James 1:2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
Per·se·ver·ance: steadfastness in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success.
The issue isn’t whether we’ll have trials. They come in all sizes and shapes, and to everyone. One thing all trials have in common, large or small, is they focus our attention on a specific situation. Perseverance becomes a spiritual exercise for us without a known end date or predictable outcome. Perseverance in the midst of the trial is where our faith and expectations begin to rely on the value of just getting through this one day. All we have is the hope we can endure.
Endurance is the byproduct of the spiritual exercise of perseverance. It’s a result of doggedly putting one foot in front of the other every day during the trial and letting “perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” Perseverance is the muscle-building exercise of faith that results in endurance.
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters”…not for the pain, fears. tears, stress and struggle of the trial but that it reminds you every day of your need to depend on Jesus to get you through. God is building your endurance and insuring your survival on that one fact alone. You just need to show up every day.
My approach to reading the Bible has been the same for a long time now. I read and write about small portions of a chapter, often just a couple of verses. I know God is trying to speak to me and sometimes it’s just easier to narrow my focus in that way so I can hear better. I really had no good explanation of why that method works so well for me until I found this quote attributed to Jean-Pierre de Caussade in the book Discernment: Reading the Signs of Daily Life.
“Fix your attention upon what you are reading without thinking about what follows. . . . Pause briefly, from time to time, to let these pleasant truths sink deeper and deeper into your soul, and allow the Holy Spirit time to work. . . . Simply let the truths sink into your heart rather than into your mind.”
I read the Word and other resources because I believe there is the reality of the life of Christ in them. I expect that reality to change my life in Christ too. Up to this point in this post I’d only read from the book Discernment. That quote was good but it felt incomplete without a Scripture reference so I did the digital version of randomly opening the Bible hoping for an unexpected surprise of applicable truth from the Word and up popped this verse of the day from biblegateway.com: Colossians 2:9-10.
“For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority.” [NIV]
That truth isn’t particularly mystical because of course the Bible is full of applicable wisdom. Nevertheless it’s interesting to consider that particular truth in that particular moment could be the reality of blessing from the Holy Spirit to remind me that “In Christ” is where I want to be. In Christ I am being brought to fullness of both heart and mind. May it be so!
Romans 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “But the righteous man shall live by faith.”
There’s a reassurance in being part of a church body and all the services that body offers. We share a focus, we share some like beliefs, we meet together and sometimes we even share our innermost thoughts. Church is a spot dedicated to “family” intimacy but learning obedience to our faith with that kind of intimacy is hard. It’s not purposely hidden but in my experience it doesn’t happen frequently either.
There are moments in life with God that may be so meaningful and intimate they are closely guarded because they’re soul-bearing revelations. That kind of intimacy strips away all our pretensions of adequacy and sophistication. It’s that intimacy of inadequacy that reveals the real and absolute naked truth of our need for God. God bless and multiply those moments when that kind of intimacy makes it plan for us to see it’s how the “righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith.”
Colossians 2:16 Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. 17 These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ…22 These rules, which have to do with things that are all destined to perish with use, are based on merely human commands and teachings. 23 Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.
17 reality, however, is found in Christ
* 22 things that are all destined to perish with use
23 self-imposed worship…[ 3 versions]
– lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence NIV
– no value against fleshly indulgence NASB
– no effect when it comes to conquering a person’s evil thoughts and desires TLB
Sometimes I begin by reading a passage of Scripture and jotting phrases that catch my attention [see above]. My go-to version is usually the NIV. I frequently re-read the same passage in a few other versions hoping slightly different words will gel into a focus. Then the hard part begins: to trust God really has something in that Word that will nourish faith in my daily life. I try to write a sentence or two based on those phrases. Today that focus seems to be either/or.
Either you learn how to live every day as if “reality, however, is found in Christ” OR all you’re investing yourself in is “self-imposed worship.” Is it possible, even likely, the very best spiritual nourishment we choose, reading the Bible, praying, service, church attendance and even writing a blog about faith, can become self-imposed worship of rules and regulations, not Christ?
We all know the answer to that question is yes. The Scripture is very discreet about how it words *verse 22 so I will be too. “Reality, however, [that’s] found in Christ” requires the same diligence of daily nourishment for our hearts that food does for our bodies. Both kinds of nourishment are subject to the same natural processes. Unless our investment is able to renew the reality of Christ in us and become our true worship that has real “effect when it comes to conquering a person’s evil thoughts and desires” it’s just the waste of “self-imposed worship.”
“…We should feed and nourish our souls with high notions of GOD…”
.Brother Lawrence from The Practice of the Presence of God.
I’m at one of those transition places between what I wanted to know and what I still need to know. I’m looking for that new focus of my daily study. Usually I begin with THE Word and then find my words but all I have today is word ideas prompted by that quote from The Practice of the Presence of God. It feels like I’m beginning backwards but I’ve just spent a few weeks on the assurances that access to “high notions of GOD” are built right into those who dwell with his Spirit inside them. Here I am Lord. I love you, please lead me…to your “Whatever” and the fullness of understanding there’s “Nothing” you will withhold as I continue to ponder the mystery of how to practice these high notions of God…and their wisdom for daily life.
Proverbs 16:20 Whoever listens to what is taught will succeed,
and whoever trusts the Lord will be happy.
21 The wise are known for their understanding.
Their pleasant words make them better teachers.
22 Understanding is like a fountain which gives life to those who use it,
but foolishness brings punishment to fools.
23 Wise people’s minds tell them what to say,
and that helps them be better teachers.
24 Pleasant words are like a honeycomb,
making people happy and healthy. NCV
Mark 9:7 Then a cloud appeared and covered them, and a voice came from the cloud: “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!”
8 Suddenly, when they looked around, they no longer saw anyone with them except Jesus. As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus gave them orders not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. 10 They kept the matter to themselves, discussing what “rising from the dead” meant.
Peter, James and John were confused. They’d just seen the inexplicably mysterious power of the unseen God. They also knew firsthand Jesus had the power to heal and to restore life where there was none but a dead man can’t bring himself back to life, can he? So what could “rising from the dead” mean?
The unseen, all powerful, all knowing, ever present God had inserted himself into their thinking when he spoke “from the cloud.” Jesus had changed their daily lives and now he’s given them “orders” to wait before they tell anyone what they’ve seen…the caution to wait…because there’s more to come.
It seems like their thinking process is being expanded to include the mystery of the unseen Father, the reality of Jesus who’s the bedrock of that faith and the promise that comes after “the Son of Man [has] risen from the dead;” the Holy Spirit. Maybe that’s exactly what our focus of Lent is to be; to expand our thinking and help us acknowledge the fullness of God even when life is mysterious and confusing.
“Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. 3 For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, 4 so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.”
Romans 8 is encouragement “for those who are in Christ Jesus.” It’s a good plan, designed to redirect our focus away from the necessary consequences of God’s disapproval because of the rules we could not keep, to “sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh” to become the living example of a new option.
That Advent changed our focus completely. Jesus’ birth is the fulfillment of God’s promise to redirect our focus so “the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” It’s more than celebrating the historical birth of Christ “His”story has become our story too. That’s worth celebrating year after year!