Your Ministry to Others Is Never in Vain
As a young, newly engaged couple, Billy and I were led to memorize James 1 together. Forty-two years of marriage and ministry, eight children, five weddings and almost eleven grandchildren later, I have to laugh as I think about the content of those verses we committed to memory!
When all kinds of trials and temptations crowd into your lives my brothers, don't resent them as intruders, but welcome them as friends! Realize that they come to test your faith and to produce in you the quality of endurance. But let the process go on until that endurance is fully developed, and you will find you have become men of mature character with the right sort of independence.
And if, in the process, any of you does not know how to meet any particular problem he has only to ask God—who gives generously to all men without making them feel foolish or guilty—and he may be quite sure that the necessary wisdom will be given him (James 1:2–5 Phillips translation).
A few nights ago as my son Daniel and I were walking into the house, he said, "I think there is a giant scorpion out here!" It was so dark we couldn't see clearly what creature was crawling down the driveway. Using our cell phones, we got some light on the situation and realized the "scorpion" was a rather large crayfish. How he managed a trip onto our driveway I have no idea, but there he was right in our path.
When the unexpected, unusual, unknown, or unpleasant crowds into your life, what's your normal response? James 1:2 recommends that we count it ALL joy. (That is not usually my first response!)
To experience joy in the unexpected or unknown, it helps to develop some heavenly perspective. We must allow the spotlight of God's Word and Spirit to illuminate the problem and lift us before the Throne where we can see from the vantage point of heaven and seek the mind of Christ.
When we can receive the interruption as a God-sized gift, then we are no longer held hostage by the enemy who assaults us with doubt. We can pluck out those fiery darts and remind him that he has no power over those who are called by Christ.
Although I would never choose trials over ease, James assures us that walking through difficulty produces (grows in us) the qualities of steadfastness, courage, and endurance.
I only like happy endings, but this passage reminds us that as we pursue Christ "in the midst" of our problem, it grows us up. We change. We look more like Jesus. We gain qualities we lack (v. 4).
We also develop a different relationship with our heavenly Father. He invites us to seek Him for wisdom when we don't know what to do. He promises that He will give us wisdom, not because we've earned it, but because we asked Him (v. 5).
The Lord loves us enough to know exactly what we need to press us toward Him. Those intruders can become our "friends" because they become teaching tools that shape us and fit us for heaven.
Our struggle is never without purpose and never in vain!
Written by Holly Elliff
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