The Vantage Point

The Christian Martyrs' Last Prayer, Oil on canvas

Image via Wikipedia

It’s the moment you wish for death. Perhaps you prayed it would never come. It’s a sickness, a loss, a financial catastrophe, or an emotional trauma so horrendous, you don’t think you will survive. You are hurting, angry and confused. As a servant of God, how does one reconcile tragedy in the checkbook of life?

The answer lies in these first few verses of James:

(James 1:1-5 KJV)– 1 James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting. 2 My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers’ temptations; 3 knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. 4 But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing. 5 If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally…and it shall be given him.

James’ purpose in writing this letter to the twelve tribes of Israel was to encourage them regarding the persecution they had suffered. They were scattered abroad, as told in the Book of Acts, after the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. God allowed this, so they would go out into world, spreading the message of the gospel.

James tells them there are four responses they should exhibit during tragedy:

1. EXPECT

In the second verse, James writes, “My brethren, count it all joy, WHEN you fall into divers temptations.” It wasn’t IF, but WHEN. It’s going to happen, we will have tragedy. Because of sin, death and sickness, as well as hurt and pain, were realities for the Christians during the time of James, just like Christians today.

2. ENJOY

Another word in the second verse to notice is joy. Confusing, isn’t it? There’s more clarification in verses 3 and 4, “Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience, but let patience have her perfect work, that you may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.” It’s not the actual tragedy we are to be joyful about, but the result. Read I Peter 1:7 (KJV), “that the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ.” When gold is refined, it is burned at 1900 degrees to remove the dross. But, Peter is informing us that through this refining, we will one day be given praise, honor and glory.

3. EVALUATE

Again in verse two, notice that we are supposed to “count it” all joy. When you count, you are calculating. Anyone can experience tragedy, but it takes wisdom to evaluate what the profit might be. This is where verse five comes in, because it tells us that if we lack wisdom, all we have to do is ask God for some. And please notice that it doesn’t say that He might give it to us. James tells us that He WILL give it to us liberally. When I was a little girl, and I couldn’t see something, I would open my arms, lift them high, and ask my father to pick me up. When my father lifted me, I could then get a look at what he saw. When we ask the Lord for wisdom, we are asking the Lord to pick us up, so we can view our situation through His eyes.

4. ENDURE

In verse three, James tells us that the trying of our faith brings us patience. We have no choice but to walk through the trying of our faith. Sadly, some are not patient and give up, forgetting the words of Romans 8:28, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to His purpose” (KJV). But, if we endure, God has a promise for us: “Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.” (James 1:12 KJV)

Where is the vantage point? It’s not in the traffic! Ask the Lord to lift you out of the chaos and up to the control tower. If we fail to ask for the outlook only God can give, we will wreck our lives instead of enjoying the gift He has given us.

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