Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.
James 1:2-3 (NIV)
Read: James 1-1-27
Consider: Talking to people about the current coronavirus situation they say things like: ‘It feels strange’, ‘I’m feeling vulnerable’, or ‘It’s scary’. Others say: ‘We are going through testing times’. This got me thinking about God’s Word and what it says about testing.
Today reading in James 1 deals with the testing of our faith. Could God be testing believers to see how their faith stands up to the test? Absolutely! God can use any situation to help us to grow spiritually as Christians. Notice how James starts his section on testing, he says: ‘Consider it pure joy’ (v2). I must admit that I haven’t approached the current health crisis from the standpoint of joy. What about you? This doesn’t mean that we walk around with a permanent smile on our faces, or treat the coronavirus threat lightly. It does, however, mean that the believer’s attitude to the threat should be different to that displayed by the rest of society.
James goes on to talk about ‘trials of many kinds’. He isn’t thinking purely of the times of persecution that the church had faced and would continue to face. Clearly the present health crisis (for some this has also become an economic crisis) can be used by God to develop perseverance in us (v3). This is what James says later in the chapter: Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him (James 1:12). What is the purpose of perseverance? James tells us in 1:4 – Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. What we are currently going through is to help us to grow spiritually, so as to be mature and complete.
Another issue we all face is how do we support friends and family, particularly when we are socially distanced from them? If you don’t know what to do, James has some advice. In James 1:5 he says: If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. This might seem over-simplistic to some, but God is not limited in his understanding.
What about those in society who cannot help themselves? James says this: Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world (James 1:27). The vulnerable need our assistance too. So don’t just care for family and friends, be mindful of the weak and the elderly in society as well.
I hope that today’s reading gives you a different perspective on what is happening worldwide at the moment.
Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says (James 1:22).
Pray: Father, forgive us for seeing the current health crisis purely as a threat. May we see how you can use this to test our faith, so as to help us grow spiritually. Amen