We’ve got your daily encouragement, written by Jadi Rodriguez.
1 James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,
To the twelve tribes scattered among the nations:
2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 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. 5 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. 6 But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7 That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. 8 Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.
9 Believers in humble circumstances ought to take pride in their high position. 10 But the rich should take pride in their humiliation—since they will pass away like a wildflower. 11 For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich will fade away even while they go about their business.
12 Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.
As a former grappling champion, boxer, and CrossFit competitor, one misconception that I am guilty of having when I read James 1:1-12, is that I believe perseverance requires action- that it requires me to act. However, it is not my actions, but rather it is the Spirit of God within me, which perseveres.
It’s a misconception that many of us are guilty of believing. How many areas of our lives do we see this trickle down to? Perhaps in our marriages, our friendships, our work? I cannot count the times I have injured myself in a workout, then instead of taking a break or resting, I stubbornly push through the pain.
Another destructive mindset we fall prey to is that we have made idols out of folks who are able to persevere, and culture has glamorized going through dark moments where people come out the other end “better off.” The emphasis is on the person persevering through their own strength in these stories. But what does scripture tell us?
“The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”
Just like man has redefined marriage, sex, love, gender, amongst other things, I believe man has redefined perseverance. It was not until I went to seminary school that I truly understood the notion of using scripture to interpret scripture. In particular, digging deep, even in its original languages, to interpret what God breathed out into words for us in the Bible.
In the Greek manuscripts, the words used for perseverance in James 1:1-12 were ύπομονή (hupomoné) and ύπομενω (hupomenó). These were translated originally in the King James Version into patience and endureth (to endure).
A closer look into our reading in Greek reveals the word ύπομενω (hupomoné) comes from ύπό (hupo), which means under/below/or to whither below and μενω (menó) which means stay/abide.
And why highlight that? Because often, when we think of persevering, we have been taught by culture that it is an active verb. Meaning it’s something we plow through, move forward, bust-up and out of, or pick ourselves up from.
Perseverance isn’t about plowing through, but rather staying or abiding under/below God, His faithfulness, His Word, His power, His strength, His promise, His will, His command, His sovereignty.
Perseverance is about staying still and letting God, well, be God. We do that by being 5-tool athletes who are:
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds.”
Other translations use the word “count” instead of “consider.” The reason is that the intent of the text is to command us to add and subtract from our lives, knowing that at the end of it all, we will be more Christ-like due to the trials we face. When we learn to recognize God’s providential hand working in us, it can inspire that joy.
I will never forget being in that ultrasound room, looking at the images of our first baby. My wife innocently asked, “Is today when we get to hear the baby’s heartbeat?” I do not know how, I cannot explain it, but my stomach was in a knot– I knew the devastating news we were about to get. As soon as the technician informed us that the baby did not have a heartbeat, I immediately squeezed my wife’s hand. I bowed my head in prayer. Despite the news we received, I leaned on the fact that God was in control and I chose to praise and worship him through the painful news. I counted it all joy. I turned to my wife, and said, “How we suffer in this moment will reflect our faith. Bless the Lord at all times. His praise will always remain on our lips.”
“Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
I love how God tells us to let persevere/patience finish its work. Listen to me carefully- Whatever He started in you, He will finish. There is no stopping the will of God, but you can fight it. Resist the urge to fight it! Submit, abide under Him, and let perseverance bring the harvest in the fruit of His Spirit that abides in you. Complete and mature, lacking in nothing, even for what you feel has brought you the trials. Mercy, what a beautiful God we serve, yet so often in fight.
And if you are not sure how to submit to His will, open your Bible and read. It should not take very long to find out how.
“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.”
Be a praying Christian! I can wholeheartedly admit this is an area of my walk where I do not feel adequate. I am ashamed to admit that I can count on one hand the times that I have fallen to my knees in prayer. I am talking about tearful, knee bending, head bowing, fist-clenching prayer. I truly believe that God sends trials our way to truly hear from us. I am convicted when I think of the times when I vulnerably approach God in prayer. Often it is during a trial. The fact that our heavenly Father wants to hear from you is amazing. He wants to talk to us, to you. We do this in prayer.
“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”
Context is everything when studying scripture. I do not find it a coincidence that sandwiched between verses 2 and 12, when speaking about trials, James instructs us to pray for wisdom. I’ve heard it said before that as Christians, we have one of two options when facing a trial- either we waste it, or we get wiser from it. There are so many lessons in the hard times. Sometimes those trials are a result of our own actions, our own sins. Other times, it is just the consequence and reality of a fallen world. Either way, both times, God works it all for the good of His purpose. Why? So that you may be transformed into the image of His Son. Do not lose the opportunity to obtain the knowledge and wisdom that comes with that.
“Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.”
Gotquestions.org explains that the Greek word for “Crown” is “a badge of royalty, a prize in the public games or a symbol of honor generally.” And goes on to share:
James tells us that this crown of life is for all those who love God (James 1:12). The question then is how do we demonstrate our love for God? The apostle John answers this for us: “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 5:3). As His children we must keep His commandments, obeying Him, always remaining faithful. So, as we endure the inevitable trials, pains, heartaches, and tribulations—as long as we live—may we ever move forward, always “looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2) and receive the crown of life that awaits us.
We’ve talked before about how this world is not our final home. There’s more for us beyond what we can see here. It’s easy to let trials and the hard things of life crowd our vision and be the only thing we can see, but we’ve got to keep our focus in the right direction: focused on God. That doesn’t mean we ignore our feelings and the emotions we’re going through, but it does mean we don’t let them control us or become “our truth.”
It’s not the best mode of operation of cherry picking workouts, and it’s the same in life. We don’t get to cherry pick those obstacles. So let’s turn, and move forward with the grace that God’s given us and be athletes, or people, who are Joyous, Submissive, Prayerful, Wise, and Focused. This doesn’t happen overnight and it doesn’t happen on our own strength. But as the opportunity arises, we want to practice them. Let’s go.
God, thank you for the opportunities for me to grow in my ability to persevere. They’re uncomfortable, and yes, most of the time I’d rather avoid them; but there is a lot to be grateful for in how you use those situations to grow something good in me. So for that, I can be incredibly grateful. Help me live with the grace you’ve given me and be someone who is joyous, submissive, prayerful, wise, and focused. In Jesus’ name, amen.
- Is there an area of your life you’re needing to persevere in?
- Do you intentionally think through how God would want you to respond in situations in life you’re facing?
- What ways were you challenged by in today’s message?
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