Winning and losing, successes and failures, raises, promotions, houses and cars it’s how we keep account of how we are doing in life. Are we getting ahead are we falling behind? James writes, ” My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to you him.” (James 1:2-5)
No, it doesn’t mean we are supposed to be happy when trials happen to us. What James is telling us is to consider the trials as a means by which the Lord can work in our lives to help us grow and become the people He created us to be. I know that the thought of considering the hardest times in our lives as blessings, is difficult. I have lost a child, she was 13 when I lost her, and I did not consider it joy. I did not praise God for that trial, I did not see how anything good could come from that single event. In my wounded heart I felt only my pain. It took me many years…many years, before I was able to look at that trial as something God used to make me more like Him. God not only used that experience to do His perfect work in me, he also fulfilled one of His many promises to, “work all things for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28)
What I have found is that in times of trial, disappointment, confusion, or anxiety we need to praise God, not for the circumstances but because He is God! It is in and through those moments that God shows us what He can and will do in our lives. He will provide; a way out, triumph, clarity and calm if we ask it of him. “But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let no that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord.” (James 1:6-7)
Recently I was driving to the office and i received a phone call. One I had been very anxious to receive. I had been working on a project for months, and this call was going to either let me know that my team and I had been successful or unsuccessful. I will let you know that there was a lot riding on this project, so my anxiety level was a bit high. The phone call unfortunately did not turn out the way I’d hoped, we were not awarded the project. It was in that moment I felt compelled to praise God. No, I did not jump for joy, no I did not skip or dance or throw my hands up in the air. I simply thanked God for what He was doing. I know that He has greater plans for me, plans far greater than I could imagine. I praised and continue to praise Him for what He is doing with my life. Yes, that contract would have been remarkable, something never done by my division. I would have received many kudos and much recognition. Even knowing that, I know that what is in store is better.
I love movies and there is one from which I frequently show clips for team building and motivation. There is a scene in ‘Facing the Giants‘ where Coach Taylor explains his new team philosophy. In this scene he is explaining to his team of high school football players that life is all about God, not us. He stated toward the end that “if we win, we’ll praise Him, if we lose, we’ll praise Him.” Coach is resolved to give it all to God and by doing so accept everything God has for him.
Back in that moment in my car, it would have been easy to feel discouraged, disappointed, be angry, yell out ‘why not, we worked hard, we deserve it’. Instead, I chose to pray and to praise. God is always God, not just when times are good, and everything is going our way. In fact, often times it’s when things seem the darkest, the most unbearable that God’s love, light and blessings flow out in ways we could have never expected.
I choose to praise Him when it’s good and when it seems bad, because I know that He is sovereign. There is nothing that escapes His notice or care. I know He wants only what is best for me and loves me too much to do less. Laura Story’s song ‘Blessings‘ says “We pray for blessings, we pray for peace, Comfort for family, protection while we sleep, We pray for healing, for prosperity, We pray for Your mighty hand to ease our suffering, And all the while, You hear each spoken need, Yet love us way too much to give us lesser things.”
Once we can start to see past the immediate pain, fear, anxiety and discomfort of our situations and begin to recognize that God is at work in those moments, we will be able to consider it joy that He is active and working in our lives.
Speaking for myself, I wouldn’t want it any other way.
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Let me begin this post with a disclaimer…I’m ranting.
On Sunday our Pastor gave a very thought provoking sermon on the biblical concept of reaping and sowing. Now before you jump to conclusions, yes this is not biblical rocket science you’ve heard this topic covered from the pulpit many times, perhaps many, many times. No, it was not preached to make a point about financial giving, as it is so often presented.
The concept of reaping what you sow is so much broader than we often give credit for. This concept applies to all areas of our lives. Yes, when I said all areas I meant ALL areas! If you lie to someone, you will reap the consequences of that act. If you turn a blind eye to someone in need, that will be paid back to you as well. Our sins, our faith our best intentions done in secret and our blatant misdeeds performed in public, ALL will be returned to us…and in greater measure.
Luke 6:37-38 “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
What strikes me in this scripture isn’t that we should give so we get more back, it’s that when you give, whatever you give, will come back to you, running over and poured into your lap. We are often all to quick to ask, disgruntled “I gave Lord, I was obedient Lord, I gave that homeless person my spare change Lord…where is my blessing, why haven’t I received it back?” However, when (not if) we reap the ‘rewards’ of our sin, we blame God for allowing it to happen to us. Wait…what???
God does not create double standards, He is a just God. He looks at the intentions of our hearts and gives in good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over.
My friends, hear this scripture for what it is, Jesus lovingly instructing his children on how we should behave and conduct ourselves for Kingdom living.
Matthew 6:1-4 “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”
Mark 12:38-40 As he taught, Jesus said, “Watch out for the teachers of the law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets. They devour widows’ houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. These men will be punished most severely.”
Yes, there is Grace! Many of you reading this have stories you could share about the unmerited blessing of Grace, of a time when you should have reaped the harvest of your sins but God decided otherwise. The best example of this is Jesus!
However we should choose to live our lives better, giving generously of ourselves in whatever way we can.
Luke 6:37-38 (MSG) “Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults—unless, of course, you want the same treatment. Don’t condemn those who are down; that hardness can boomerang. Be easy on people; you’ll find life a lot easier. Give away your life; you’ll find life given back, but not merely given back—given back with bonus and blessing. Giving, not getting, is the way. Generosity begets generosity.”
Live generously, treat others as you would want to be treated, give your life to Jesus and you’ll receive back more blessing than you can possibly imagine.
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