James chapter 1, verses 1 - 4:
James, a bond-servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes who are dispersed abroad, greetings.James is a quick starter, is he not? A one-sentence introduction: who's writing, who he's writing to, hello there. And then he's off. Getting right to the point -- the first point, that is.
Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
As I type this, I have lots to do, not quite enough time in which to do it, and some of the things I need to do not going especially well. The temptation here for me is to read myself into the company of James's fellow believers who are encountering "various trials." I'm going to resist that one. The James who is the most likely author of this letter -- the half-brother, according to the flesh, of Jesus -- was martyred sometime between AD 62 and 66, and martyrdom was all too easy to come by in the first century of the church. So the various trials to which he refers were likely to have been several orders of magnitude more severe, and scarier, than any that I've ever seen, or am likely ever to see.
Still, the principle can be applied to anyone in any time, no matter how soft a life they may live. When we build up our bodies through exercise, what we're doing is damaging them; tearing them up, a little, so that when they subsequently heal, the healed structure is reinforced. It's stronger than it was to start with. So I can be assured that even the trivial problems that I deal with are one way that the Lord forms me -- oh, so slowly! -- into what He knows I'm supposed to be. Maybe someday, after He's built me up sufficiently, I might be ready to face some real trouble.
Sounds horrible. But He won't send me anything the He hasn't also equipped me to face.
The other thing that jumps out at me in this passage is that James suggests that the mode of our building-up centers on the development of endurance. Patience. The long view. Slow and steady, winning the race. Isn't that often the most difficult response to our troubles -- patience? Temperamentally, I think most of us are probably inclined to say, "Anything -- just get it over with!"
As always, click here for other Words for Wednesday. Or maybe Thursday.