Up until a few weeks ago, I thought a lot of the people in the Bible were spiritually self-loathing/self-righteous I-can’t-ever-live-up-to-that kind of folk. I mean really… could you sing about how much you love Jesus while getting brutally tortured and say these trials are joy? I looked up to Paul, but legitly thought he may have had a mental disorder.
I was thinking about that passage in James 1 I had read over millions of times in my own trials and challenges since I was 11. I had used this as my “life verse”. I had thought, at times (in complete arrogance now in hindsight), “wow, I am so close to God.”
That chapter, and the countless other letters written in the New Testament, were not written by spiritually advanced and worthy persons who knew God better than the back of their hand. They were written by men who were terrible human beings, were changed and overcome by the love of a God who became a human, like them, so they could be saved… and writing in their failures, torment, and unbearable situations.
These are not passages written by spiritually powerful, priests and pastors. These were working class men. These were men who beat and killed Christians. Men who met Jesus and were changed in unexpected ways. They didn’t sit in a church pew and decide they better choose Jesus at age 8 so mom and dad would be proud. They were mediocre. They were roaming around in their own lives, their work, their bills…and Jesus said “Follow me.”
These men were relatable. Because they failed as miserably as I do.
They had no ministry agenda. No five points on how to save a “secular” and “sinful” neighbor. No ways to live long and prosper in happiness and wealth. They had no church building. No funds. No 17 Bibles in 17 different versions sitting in dust on their bookshelves.
They were broke. They were nomads (I think we’d call them squatters?). They had the reminder of the grace of Jesus over their lives. They had loving their neighbor. They grew community. They shared everything they had. They gave up all they had. Not because they had a savings account and 401 K to fall back on. They deeply loved each other. They memorized and lived and breathed Jesus and his acts. That love. That life changing core rocking act of Jesus spurred them on to live it out in every way possible even to physical death.
They did it because it’s what they were supposed to do. It’s what Jesus said would be worth it. They trusted that God was before, God was with, and God would lead the way in the future.
It’s in the dust, the wreckage, it’s in facing a wall of financial uncertainty that we have the amazing opportunity to realize:
25 “That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? 27 Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?
28 “And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, 29 yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. 30 And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?
31 “So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ 32 These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. 33 Seek the Kingdom of God[a] above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.
34 “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.
God is all powerful… can he not stop or start whatever He pleases? Can He not withhold and bless in the same situation? Does He not know exactly what I need in this exact moment?
Why do I minimize Him to church classrooms and Sunday services? Why do I only allow Him into the moments that cause me the least amount of growing pains? Why do I not believe His hand is both in the bad and the good, for my good and my growth. To bring me closer to living heaven in the moments that seemingly hurt the most, or bore me with mundane and seemingly trivial repetitiveness?
All this is not trial. All this is God washing over, and protecting, cleansing, renewing and removing the cancer and growths that have penetrated my marriage, my family, and me.
He is finishing what He started…not abandoning. He is growing new and good things that I may not yet see…but know they are coming.
And while I wait in the unpaid bills and pending finances… I feel the wall of prayers and service of our church community. I hear the laughter of my unharmed children. I see the smile, the heartbeat, and embrace of my living husband. And I know without an unshaken doubt that God is here. He is alive. His work is not finished.
2 Corinthians 4:8-18
8 We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. 9 We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. 10 Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies.
11 Yes, we live under constant danger of death because we serve Jesus, so that the life of Jesus will be evident in our dying bodies. 12 So we live in the face of death, but this has resulted in eternal life for you.
13 But we continue to preach because we have the same kind of faith the psalmist had when he said, “I believed in God, so I spoke.”[a] 14 We know that God, who raised the Lord Jesus,[b] will also raise us with Jesus and present us to himself together with you. 15 All of this is for your benefit. And as God’s grace reaches more and more people, there will be great thanksgiving, and God will receive more and more glory.
16 That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are[c] being renewed every day. 17 For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! 18 So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.