Today’s Reading: James
Why does God sometimes heal and sometimes not? Can our physical suffering be a result of unconfessed sin in our lives? Why does God allow tragedies to happen? Why is it that sometimes when we are praying hard for someone to make it through the night, we feel like God is unresponsive? Does God turn His back on us? We have probably all felt that way at some time, or watched someone else struggle with these questions. Looking back at his letter, James has lots of great advice for us.
Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing. – James 1:2-4
I need to choose joy in even the most difficult of situations, persevering and asking our generous God for wisdom in the situation. So not anger or self-pity, but joy.
If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. – James 1:5-6a
And when you are in a situation where you feel powerless to do anything, remember there is something you can do. You can draw closer to God, spending time in His presence and giving Him your full attention. Abide in Him and then stay there. Be still and know that He is God, that He is worthy of your trust.
So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world. – James 4:7-8
Don’t let this difficult situation be an opportunity for the enemy to get a hold of your attitude and your heart. In your grief or struggle, do not turn away from God in anger but turn towards Him in submission. Rest in His love and wisdom. Remember that there is something you can do. You can pray.
Are you hungry? Pray. Do you feel great? Sing. Are you sick? Call the church leaders together to pray and anoint you with oil in the name of the Master. Believing-prayer will heal you, and Jesus will put you on your feet. And if you’ve sinned, you’ll be forgiven – healed inside and out.
Make this your command practice: Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you can live together whole and healed. The prayer of a person living right with God is something powerful to be reckoned with. – James 5:13-16 (The Message)
We live in an imperfect world where sin and sickness are a reality. The consequences of generational sin are right here for all of us to experience. Jesus told us, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33b). God is bigger than any situation pressing down around us. We CAN trust Him – we can trust Him to be with us and we can trust His heart. When you don’t feel His presence, trust in what you know to be true – HE IS THERE!
Not only is all of James’ letter good advice for us, it was good advice for him. James faced his own struggles as the persecution of the church increased. James stood before his false accusers and refused to denounce the name of Jesus – his brother but, more than that, his Savior. Perhaps He remembered the words of Jesus in that moment.
“Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” – Matthew 10:39
Was he there or did someone tell him how Jesus said to the disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:24-26)
At this point, I don’t believe James saw Jesus as his brother anymore. I think He saw him as God – as the One who was willing to die for him. Is that how we see Jesus? Do we recognize that his death on the cross was out of his deep love for us? If so, what do we do with that recognition? Does it change the way we live our lives? Would we be willing to die for the One who died for us? Would we be willing to do anything for Him – move, forgive, switch jobs, extend grace, love the unlovable, stand for religious freedom, give our time to an elderly woman who wants someone to remember with, choose tough love, consider it joy when we go through trials and suffering…
What are we willing to do for Jesus today? What is He asking me to do? Am I too busy finding my life to lose it for His sake?