Shaped By Trials

One of the most common experiences we share as humans is that of suffering, whether it be physical or mental pain, grief and loss, or difficult circumstances. It is one of the things that binds us together as people and one of the things that points to our deep need for a relationship with God through Christ.

In these first few verses of James (1:2-4), we’ll explore a little (certainly by no means all that is contained in the vastness of these few verses) of the thoughts behind being shaped by our trials.

Part 2 of a whole book study series called “True Faith: A Study Through James”

Find the whole series in James here.

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.

The first topic on James’ mind as he begins his letter is trials, something we can all relate to because we all are going, have gone, or will go through them at various times in our lives.

It’s no accident that James chooses to emphasize the concept of joy with the diminutive word “all.” In Greek, the word (pás) used just before this noun places particular intensity on it — in fact, the highest degree of intensity. So what James is saying here is that we are to have the perspective on our trials of this being a blessing, a divine shaping — perhaps the best thing that could happen to us in an eternal sense. It’s a joy because the Lord loves us enough to shape us through these trials. Continue reading

Introducing James

From the outside, you appear to be a model Christian. Your reading and study of the bible or hearing it taught every week in church have produced in you a certain set of ideas about the Christian life. You can philosophize, theorize, and argue, producing all the right theological and scriptural answers.

But when the storm hits, what will your faith look like? In daily life, how do you respond to pressures and temptations?

James exhorts believers about what true faith looks like in practical terms — how it walks itself out on the street rather than merely in theory — in the hope that they will persevere steadfastly during trials and suffering.

Part 1 of a whole book study series called “True Faith: A Study Through James”

A few things to know before we get into the text.

What is James? It is a general epistle to a scattered church (in the larger rather than the individual or specific sense), intended to provide instruction and exhortation about practical issues in the Christian walk. Continue reading

The Expectations Challenge

Expectations. We all have them. Of ourselves, of others, of the abstract concept we call “life.” It’s nearly impossible to walk through a given day without having or expressing some sort of expectations.

I see believers all around me, both on social media and within the in-person church, who express anger, cynicism, frustration, bitterness, and even hatred because other people don’t meet their expectations. How come they do this, how come they don’t do that, why is this X way, how come it isn’t Y way? These questions are embedded in our thinking and reveal an innate sense that certain things or people “should” be a certain way (that we determine) and a desire for justice. Continue reading

Psalm 37: A Wise Walk in a Wicked World (Pt. 7)

Psalm 37 is a study in contrasts between the righteous and the wicked. It encourages us to trust in God, devote our lives to Him, and know that He is sovereign. All things will ultimately be resolved by Him, if not immediately then in the final judgment. It’s a content-filled psalm and I’ll be unpacking it in several parts. Enjoy the journey.

Find the whole series in Psalm 37 here.

34 Wait for the Lord and keep his way,
    and he will exalt you to inherit the land;
    you will look on when the wicked are cut off.

35 I have seen a wicked, ruthless man,
    spreading himself like a green laurel tree.
36 But he passed away, and behold, he was no more;
    though I sought him, he could not be found.

37 Mark the blameless and behold the upright,
    for there is a future for the man of peace.
38 But transgressors shall be altogether destroyed;
    the future of the wicked shall be cut off.

39 The salvation of the righteous is from the Lord;
    he is their stronghold in the time of trouble.
40 The Lord helps them and delivers them;
    he delivers them from the wicked and saves them,
    because they take refuge in him.

This section of the Psalm teaches the wicked will meet with their due end and the righteous will live in the peace and refuge of the Lord.

Keeping the Lord’s Ways

David’s ongoing belief was that he would continue to see God working good out in his lifetime as we see from this earlier psalm:

13 I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord
    in the land of the living!
14 Wait for the Lord;
    be strong, and let your heart take courage;
    wait for the Lord! [Ps. 27:13-14 ESV]

We love these verses in Psalm 27 because we so need God’s strength and courage for daily life! We need to remember He will bring His good out of all that we face. Continue reading

Psalm 37: A Wise Walk in a Wicked World (Pt. 2)

Psalm 37 is a study in contrasts between the righteous and the wicked. It encourages us to trust in God, devote our lives to Him, and know that He is sovereign. All things will ultimately be resolved by Him, if not immediately then in the final judgment. It’s a content-filled psalm and I’ll be unpacking it in several parts. Enjoy the journey.

Find the whole series in Psalm 37 here.

Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him;
    fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way,
    over the man who carries out evil devices!

Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath!
    Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.
For the evildoers shall be cut off,
    but those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land.

10 In just a little while, the wicked will be no more;
    though you look carefully at his place, he will not be there.
11 But the meek shall inherit the land
    and delight themselves in abundant peace.

This section of the Psalm instructs us on right responses for the evil we see.

Be Still

In thinking about what it really means to be still, I closed my eyes and thought how being still or resting in God is like taking a deep breath, letting it out, and giving whatever we are anxious about to Him. It’s like being in your dad’s arms; you’re safe. It’s peaceful. There’s a strong feeling of being protected. Provided for.

Continue reading

The Who and Why of Comfort

(Part 2 of a series on God’s comfort in affliction)

Find the whole series here.

Part 1: The God of Mercy and Comfort

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.

 If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.

– 2 Corinthians 1:3-4; 6-7

Today I’m taking two “chunks” of this passage together because they are so connected to each other in meaning. I’ll come back for verse 5 next time.

The Sources of Our Comfort

Paul speaks in verse 4 about who it is that comforts us in affliction. Ultimately all sources of comfort have their origin in God. God’s comfort manifests itself in several ways: Continue reading