Lesson 14 -- third quarter 2008
August 31, 2008
© Copyright 2008
I need to learn to refocus. When I suffer, my problems become the sun in the solar system of my thoughts. I find it so difficult to think on something other than myself and my difficulties. I get so hung up on the immediacy of things personal, present and problematic. God uses Paul to challenge us to look beyond the temporal things which are seen, to the eternal things which are not seen (2 Corinthians 4:18). Then we can see that our afflictions are "but for a moment" and can work "for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory" (2 Corinthians 4:17).
I must learn to say "Blessed be God" right in the middle of the situation, rather than waiting till its all over. I need to turn my thoughts toward "the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; who comforteth us in all our tribulation" (2 Corinthians 1:3,4). This could be a time of Bible study, meditation and special prayer. Despite (and maybe even because of) my sufferings, God wants my "inward man...renewed day by day" (2 Corinthians 4:16) -- but I am too busy feeling bum!
God wants our sufferings to bring us closer to Himself. This is our opportunity to experience the comfort and consolation of Christ. God also wants our sufferings to bring us closer to our family of faith. He comforted us in our tribulation so "that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God" (2 Corinthians 1:4).
When others are aware of my difficulties and sufferings, are they aware of distress and despair? Do they get the impression that I have been forsaken and destroyed? Or do they become aware of the life of Jesus made manifest in my body?
"We count them happy which endure" (James 5:11)!! Jesus endured the cross, knowing that all kinds of joy would follow (Hebrews 12:2). I want that perspective; I want to look more to Him.
What's with this idea of "count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations" (James 1:2)? The notion that we ought to view testing with joy boggles normal human sensibilities. We tend to dread tests. We try hard to avoid them. We sigh and groan our way through them. Yet God wants to lift our attitudes and perspectives to a higher plane. So let's try to see a bit of His perspective as He reveals it in the Scriptures in focus here. Let's consider some of what motivates Him to test us.
God wants to perfect us. He wishes to strengthen our faith, develop our patience, and bring us to completeness. He knows that testing our faith will strengthen and toughen it, just as the rigors of exercise develop and fortify our muscles. He knows that one of the by-products of test-taking is endurance and constancy, the very ideas behind patience in James 1:3 -- "the trying of your faith worketh patience." He also knows that testing endured results in personal fulfillment and completeness: "But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing" (James 1:4). So as I go through the current battery of tests in my life, I need to remember God's aim to perfect me. I believe this will lead me toward joyfulness, even in trying times.
God wants to sharpen our focus. Plenty of things in life catch our interest, and that's fine. Many of those have the potential to distract us from God's purposes for us. James 1:8 speaks of a person with this kind of divided interest as being "a double minded man." As our teachers who tested us in school, God tests us to redirect our attention to those things which He values...and to those things which we ought to know. So as I struggle with this batch of life tests, I must remember God is trying to get my attention on what's important to Him. May I find joy in this, especially as I discover the stability He is bringing to my whole life. After all, "A double minded man is unstable in all his ways" (James 1:8).
God wants to grant us victories and rewards. God knows we enjoy these immensely. He certainly does as well! He also knows that the most satisfactory victories and the most enjoyable rewards result from overcoming the most challenging tests. So He assures 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). May I follow the Lord's own example in looking beyond the trauma of the test to see the reward for the faithful (Hebrews 12:2).
God wants to sharpen our appreciation for Him. When we cannot see our dependence on someone, we find it difficult to appreciate him. When we are unaware of the good someone has done for us, being grateful for him can be a challenge. God wants to use His tests to remind us our need for Him. James 1:17 says, "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights." But we frequently overlook that truth until testing shows it to us once again. So as I "take the test" right now, I should find my joy in the Father, right?
God wants to show off His fruit. How I do and how I am in my testing reflects on my Teacher. So God tests us...and in the process glories in us as "a kind of firstfruits of his creatures" (James 1:18). For joy!
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