Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Perseverance Must Finish its Work

I attended a weekly bible study for a three month period. We read and dissected each verse in the book of James. “James is believed to have been the brother of Jesus, a pastor of the early church who was concerned for the Jewish people and the Christians. The book of James was written to encourage people who dispersed when they were faced with difficult times, the death of Stephen and the many trials of the early Christian Church”.

At the time I studied James my life seemed fine, with no major problems. Thinking back I was probably a little comfortable or complacent with my Christian walk. I was going through the motions, attending church and bible study while doing my own thing. At the time I really challenged some of the things James taught and believed, knowing that everything that is written in the bible is the inspired word of God. Many times when we study the bible we want to change the meaning of a verse to suite our lifestyle. Some verses call for tough changes to be made. We know it. So we try to convince ourselves that the verse is saying this or that. In an attempt to change the meaning we are actually watering down the word of God. The word of God is meant for our ultimate good to bring us to His righteousness which is perfect. Certainly I have been guilty of doing this when studying the bible. Often I wondered why I was going to this study because many times I left the study feeling frustrated. That was because I was fighting the principles being taught. It was actually conviction I was feeling. My question at that time was how could a person live out these principles in their daily life? There are so many distractions in this world pulling at us from every direction. The world views change more and more from the biblical truth as time goes by. Knowing and believing that God’s word is the handbook for God’s people, we should strive to live a righteous and Godly life.

God tells us in His word that “Our ways are not His ways”. As I read the book of James, I could see that God’s ways are very different from the way the world may think most of the time. James starts out his second verse by telling us Verse 2: “Consider it pure joy my brothers whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything”.

Time does seem to unveil many truths. I find it interesting to realize that God’s is all knowing. In his insight into my life he knew before I did that I would need this instruction and preparation from the book of James in the years and months ahead. God knew the trials I was soon to go through. We barley finished the study when my world began to fall apart when my marriage of twenty three years came to an end.

God was preparing me for a character change. God could have just changed me with the snap of his fingers, but he didn’t. He had another plan. God being the Potter and me being the clay, God put me on that Potter’s wheel. Did I consider it all joy at the time? Not one bit. In fact, I wondered, what was God doing? What was He not doing? Where was God in the mist of my marriage break-up? Why didn’t God restore my marriage? When someone is in the mist of a trial, it is hard in our natural human instinct to see past the problems. We don’t’ have a crystal ball to tell us what our future will be like when we finally cross the bridge of tribulation. We wonder if we will still be in one piece. When we do cross that bridge we realize that we are still breathing and maybe even laughing again. What we do have is God’s word that does tell us why. That can help us get over that bridge with His understanding.

At the time of enduring what seemed like the biggest trial ever, I certainly felt I could relate in a small way to the biblical character Job. There is an entire book in the Old Testament written about him. It is the book of Job. Although his trials and testing’s were much worse than I could ever really compare. I had to endure an attack on my womanhood, the rejection I felt from my husband, the loss of friends who didn’t seem to care or understand, broken family ties and broken friendships, selling my home, my adult children going off to college etc. Never have I felt as alone as I did during this time. It truly felt like a testing of my faith. Through the process I became angry, bitter, depressed. The first stage of the separation created a behavior in me which was more like a child. There were temper tantrums at my husband and friends who seemed insensitive to my feelings, anger at God; who at the time seemed to be on vacation. The book of Malachi has one short verse which says, “God Hates Divorce”. I believed that verse. However, regardless of all my praying and all the effort I put into getting my marriage back together, it was not in my control. We can’t change how other people feel about us or the choices they make. My enduring question to which I never knew the answer for a long period of time was, “God, why didn’t you do anything to bring my marriage together again?” Really who am I to question God, the maker of the universe? His ways are not our ways. God has a plan. So go with it. Why fight God? You’ll lose.

In time, I finally realized that scripture is always true and right. The answers we are looking for are written on every page of the bible. It is up to us to find those answers by reading it and asking God to reveal his truth to our minds and hearts. The book of James has the answer to some of my questions. It was up to me whether I accept them or not.

Yes God does hate divorce or any division between his children and he hates broken vows. However, God allows these things to happen because we all have free will. God does not cause these things to happen; he allows them and uses them for a good purpose. Usually our own sinful desires cause bad things to happen. Sometimes we are the victim of someone else’s sinful choices which we have no control over. When all is said and done God prevails through the circumstance and so can we, if we don’t lose faith. When we know God’s word and constantly seek him and his understanding, he will give us the wisdom to learn from that trial. That is when we become more mature as a person and in our faith. We also become wiser in the way we deal with difficult challenges and gain more understanding. This helps us to relate to other people going through their own trials.

In my marriage break-down that ended in divorce, I was forced to become a more independent woman. I didn’t have my husband to love me. I learned to love myself the way God the father loves me. Initially that was very difficult because I felt so unlovable, ugly and rejected. It felt like a dying to self inside and out. In God’s time and strength I did persevere and learned how to do things that I was scared to do before. For example: for years I was afraid to call people on the phone or talk to anyone on the phone who wasn’t a friend or relative. The job I ended up getting was as a receptionist and switchboard operator dealing with a variety of people and clients all day long. Gradually I gained a self esteem I never had before. It was through persevering that a maturity developed that possibly may never have developed had my marriage stayed together. Not only have these things changed, a perspective on everything changed. No longer do I pine over friendships obsessively. My eyes were opened to the mistakes I made in that twenty three year marriage. There are things I could have done which could have made my husband happier; things like being less critical or not taking him for granted. I could have showed him more appreciation for the things that he did do for me. I could have learned his love language. There are other changes I could have made that may have prevented the demise of our marriage. Unfortunately I was not mature enough at the time to recognize these things to try and change them. The maturity is in accepting that it was not all his fault. When we can accept our own mistakes that is when we can change our behavior. In three years my life totally changed. Because of these changes, progress was made in many different aspects of our lives.

I met a man and fell in love again. We married and enjoy a wonderful marriage. Through pre-marital biblical counseling we addressed many such topics as not to enter a new marriage making the same mistakes that we made in our first marriages. God brought Danny into my life and he is a wonderful man. My life at this time seems complete, not lacking in anything. So I am enjoying this time. Again I can relate to Job who lost so much, but because he held onto his faith, God blessed him with more than he had before his trials began.
If you are going through a trial or tribulation, please don’t quit. Keep your faith and get up again. You will overcome with the strength God will provide. James also says, “If you lack wisdom, ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not expect to receive anything from the Lord; he is double minded man unstable in all he does.
When you read that verse try and see and live the positive then there will be no negative.