Thank you for sharing this early moment of your day with me, with God, and with the thoughts and words of this reading that I hope you will carry with you throughout the coming day and night.
James 1:2-6, 12-17 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
2 My brothers and sisters,[a] whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance; 4 and let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing.
5 If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God, who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and it will be given you. 6 But ask in faith, never doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind;
12 Blessed is anyone who endures temptation. Such a one has stood the test and will receive the crown of life that the Lord[a] has promised to those who love him. 13 No one, when tempted, should say, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil and he himself tempts no one. 14 But one is tempted by one’s own desire, being lured and enticed by it; 15 then, when that desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and that sin, when it is fully grown, gives birth to death. 16 Do not be deceived, my beloved.[b]
17 Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.[c]
Tim’s Devotional Reflection for Today
The epistle of James—a practical book about living the Christian life—begins with the difficult issue of “trials of any kind,” like suffering, trouble, and temptation. There isn’t a single person who would require a list to understand the phrase “trials of any kind.” Everyone can make a list of trials of all kinds. James’ admonition to consider those trials to be “nothing but joy” is a bit hard to swallow. Is James encouraging us to live in denial of the difficulties of life or to put on a happy face?
Eugene Peterson, in his paraphrase of the Bible called The Message, wrestles with the meaning of this passage and renders it in a way I find helpful:
Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.
Perhaps James is reminding us that growth isn’t easy. It is usually through struggles, hard work, discipline, and difficult experiences that we grow the most. James says that as we endure, we grow in our faith and our wisdom, so that we are “mature and complete.” He cautions us not to take shortcuts but to be fully present in what comes our way and grow stronger as we move through it.
In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus taught his disciples to choose the “narrow gate,” the difficult path to find life. The narrow gate is the less-traveled way. Perhaps part of that narrow gate way is being fully present in whatever situations come our way so that we grow stronger as we move through them. We don’t get to choose what everything that happens to us, but we do get to choose how we respond to what comes our way. We can choose the difficult way of letting our trials and difficulties do their “work so [we] become mature and well-developed,” to use Peterson’s words.
Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken” speaks poetically of the difference it makes when we choose that less-traveled road:
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
I hope you will take a few moments to let the words of this message and the emotion that always connects us to music connect with your soul. I am so grateful for you, for our church, and for the Love that will see us all through this very difficult time. Please stay safe and well and we’ll be together again in spirit tomorrow morning!
Grace and Peace,
Dr. Tim Bruster