What a year 2020 was! Coronavirus – and all the uncertainty and problems that has created. Loss of jobs/income, loss of ability to travel freely to name just a few. Division over wearing a mask or not wearing one.
The election also brought such division and unrest.
The arguments over BLM.
We were looking forward to 2021 – but now that it is here – I am not sure this year is shaping up to be much different than 2020.
So as Christians, how are we supposed to respond?
I turn to the writer of James and see that he started off his letter with the words “Greetings.” The word James used is “chariein” and it means basically “to rejoice exceedingly” or “to be well.” Used as a greeting James was essentially saying “joy to you.” “Joy to you” seems a great way to start a letter to friends. Hey, I’m wishing you joy, happiness, that you do well. We do this for birthdays, anniversaries, Christmas.
However just after he says “joy to you” he begins speaking of anything but joyful times or situations. On continuing to read this letter it is clear that James is not just being friendly in wishing his readers joy. After saying “joy to you” he immediately speaks of times of difficulty, trials, tests.
Difficulties. Tough times. Kind of like we have been experiencing. Situations that do not naturally led to joy.
The word he uses for testings is not referring to something like our tests in schools that are designed to reveal what the student knows. Rather, James is referring to something that reveals the genuiness of one’s faith, but he also implies this test is designed to develop something that is not yet fully developed in a person.
trials/testings = perservance/endurance = mature character
James was writing to fellow Jews who were facing difficult times. He is encouraging them to let these times help them grow in the Lord and not be an interruption in their relationship as a servant to the Lord.
Questions he raises and which I submit to you:
- Is any trial a reason not to rely on God and allow His joy to fill your heart?
- Even in trials, is there ever a reason a Christian should curse another or call them names?
- Even in difficult times, is there ever a reason a Christian should engage in grumbling about others?
James says “Don’t let difficult times stop you from obeying and following the Lord. In the middle of trials, that is the time to put into practice what you say you believe.”
In my words I would say “put your money where your mouth is.” Growing up in church we heard all about the Sermon on the Mount and all Jesus said about turning the other cheek, loving your enemies and praying for them, being peacemakers. Sadly it seems many have either forgotten those words – or have tried to make them mean something else.
I ask you: Did Jesus “really” mean it when He said:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”