Thursday, August 19, 2010

Faith the Basis of Hope

Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. James 1:12.

Someone has said: “Life is hard, then you die.” For those without a life giving faith, that about sums it up. For many in the world who scratch out a living in abject poverty, and for those who are victims of earth’s convulsions, or men’s violence, life hardly makes sense—this is not the way life should be.

Yet we all face trials of life to a greater or lesser degree. The question is: “How are we going to react?” How we react to distress of any kind determines, not only the outcome for ourselves and those we love, but also whether any benefit accrues from it.

The idea of benefit from major distress appears laughable, yet James, a few verses earlier writes, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. But perseverance requires hope.

Without hope, there is no point in persevering under adversity. If there is no relief from the hardships of life, there really is no point in carrying on. The tragedy of so much marriage break-up is the lack of hope that the opposing positions of each partner can ever be resolved.

Yet, experience has shown that a strong marriage is built on such troubled times. Lack of hope will kill love, but hope can rekindle it. A ship’s captain doesn’t learn his craft on a calm sea, nor is marriage secured without conflict. In a real sense, perseverance can bring life to a dying marriage.

And our text reminds us that perseverance will bring us a crown of life. Now the idea of floating around heaven with a crown on my head is quite unappealing. Life itself
is the crown. The renewal of a failing marriage, or recovery from personal adversity, is but a reflection of the life to come for those whose perseverance has established the validity of their faith.

Monday, August 16, 2010

What about Tomorrow?

Now listen, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money." Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, "If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that." James 4:13-15

I remember as a child, my parents always added “DV” when arranging for the next few days. “DV” is a contraction of the Latin Deo Volente meaning, “if God wills.” Even now, some will add “God willing” to any plans they are making, recognizing that our future is in God’s hands. If we are committed to follow His leading, expect that He may change our plans to coincide with His.  

Even if we ignore God’s call on our life and plan for our own security and prosperity, we cannot be sure the unexpected will not obstruct them. Above all, we never know when He might say, “You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?' (Luke 12:20) The ultimate folly of life is not being prepared to meet Him to whom we all have to give an account.

Life is short and fragile. Many of us who have had a brush with death are very aware of it. But most in our coddled western culture act as if we are going to live forever. My guess is that this head-in-the-sand approach is a way of trying to forget the inevitable. None of us is immune to the hazards of daily life or the disasters that strike the earth.

That life is a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes, is a frightening description of the brevity and frailty of life. Born in the cool of the night, a puff of wind will scatter a morning mist and the rising sun will dissolve it. Viewed from its latter years, life appears to have gone by in a flash, the years envisioned in youth now telescoped into memories.

Those of us permitted to live a long life have had many opportunities to prepare to meet our Creator. But long life of our choosing is not guaranteed. Accident or disease can redirect life to a less welcome route, or simply curtail it at any age. Either way, let’s make the journey with Him.