I know I spoke about doing a lesson on God’s redemptive plan and the role of baptism in that plan, but I was drawn in another direction this past week. Let me begin by first asking a question, “What causes you to lose focus?” For me, the answer is painfully simple all to often, patience; that is, the lack of it. If you have been following my meditation thoughts recently, you may remember these quotes. Augustine wrote, “Patience is the companion of wisdom.” Then there is this one that truly caught my attention, “Those times when you feel like quitting can be times of great opportunity, for God uses your troubles to help you grow.” Have you ever got to a place in your mind where frustration was so intense you said to yourself, “I am tired of waiting”? Okay, so what makes me lose focus at times is my impatience. Thus, I reflect on James 1:2-8 to once again reorient my mind to regain that focus.
My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials,
knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.
What came first, the chicken or the egg? Ironically, the very thing that is needed to face a trial is the very thing the trial is developing. I have often struggled with this whole idea of being “joyful” in the midst of adversity; that is, until God reminded me of something once again. It is not the trial that is intended to bring joy, but rather, what God is able to do because of it. Here, joy is the result of anticipation, knowing God is at work in your life. God is in the business of not only redeeming sinful man, but also maturing the redeemed. Although patience is part of the gift of the Holy Spirit given to all who are in Christ, it is something that needs development and refining. The trials of life are the very forge God is using to bring about that growth. Without them, we could not achieve our fullest potential as Christians. Patience is a critical aspect of the Christian character, helping us to “bear with one another in love” (Ephesians 4:2) and equipping us in part to forgive one another (Colossians 3:13). Patience enables us to wait on the Lord in the midst of a broken and sinful world (Psalm 37:7). Patience is not the only thing we can receive from the Lord during trials. Patience itself has a goal in mind.
But let patience have its perfect work,
that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.
I really like how the ETRV translates this verse, “If you let that patience work in you, the end result will be good” (James 1:4). The ability to “stay focused” is linked to me knowing (i.e., faith) that God is at work within me…that is the key. Sometimes I am looking to see the circumstance change, when all along, God’s intent was for me to change. Then it dawned on me. No matter what circumstance I may find myself in, the one thing that will always have the opportunity to change is me. So, my focus, as much as I may desire something outside of me to change, needs to be on God changing me. God helping me to gain wisdom; that is, a better way to handle the adversity I am faced with (note James 1:5). Adversity sets the stage to gain patience, which in turn, promotes the development of godly wisdom. Thus, patience truly is a virtue. And with that as my goal, there is always reason to be joyful. Help me Lord to see You at work in me each day.