Most historians agree that the Book of James was written shortly before he was martyred by fanatical Jewish Leaders for preaching the Gospel. So to have him exhorting fellow Believers to look at the trials in their lives as something good not bad is incredible. James went on, telling them, he knew they were completely aware of all their past afflictions, trials, and persecutions, and how their faith had been tested each time…but that they needed to continue to persevere with patience and endurance… learning to suffer well with a tranquil mind. I don’t know about you, but suffering well these past many weeks has been difficult! And now with the “Stay at Home” order being extended another month for COVID 19…looking at it with good cheer and gladness of heart is very difficult. But Jesus reminds me in the Beatitudes that I should rejoice and be glad in my trials, (Matthew 5:12) and that I need to continue to persevere so that when I have done the Will of God, I’ll receive what He has promised. (Hebrews 10:36) Thus with all this encouragement, I will joyfully accept persecution. (Hebrews 10:34)
Maybe you were the child that all your parents had to do was look at you sternly and you stopped misbehaving. Or maybe it took much more effort from your parents before it finally sunk in that what you were doing was wrong. Parents correct their children out of the love they have for them, not because they want to be mean, but because they want only the best for them. Our Heavenly Father does the same for us. Deuteronomy 8:5 says, “Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the Lord your God disciplines you.” When we can view difficulties in our life as loving correction from God rather than just punishment…our entire spiritual perspective and faith will be impacted and increased.
God has promised a crown of life to those who endure trials. But when we find ourselves in the middle of a life altering trial, it’s too easy to walk in unbelief. But unfortunately, the maturing of our faith comes most times in the valleys not the mountain-tops. For it’s in the dark, scary valleys that we come to the end of ourselves and finally look to God.
It’s only by our belief and trust in Jesus Christ that we have access to God the Father. For the chasm between us and God is too deep…the sin-created abyss too wide for us by ourselves to reach Him. But Jesus came to save us from our sins, and remove the guilt and shame by His blood. So now we can stand and pray with confidence before our Heavenly Father…knowing He hears us.
When you have night blindness, you have limited visibility in the dark…and take it from me, it makes driving at night very difficult at times. When we’re walking in the darkness of sin it’s much like having night blindness…we’re unsure of where we’re going, we’re full of fear, and we’re apprehensive about what’s up ahead. But the blindness of sin can be overcome by the light of God…for this light depicts the very essence of His character and holiness. And when we walk in that spiritual illumination of God’s light, our path is made sure.
This verse hinges on our faith and trust in God. For when we ask God for something, we must trust that He’ll give us what’s the very best according to His Will. When we seek, we must have faith that we’ll find His perfect plan and purpose for our life. And when we knock, we must be confident to walk through the door He opens for us.
Even when we’re not thinking about Him, God is still thinking about us. He is continually adding to and filling us with His loving kindness and mercy…even times when we don’t really deserve it. And God’s steadfastness towards us often puts to shame the poor example of trust we have of Him. For regardless of how often we’re mindful of Him…God is always thinking about us.
Earlier in Genesis, God had promised Abraham and Sarah a child. ” I will make you into a great nation.” (Genesis 12:2) But like most of us…they allowed fear and doubt to overshadow their hope and expectations. For in this verse, God led Abraham out into the cloudless night sky to observe the stars, (they estimate there are 1 Billion Trillion stars in our universe), and then reassured him that his offspring would be as numerous. God does this for us also. He can cause a Bible verse to suddenly become alive and take on new meaning…banishing doubt and bolstering our faith in Him. He can strip away fear and strengthen our trust by bringing into remembrance all the things He’s done for us in the past. And just like Abraham, we too can look up into that starry sky and see God’s wonder, power, and majesty…and be assured of His love and faithfulness for us.
It tells us in Genesis 5:22-24 that Enoch lived for 365 years…faithfully walking with God…and then he was no more, because God took him away. The word used here is “translated”, or conveyed to heaven without tasting death. The only other person to experience this was the Old Testament prophet Elijah. But unlike Enoch, Elijah’s departure was witnessed as he was carried off by a whirlwind. (II Kings 2:11) What these two men did have in common though was their unshakable faith in desperate times, godliness in the face of persecution, and the boldness to speak the truth no matter what.
Paul was more than just encouraging his fellow Believers here…he was beseeching and imploring them to take that decisive and dedicated step called sanctification. Why? When we first become a Christian we tend to hold on to parts of us that are comfortable, easy, or allow us to cope. But as we journey along with the Lord, He starts to demand we separate ourselves from those things. This process can be painful, but necessary for us to fully become God’s. Holiness or sanctification is being totally His…with nothing withheld…and Paul recognized that this was not only God’s Will but the very least thing we could do in view of the Lord’s sacrifice for us. (I Corinthians 6:20)