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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

James 1:2-4, Sylvan Lake, SD (Photo by Chris Lehman)

Sylvan Lake in South Dakota
Photo taken by our friend Chris Lehman

"Passing The Test"

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"Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing" (James 1:2-4).

In early 2005 I conducted the marriage ceremony for Mike and JoAnna Gardner. JoAnna had grown up in our church and met Mike in college. It's been a blessing to see them grow as a family these last nine years, both in the sense of adding children but also spiritually.

Mike is a stonemason (installing bricks, stone, and concrete work). Several years ago he had an opportunity to teach a course at Stevens College, filling in for a teacher. It provided the possibility of an open door for permanent employment as a teacher so, of course, Mike and JoAnna were both very excited about this opportunity and we recall joining them in praying about it along with many other church folks.  But alas the door did not open. They were very disappointed of course but stayed steady and carried on living life responsibly and trusting God as Mike went back to his former construction job. The word, "wait" seemed to speak peace to JoAnna's heart.

I encouraged Mike at that time and commended him for passing a test which so many fail; properly handling life's disappointments. Too many respond to life's disappointments by turning to the bottle, drugs, immorality or other forms of destructive sins. We have seen that happen time after time over our years in ministry.

Since we provided premarital counseling to Mike and JoAnna this topic of inevitable disappointments came into discussion. There are times when plans just don't work out the way we would hope and there are other times when delays seem as grim as a door shut in our face. But I bring you back to our story about Mike and JoAnna and the message she heard from God, "Wait!" Their waiting paid off and last month the door again opened for Mike. He is now an instructor at Stevens College in Lancaster!

Our daily Scripture provides a familiar but much needed perspective on life and trials: "Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing."

In my life I first recall learning the concept in this verse from Merlin Caruthers who wrote a book titled "Power In Praise" which highlights this verse. His focus was praising God in all situations, good or bad.

Today some of our readers find themselves in the midst of a testing period and others are going through an extended trial.  The Greek word for "trial" that James uses is very interesting. "Peirasmos" conveys a "putting to proof" or by implication, "adversity". These times of testing are difficult but necessary in proving our faith in God to be genuine and effective. James tells us to "consider it all joy" when you encounter trials (take note of the plural in the word, "trial").

You might ask yourself, "What was in the water he was drinking?" But in fact there is a reason to be joyful during the testing since it's common to all who call themselves a Christian. It provides an opportunity for you to prove your faith to be genuine and it also provides an opportunity for others (Christian and non-Christian) to witness the way you deal with your difficulties.

Bible teacher Warren Wiersbe writes, "Our values determine our evaluations. If we value comfort more than character, then trials will upset us. If we value the material and physical more than the spiritual, we will not be able to ‘count it all joy!’ If we live only for the present and forget about the future, the trials will make us bitter, not better."

Just as the rings on a tree prove its endurance in the years of ease and years of difficulty, our enduring faith proves our walk with God to be genuine and mature, not lacking in godly character.  We faithfully serve Him during times of ease and during times of trial.

When we were young a song popular at the time conveyed an interesting perspective concerning trials. In fact it was the first song I heard Brooksyne sing as a pianist and soloist.  Its text was applicable to our lives in Bible College as very young believers in the faith.  And now some 40 years later we can see and understand more fully the wisdom in the text and how it relates to our daily lives:

Thank You, Lord, for the trials that come my way.
In that way, I can grow each day as I let You lead.
And I thank You, Lord, for the patience those trials bring.
In that process of growing I can learn to care.

But it goes against the way I am to put my human nature down
And let the Spirit take control of all I do.
For when those trials come, my human nature shouts the thing to do
And God's soft prompting can be easily ignored.

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily prayer:
Father, we pray that You will help us to grow in Your grace and knowledge, that we will continue to mature in our Christian walk. Scripture, repeatedly, indicates that spiritual maturity is a result of enduring trials of various kinds. In the midst of these trials Your soft prompting or guidance through Scripture, through other believers, and through the circumstances we face can easily be ignored when self gets in the way. Today we make every effort to add to our faith those characteristics that will sustain and grow us in our Christian walk. In so doing we will be effective and productive in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ, during times of ease but even more so during times of difficulty. Keep us faithful and keep us growing, in the name of Jesus we pray. Amen.

In 2 Peter 1:5-8 believers are challenged to, "Make every effort to add to our faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love." We might refer to these qualities as the "tree rings" of spiritual maturity.  Peter further indicates that if we "possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep us from being ineffective and unproductive in our knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ" (2 Peter 1:8).

Another great Scripture verse concerning today's topic is 1 Peter 4:19, "So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good." Although this is in the context of suffering in persecution the principle I see is the phrase, "
commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good" which applies to life's disappointments.

For further study in James 1:2

Gardner family 8/20/14
Mike and JoAnna with their growing children 8/20/14
Stephen teases the children about stinkbugs (since we have plenty in our area). This has earned him the nickname "Stinkbug"!

Mike porch extension 8/23/14
Mike helped us with a small home improvement project last week of extending our front porch out several feet. Prior to this project it had been too narrow to practically and comfortably use for sitting. But Mollie was a bit confused since she thought Mike had come to play. She just wouldn't leave him alone expecting him to toss the Frisbee over and over! 

Porch extension 8/25/14
The almost finished project. We need one more deck board, will paint the face boards gray and then place some lattice over the openings. Now we can rock to our heart's content without fearing that we might just rock ourselves right into the flower bed. Just about every evening we have a fabulous sunset that we enjoy watching.

Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

"Praise The Lord" 2013 version Video  1979 version  Video  Imperials

"Thank You Lord, For Your Blessings On Me"  Video  Gordon Mote & Jason Crabb

"God Will Make a Way"  Video  Don Moen

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Scripture references are from The Holy Bible: New International Version. © 1984 by International Bible Society; NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1995 by The Lockman Foundation, New King James Version (NKJV) Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. and the King James Version.

Personal Mission Statement: "I am created by God to bring Him glory. Through God's Son Jesus Christ I have been redeemed and I make it my life's goal to please the Lord. My mission in life is to honor God through my faith and obedience and to prepare myself and all whom I may influence for eternity."

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