In life we never know when fiery ordeals will come our way. Suddenly we find ourselves in the midst of some difficulty; whether in a relationship - family member -friend- co-worker - church member - neighbor - associate; or situational circumstances; illness, job loss, retirement, divorce, death of loved one, loss of home due to natural disasters, displaced living, homeless, poverty, unexpected tragedy, unfamiliar issues, etc.
My husband and I have traveled through many a difficult time in our 42 years of marriage and in our 45 years walking with the Lord as Christians.
We were called early in our marriage to attend a 4 year Christian Liberal Arts College where we were thrown into the necessity of trusting in God for His provision in many ways and on numerous levels.
In those early days in our marriage, we were called to help in developing an intentional Christian community and an off campus married couples gathering meeting weekly, studying scriptures, praying and living in near relationships. (a tribute to God's faithfulness, all couples are sill married and we are still friends these many years later)
Over the years we served in our local church, on college campuses, in the community, leading bible studies, instructing in the Christ way, in trial and in error, learning to meld two lives into one in the midst of it all.
We have been displaced by losing our home due to flooding. We have been displaced in our comfort, in our not knowing, in our inability. We have lost jobs and with them, salaries. We have endured the agonizing heartbreak of losing a child in an unexpected tragedy. We have persevered through sudden illnesses. We have weathered the tough issues in relationships. including marriage. We have gone many years while raising children without health benefits. We raised special needs children.
We experienced adversity, challenges, heartaches, discouragement, loss, disappointment, and many emotional reactions in these, but were never crushed and we were never forsaken by our God in any of what we suffered or endured.
We have encountered Christians who placated us with platitudes, cliches, quoting scriptures to 'fix', declaring and demanding what we need or should do in such times. We have been betrayed, hurt, attacked, and misunderstood as Christians and often by other Christians.
We have walked with others in their suffering, losing friends and family members to death. We have walked with those suffering in many of the above circumstances that came into their lives too.
God showed Himself faithful, loving and merciful over the years and in everything we experienced; good and bad. God showed Himself trustworthy, loyal and steady. God showed His consistency, His unfailing and abiding love.
God remained truth and He walked with us, in us - in suffering, in joy, in hardship and in grief.
The Christian walks by faith and not by sight. Regardless of our circumstances or relational issues we experience, when we continue turning our attention to God, placing our Trust in Him above any emotional response, regardless of discomfort, we learn to grow in our understanding of God's grace.
This faith life is all about believing in the unseen, but tangible presence of God to be with us in it all; the good and the bad.
Professing to trust God and to be His people does not mean I cling to those things of this world or to rely on worldly values for my security.
My faith is not about possessing all the right answers, obtaining knowledge of scriptures, or thinking I can 'fix' someone or 'solve their issue in my own ability, as this contradicts the gospel in living out my walk with God.
The book of James confronts these types of conflicts head-on.
"Dear brothers and sisters what is the use to say you have faith if you don't prove it by your actions." James 2:14)
The proof of the reality of our faith is a changed life. One that is continually being radically and measurably changed by a Divine, authentic, pure and most holy love - love that has a name: God, Jesus Christ - Holy Spirit.
The central theme of Jame's letter is how faith produces good deeds and in his writing he supplies practical advice on living the Christian life. The message is one where the Spirit life in us causes us to have new inclinations, new desires as we learn to walk in the new creations we are where our identities are in Christ and it is His life who lives through ours.
"James begins his letter by outlining some general characteristics of the Christian life (1:1-27). Next, he exhorts Christians to act justly in society (2:1-13). He follows this practical advice with a theological discourse on the relationships between faith and action (2:14-16).
Then James passionately portrays the importance of controlling one's speech (3:1-12). In 3:13-18, James distinguishes two kinds of wisdom - earthly and heavenly. Then he encourages readers to turn from fleshly desires and obey God (4:1-12).
James reproves those who trust in their own places and possessions (4:13-5:6). Finally he exhorts his readers to be patient with one another (5:7-11), to be straightforward in their promises (5:12), to pray for each other (5:13-18), and to help each other to be faithful to God (5:19,20).
This letter could be considered a how-to-book on Christian living. Confrontating challenges, and a call to commitment await you and I in its pages. Read and meditate on the book of James in practically applying your faith in the midst of life's difficulties." (Life Application Study Bible - New Living Translation)
Scriptures integrated in Spirit-filled, Spirit-empowered, Spirit-directed, Spirit-guided, and Spirit being way of abiding in the new creations we are, ushers us into God's grace in it all.
Faith is Trusting in the unchanging promises of God. Faith is Trusting in His truth that is eternal. Faith is Trusting in His ability to be with us no matter what we experience and regardless of whether we sense His presence. Faith is Trusting in God in the unknown, in the unfamiliar and in the ups and downs we experience as humans with life coming at us.
Faith is the art of learning to hold onto God, pressing deeper into His grace, mercy and love, trusting Him, believing in His truth in spite of our circumstances or emotional responses.
Trusting in God requires faith, the faith we are given by Christ and the faith that is being matured in Christ. Faith is believing Him to be completely adequate, to be our reliable source for anything, any issue, any problem, any tragedy - He is God in the good times and in the bad times and in those in-between times.
We were not meant to live this life alone as we were meant to live the Christian life in the power granted to us in the unlimited, unreserved, and all sufficient Grace discovered in Christ.
May I allow Your Spirit to continually renew my attitude, to continually birth the radical love of Christ in my relational interactions. Teach me Your ways Lord and lead me in the paths of this narrow and straight road whereby Your character is formed within me, that Your fruits would manifest and that in all of it, You would be glorified in the fact I have lived.
As I draw upon Your grace, draw me nearer, deeper, wider into Your most holy realm of love - the greatest gift You have given and the greatest gift I can give to another.