hated. And, when the Spirit within us prompts us that we need to speak, and not keep silent, or he impresses on our hearts that we need to say something to someone, and we know we will be hated and rejected, we may be tempted to rationalize our way out of it. This is because we know it will mean, not only that this particular person is going to now reject us, but that they are probably going to convince many others to hate us, too. Yet, we have to obey God, even if it costs us our reputations or our very lives.
When Pretty Things Get Broken
By Joni Eareckson Tada
I have a piece of China, a pretty porcelain vase –
It holds such lovely flowers; captures everybody’s gaze.
But fragile things do slip and fall, as everybody knows.
And when my vase came crashing down, those tears began to flow.
My life was just like China, a lovely thing to me;
Full of porcelain promises of all that I might be.
But fragile things do slip and fall, as everybody knows.
And when my life came crashing down, those tears began to flow.
Now Jesus is no porcelain Prince. His promises won’t break.
His holy word holds fast and sure. His love, no one can shake.
So, if your life is shattered by sorrow, pain, or sin –
His healing love will reach right down and make you whole again.
Now don’t we all cry when pretty things get broken?
Don’t we all sigh at such an awful loss?
But Jesus will dry your tears, as He has spoken;
‘Cause He was the one broken on the cross.