The following is an exerpt from an email conversation I had with a wonderful person who has been an encouragement as I wage war with the voices that whisper “inadequate” and “unwanted.”
I do know what my Father says about who I am in Him. But in the thick of battle, that precious Voice can certainly be drowned out by the noise.
James 1 has become so fresh to me in all this – the entire chapter. I’ve read it before in pieces, but never in the whole. And the words resonate beautifully. I’m using the Philips translation here – another one of my favorites for studying the New Testament:
James, servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, sends greetings to the twelve dispersed tribes.When all kinds of trials and temptations crowd into your lives my brothers, don’t resent them as intruders, but welcome them as friends! Realise that they come to test your faith and to produce in you the quality of endurance. But let the process go on until that endurance is fully developed, and you will find you have become men of mature character with the right sort of independence. And if, in the process, any of you does not know how to meet any particular problem he has only to ask God – who gives generously to all men without making them feel foolish or guilty – and he may be quite sure that the necessary wisdom will be given him. But he must ask in sincere faith without secret doubts as to whether he really wants God’s help or not. The man who trusts God, but with inward reservations, is like a wave of the sea, carried forward by the wind one moment and driven back the next. That sort of man cannot hope to receive anything from God, and the life of a man of divided loyalty will reveal instability at every turn. The brother who is poor may be glad because God has called him to the true riches. The rich may be glad that God has shown him his spiritual poverty. For the rich man, as such, will wither away as surely as summer flowers. One day the sunrise brings a scorching wind; the grass withers at once and so do all the flowers – all that lovely sight is destroyed. Just as surely will the rich man and all his extravagant ways fall into the blight of decay. The man who patiently endures the temptations and trials that come to him is the truly happy man. For once his testing is complete he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to all who love him. A man must not say when he is tempted, “God is tempting me.” For God has no dealings with evil, and does not himself tempt anyone. No, a man’s temptation is due to the pull of his own inward desires, which can be enormously attractive. His own desire takes hold of him, and that produces sin. And sin in the long run means death – make no mistake about that, brothers of mine! But every good endowment that we possess and every complete gift that we have received must come from above, from the Father of all lights, with whom there is never the slightest variation or shadow of inconsistency. By his own wish he made us his own sons through the Word of truth that we might be, so to speak, the first specimens of his new creation.In view of what he has made us then, dear brothers, let every man be quick to listen but slow to use his tongue, and slow to lose his temper. For man’s temper is never the means of achieving God’s true goodness.Have done, then, with impurity and every other evil which touches the lives of others, and humbly accept the message that God has sown in your hearts, and which can save your souls. Don’t I beg you, only hear the message, but put it into practice; otherwise you are merely deluding yourselves. The man who simply hears and does nothing about it is like a man catching the reflection of his own face in a mirror. He sees himself, it is true, but he goes on with whatever he was doing without the slightest recollection of what sort of person he saw in the mirror. But the man who looks into the perfect mirror of God’s law, the law of liberty (or freedom), and makes a habit of so doing, is not the man who sees and forgets. He puts that law into practice and he wins true happiness. If anyone appears to be “religious” but cannot control his tongue, he deceives himself and we may be sure that his religion is useless. Religion that is pure and genuine in the sight of God the Father will show itself by such things as visiting orphans and widows in their distress and keeping oneself uncontaminated by the world.
I want to fully understand what it means to embrace trials and temptations as “friends,” to lean in so fully to the Lord that I have complete confidence and boldness to ask anything, knowing He will answer. I want to don’t want my tongue to wag with meaningless words that are not backed up by actions. I want to rejoice in my spiritual poverty, and want to fully understand the riches bestowed on those who seem forgotten or cast aside. One thing I am thankful of in the midst of all this is that I serve a Lord who isn’t finished with me yet – and who delights in refining and perfecting me.