I have the incredible honor and blessing of serving a wonderful church family. The spirit shared among our members is good. We regularly welcome guests into the life of our congregation. Good ministry is taking place, and finances are stable. I’d even like to believe that people are being nurtured with sound biblical teaching that invites them to ground their lives in the good news of the kingdom that Jesus came to inaugurate.
And yet, there is a certain “fire” that seems lacking some days. Not that I think our faithfulness and fruitfulness can always be measured in emotional expressions of passion. But in a world there are so many factors—both obvious and subtle—that pull us away from grace and community and holiness, I do wonder how we can help each other see this shared adventure of faith as a priority that’s worthy of our heart, soul, mind and strength.
Perhaps, we have it too easy? In the epistle lesson from today’s Daily Office, James writes:
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:2-4)
I am certainly no spiritual masochist. But spiritual guides far wiser than I have observed that there are some qualities of character that are nurtured by trials and challenges in a way that nothing else can. How are we to learn reliance on God’s Word until we find ourselves in situations in which the hope of God’s Word is all to which we can cling? How will we develop trust in one another without walking through times when our need for one another is great? How will we experience the true power of resurrection unless we’re willing to walk the way of the cross?
So, am I praying that God will send a few trials to me or my church family? Well, no. But I am praying that we’ll understand how testing leads to perseverance, which leads to maturity, so that we can “consider it all joy” if trials should come. And perhaps even more, I’m praying that we’ll be led into a deeper awareness of (and gratitude for) the goodness and grace of God, so that even in the absence of trials we’ll be motivated to “seek first the kingdom” of the One who loves us and gave Himself for us.
May His Spirit be “finishing His work” in us today; and may we “consider it all joy” that one day we will be like Him.