Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Enduring Faith

What I've Been Learning Through James: Enduring Faith

My best friend since 1st grade is very cool. Deuteronomy 8:3 and John 15:4-8 changed our lives and now we're spending our Friday mornings with the Word and frappes that think their eggnog (they're not). I adore it. Our first day, I Googled "commentaries on James", and, feeling ambitious, I printed out a commentary on the first chapter. Sit down, eggnog frappes and all, Bibles and window booth, an hour and a half later--guess what? We went through four verses. And one in Isaiah. Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay! Look at us.

"James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes scattered among the nations: Greetings.
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 1:1-4

Did you know that James was Jesus' half-brother? Because I didn't. Yet he refers to himself as the Christ's "servant"? That's pretty incredible, that love and humility. I don't know if I could willingly be my younger brother's "servant", Prince of Peace and King of Kings or not. Also, did you know that James wasn't even a follower of Christ while he was yet still alive and walking among us? James thought his brother was insane; James was ashamed of Jesus. Wow. Fast forward a couple of years and some redemption later, James is one of the top dogs of the Jesus MOVEMENT. Oh James, James, James. He's something.

Four verses (plus one in Isaiah). One week. I should've known that as soon as we sat down that one Friday and opened our Bibles, letting Him and His life-changing beauty out and into our lives, that neither of would ever be the same. Two weeks later: we aren't. Thanks for asking.

Besides James being the brother of Jesus and all that, one of the main things that jumped out at me--it is the Living Word, after all--were the verses about faith. "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." I don't know about you, maybe this is just me, but I have a bad tendency that when the Lord lays something on my heart or calls me to do something--pursue a relationship, forgive, love like Him, reach out, reach in, fold the towels not only with a good attitude but with joy, etc.--I do it, for a day. Maybe a week. Then stop. First obstacle, first rejection, first shut down and this is me: "Well! God obviously didn't call me to do that! Moving on." First breakthrough? Me: "Well! Happy, God? 'Good and faithful servant' for a whole week! That's me. Now, what else would you like for me to do?"

I apparently never paid much attention to the last bit of that passage "Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." Finish it's work...finish it's work...finish it's work... Let's chew on our straws and discuss this one for a half hour or so, shall we? I did, too, for an entire week; it led me around in circles in my mind, and then it led me to Genesis and the story of Noah.

"So make yourself an ark of cypress wood; make rooms in it and coat it with pitch inside and out. This is how you are to build it: The ark is to be three hundred cubits long, fifty cubits wide and thirty cubits high. Make a roof for it, leaving below the roof an opening one cubit high all around. Put a door in the side of the ark and make lower, middle and upper decks. I am going to bring flood waters on the earth to destroy all life under the heavens, every creature that has the breath of life in it. Everything on earth will perish. But I will establish my covenant with you, and you will enter the ark—you and your sons and your wife and your sons’ wives with you. You are to bring into the ark two of all living creatures, male and female, to keep them alive with you. Two of every kind of bird, of every kind of animal and of every kind of creature that moves along the ground will come to you to be kept alive. You are to take every kind of food that is to be eaten and store it away as food for you and for them. Noah did everything just as God commanded him."
-Genesis 6:14-22

Noah did everything just as God commanded him. 55-75 years later after the Lord spoke to Noah, Noah was still fulfilling the call, obeying his command. 55-75 years later! And, if you noticed, during those 55 to 75 years, the only recorded time that the Lord spoke to His faithful servant Noah was once: When He was telling Noah what He wanted him to do. The Almighty God spoke, Noah listened, and for 55 to 75 years afterward he was still fulfilling the task the Lord had given him--until he had finished his work, so that he was mature and his job complete, not lacking of or in anything. Can you wrap your mind around that kind of faith? Can you picture what your life might look like, might be capable of, if you applied that kind of brilliant faith to it? Oh my God, I wish I could. To hear the voice of the Lord once, call put on your heart--that would take you a lifetime to achieve! You would do it, too, until the flood of His good-favor swept over you and you knew you were done, He was pleased, the commission fulfilled. Mission accomplished.

James' joy and Noah's 55-75 year huge faith makes my week-at-best perseverance and faith rather sad. It's like when you're inspired, perhaps by a breathtaking landscape or a pool of gold sunlight beneath your windows, and you take up a blank white canvasing which literally screams potential, and you begin to paint. And paint. And paint. This commission is all-absorbing and life-consuming, and it is beyond brilliant and it's not even completed yet! Look at it now, ha! Look at it when we're finished. ...Except then, right in the midst of splashes of vibrant colors and a palette that has to be alive, you set down your brush. One shade isn't cooperating, the red isn't turning out how you saw it in your mind, and you're discouraged. You set the easel aside for the day, just for the day, promising your conscience that you'll start back up the morrow, just give you a break for a second. The next day comes, and the next, and the next. Your easel stays in the corner, the brush in the jar, and your motivation in nonexistence. You think about finishing it, but you know--you know--you never actually will. You've given it your best! Surely, what more can you do? Yeah, you feel guilty, but why should you? It's your life, that stupid painting doesn't affect it, why not say you're done with it and be done with it? After all, what more can you do? The shading is hopeless and the red won't cooperate.

This is me. This is me when my Father whispers in my heart "That girl, she needs a friend. Be a friend to her as I have been a friend to you." So I call a few times, get in the habit of hugging her every time I see her, maybe even invite her over for a sleepover. No, thank you. "'No thank you'? 'No THANK YOU'?!" I persevere, though, for about a week more, asking how she is, always smiling. Get brave, invite her over again. Like I'd ever want to do something with you. "'Like I'd ever want to do something with you'?!" Nope, got it wrong. God obviously meant I was supposed to be friends with that other girl I know! No, no Betsie. You got it right the first time. That girl, the mean one. I'm always so quick to listen the first time, but I usually cover my ears when He speaks the second time. I give up, I mean, what can I do? I've tried, given it my best, honest! She's just impossible, hopeless. I did what He asked and since I'm no longer going anywhere, I'm done. Move on.


What would my life look like if I persevered? If I "considered it pure joy whenever I faced trials of many kinds, because I knew that the testing of my faith produces perseverance. If I let perseverance finish its work, then I would be mature and complete, not lacking anything." (James 1:2-4, paraphrased) It might be brilliant. And all those hard tasks, those messy callings--they have the potential to be incredible, beautiful things (Ecclesiastes 3:11), for that is our Father's greatest desire and goal, if only I had the faith to let Him finish them. If I had the faith to finish what He called me to start. If I had the faith, they wouldn't be blank canvases screaming "potential!", they wouldn't be a masterpieces that will never be recognized fore they were never completed.

I've been learning a lot about enduring faith through James.

1 comment:

  1. Betsie, you're an excellent writer and thinker and really sensitive to hearing the Lord. At first blush your blog reminded me of something I wrote a couple years ago about that passage from James...but when I went back and looked at it tonight I realized what I wrote was the "lite" version compared to your thoughts. Here they are anyway: