Strength for Your Storm

This morning my Bible reading plan included the first chapter in the book of James. I thought it ironic that the small group that I’m in is starting a study on the book of James tonight. This letter may be my favorite book in the Bible because it is so relevant to real life and offers very practical teaching for facing the challenges that we come up against in life.

Verse 12 stood out to me as one of those profoundly relevant lessons. James says,
Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.” James 1:12 (NLT)“God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation.

In the last sentence, there is a phrase that caught my attention - “to those who love him.” It reminded me of the fact that we live in a “what have you done for me lately” world. It’s easy to be happy and upbeat when things are going great. It’s not hard to love God when he is blessing us in ways that exceed our expectations. But how do we approach God when we are in the midst of tests or difficulties? Are we still fired up about serving him and telling others about his faithfulness? How do we feel about God when it seems like the sky is falling?

A lot of times when we begin a book, it’s tempting to skip over the introduction and just dive into the first chapter. However, a good introduction will set the context for what we’re about to read. It will help us answer some, otherwise confusing issues that we sometimes encounter as we work our way through the content or storyline of the book. This is so true for the book of James.

In the very first verse, which for James is the all-important introduction, he identifies the people to whom this letter is written. His audience is the Jewish people who have scattered all over the world to escape persecution. After Stephen was martyred at the end of Acts 7, and the beginning of chapter 8, life became very dicey for Christians. James knew that this was going to be a defining moment for these followers of Jesus. Would they continue to serve God wholeheartedly, or would they bail on him like the Israelites did when they refused to enter into the Promised Land after hearing about the giants in the land?

If you remember, the Israelites that Moses was leading was a fickle group. They were happy to leave Egypt, but as soon as they found themselves backed up against the Red Sea, they began to whine. When God sent manna for them to eat, they were satisfied. But after a few days with nothing els
e on the menu, they complained. They were awed by God’s power which had delivered them from their slavery in Egypt, but evidently he wasn’t strong enough to help them defeat the giants, who stood between them and the Promised Land. In other words, they were stuck in a “what have you done for me lately” attitude.

Well, the Jewish people to whom James wrote this letter were facing severe persecution. The likes of which many people now face, with the threat of ISIS and other terrorist groups who are active throughout the world. In verse 12, James draws a line in the sand.

That same line in the sand applies today. Most of us are not even facing the daily threat of terrorism, and yet we still lose our focus and harbor that same attitude towards God when things aren’t going our way.

James tells us that God will reward us when we are patient and trust Him in the midst of temptation. And if we continue to love Him, which means that we follow His instructions to us, we will receive the greatest gift that anyone can receive - life. This was Jesus’ purpose for coming to live among us. He said he came to give us life and life to the fullest extent possible (John 10:1
0).

Please don’t misunderstand what James is saying. You don’t need to throw a party, trying to make others believe that your were hoping for severe tests and trials to come into your life. But when things get difficult, causing you to feel overwhelmed, you can take joy in knowing that God is powerful enough to lead you through whatever it is that you’re facing. And when He does, you will experience an unmatched sense of fulfillment, because that’s what comes when we get God gives us a glimpse of abundant living.