Monday, August 22, 2011

Tests Produce Perseverance

3 Because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:3-4

These verses are translated using a few different English words that result as our faith is tested; perseverance, endurance, patience. Do you look at trials in your life as a test? That can seem cruel, can't it? We can think, "God is not convinced I really love Him or that I am truly serving Him so He tests me." But if you look closely, that is not what these verses say. Verse three tells us simply that our faith will be tested. And that testing will produce perseverance or endurance or patience.

Breaking it down, I see a couple key points of comfort in these verses. First of all, testing will come. We are not given a reason why, just an assurance that trials and tests will come. Maybe God allows these trials because He knows we'll be the better for it. Maybe He loves that after we come through a trial, we can minister in a more compassionate way to others that struggle as we have. When we are new Christians, we walk with a wobbly faith. But as you see God at work, as you see how He works in the trials, your faith grows. There are many ways our faith grows as we mature in Christ, but this is a big way.

Secondly, verse four in this passage starts with the word, "let." Huge word so don't miss it. So much of our Christian walk is our choice. Yes, Christ chose us. But our free will as humans allows us to choose or reject His ways time and time again. And we are promised, if we "let" perseverance finish its work (that's start to finish), we will be mature, complete, not lacking anything. That is starting to sound more and more like Jesus, isn't it?

Tests and trials are not the fun times, but as our faith in God is produced, through these very tests and trials, we can more and more trust that God is at work and He who started a good work in us will carry it on to completion (Philippians 1:6).

Monday, August 15, 2011

Radical Gospel

"One of the signs that you may not grasp the unique, radical nature of the gospel is that you are certain that you do." -Tim Keller

Do you feel this way about your faith sometimes? For me, I start to think I have down all the rules I'm supposed to follow (oh, how my heart is programmed for legalism) and then the Holy Spirit steps in to show me I am not caring for those I ought. Or He reminds me gently of all the ways I don't even get all the rules right. A question I pose to myself: "Who am I friends with because Jesus would be, not because I would be?" It's a good gauge of how much you are choosing to walk like Christ. True Christianity, when we walk in it, leaves us clueless about what the next step is, unaware of what the plans of our days actually hold and constantly struggling to be OK with uncomfortable. That's unique, that's radical.

Our Father, in all His wisdom, provided us with a way to live with this kind of uncertainty. He sent us the Holy Spirit to live inside of us; that too, is radical! According to the passage below found in John, this Helper speaks to us of what the Father would have us to do. He will guide us into all truth one step at a time. So, we don't need to know and follow a bunch of rules or be certain of what our future holds. All we really need to know is Jesus. Pray that the Holy Spirit will reveal Him to you more and more.

13When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on His own but will tell you what He has heard. He will tell you about the future. 14 He will bring me glory by telling you whatever He receives from Me. 15 All that belongs to the Father is mine; this is why I said, ‘The Spirit will tell you whatever He receives from Me.’ John 16:13-15 (NLT)