Imagine you’re way out on a country road and you’ve pulled over and stopped your car for some reason. As you prepare to start the engine again, all you hear is a clicking sound – the battery is dead. There is no one else on the road, you are miles from the nearest gas station, and when you pull out your cell phone, you realize you don’t have service so far out of town. You look at the sun as it’s going down in the late afternoon.
How do you feel? What is your immediate reaction? Angry, fearful, frustrated, despairing, – kicking at the gravel and shouting “WHY God?” –all of those would be reasonable reactions.
Imagine some preacher comes up to you at that moment and says “Listen friend; count it all joy when you have all kinds of trouble in life.” Do you want to punch the guy, or are you willing to listen to him?
We’re starting a new study in the letter of James this Sunday, and we’ll be camping out there for the next few weeks. Most scholars believe that the James who wrote this epistle is the half-brother of Jesus. His writing style is very distinct from Paul’s – he’s much more of a straight forward thinker.
We’ll be reading chapter 1:1-4 where James tells the Jewish Christians who’ve been run out of Jerusalem and are now homeless and persecuted to count all their troubles as joy.
It sounds crazy when you say it out loud, but this is a very unconventional view concerning troubles in life, it is in harmony with most of New Testament thought. James indicates that troubles in life verify our faith, and our enduring faith produces wholeness in us. Think of the most troubling circumstances you’ve faced in the last year. Were you able to experience joy, that is, a sense of confidence and stability during it?
All of us want to feel whole, but few of us find it easy to submit our whole life to God. Think about it: do you consider life fulfilling only when circumstances are trouble free? If so, then we are seeking God in only PART of our lives. What of the troubling times – can we find God there? If we see a fulfilled life in both the good times and the bad, how would that affect our sense of wholeness?
It’s stuff to think about. Hope you can join us this Sunday!