Monday, August 13, 2012

A Thing or Two About Patience
and How It Brings Us to Maturity

Good morning!  Today starts a new week--a week I hope brings me closer to blogging more often as promised.

I have been “bearing under” many things, mostly a back problem that has changed how I approach and plan for even the smallest details of life—the daily routines we usually perform without thinking. My learning process for the past six months has been quite a challenge.
 I had to reorient my entire life. Losing independence was difficult because I had always been a “take charge” person—reasonably healthy and able to go and do as I pleased. Living each day with chronic, debilitating pain has humbled and softened me to receive help from other people.

With the passage of time and the power of grace, I am more content with my life-adjustments. I am learning to control the pain rather than letting it control me. God has placed wonderful, loving people around me, and I am content with His care for my body and soul. I am convinced my healing is secured in the finished work of Jesus Christ, but I leave the details of how and when it manifests to God’s sovereignty.

James tells us events like this will occur in a fallen world, so we shouldn’t be surprised when they happen to us. Christians are not immune from suffering, but we are commanded to suffer
differently from those outside of Christ. As paradoxical as all other elements in the Kingdom of God, we are to suffer or “bear under” these things with joy!

Let me make this clear from the beginning: It is not the illness, disease, or injury with which believers suffer for Christ; but it is
how we have to endure such things until our healing manifests—slowly, progressively, with ups and downs—perhaps partially, wholly or yes--in the life to come.

This distinction is crucial! Many people have become disappointed and even angry with God because He didn’t heal them as quickly or in the way they expected. They bear an offense against God that has them spiritually drifting or worse--shipwrecked on bitter shoals.

Isn’t this true about other things we believe God for, as well? We must settle the truth in our hearts that God is good all the time to us and His ways are flawless. He sees from a perspective we cannot; His knowledge is complete.

But back to the book of James, which is where I began my readings for today. We are commanded by the Holy Spirit to be joyful when we fall into all kinds of “temptations”. The Greek word used here is not referring to being tempted by Satan’s forces; rather, it speaks of “putting something to the proof”, much like an assayer would take a gemstone from the ground and prove its worth. If you’ve ever been rock mining, then you know precious gems come out of the ground looking like ordinary rocks. Only when tested by an expert is the value revealed.

Take this truth for comfort: There is an expert in control of whatever you are facing. He already knows the preciousness within. He is working to bring it to the surface not only for you to see, but also for the benefit of others to whom you are a daily witness.

James 1: 3 says, “…that the trying (testing) of your faith works patience (an ability to bear under that circumstance).

It’s interesting that the word for “patience” in this passage (Hupomone) means endurance for things and circumstances, as contrasted to
makrothumia—longsuffering with people. That’s another lesson for another time!

When James refers to “patience having
her perfect work in us”, we know that he is not using the word for sinless perfection, but the Greek telelos. It means to grow up, mature, and come to full-age, as opposed to remaining children. God wants us to mature in trusting His ways.

Look at the end of verse 4 where it says “wanting nothing”. When we realize that the work of patience has a goal in our lives—to bring us to maturity in Christ, and that maturity will lead us to a settled, trusting place in Him that cannot be disturbed or shattered by any circumstance in life, then we welcome whatever tool God sees fit to use.

Children complain, pitch fits, and even pull away from us because they cannot yet comprehend the end goal of holding our hands when crossing the street, getting that painful injection or eating their vegetables. God’s kids do the same with the work of patience, unable to grasp the good and profitable result that is in store if they “bear under” and see it through.

I’d love to hear from readers who may be going through similar or equally life-changing circumstances, and what God has revealed to you through today’s study in James 1:1-4.