Wednesday, January 18, 2012

#2 James 1:12 "Blessed Are the Rich?"

"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."

Today, in Tacoma, we have snow. By our standards, lots of it. In a region that sees little snow, we don't really have the snow and ice removal systems in place, unlike the Midwest or parts of the East coast.

So, snow becomes our "trial." Our neighborhoods are impassible. A car belonging to a home two doors away only made it one block from home before a tow truck had to assist it back to its driveway.

Randy and I put on our winter gear, carried our backpacks and hiked to the market so we had something to cook for dinner. I fell once during the trip. Luckily, no injuries.

The rest of the day was spent cooped up at home. Boredom set in. Restlessness ensued.

I know what you're thinking. The "trials" of today were NOT what James had in mind as he wrote the opening verses of this epistle. The First Century believers endured persecution and suffering for the sake of their faith in Christ. We who are sheltered and privileged usually know nothing of perseverance under such trials.

James 1:12 tells us that those who persevere when tested will receive the crown of life. What a wonderful promise. But, for those like me who live a rather cushy life, how am I to receive any crown of life? Am I even eligible?

This is what I have pondered, not just today, but for many years. What does perseverance in middle class and upper middle class America look like?

Have you ever heard the term, "affluenza?" It's that "virus" that can infect those of us who are rich by the world's standards. We have whatever material things we need, and much of what we really don't need. Meeting our needs doesn't seem to depend on God's provision, but our own ability to gather wealth.

We've never known hunger or any real persecution. Life for us, and for our non-believing neighbors, is a piece of cake. So, if we are pretty much able to meet our own needs, why would most of us need God?

By God's grace, I have yet to suffer greatly for His gospel. But, I feel I have been tested in my faith. One of my tests is, despite what my eyes see, to keep on believing, and to urge others to do the same.

Hebrews 11:1 defines faith as the assurance of what we hope for and the certainty of what we don't see. What do my eyes see? My cushy bank account. Lots of clothes in my closet. A roof over my head, a dependable car to drive and plenty of food in the cupboard.

What do I not see? I don't "see" the Hand that provides all this to me. I don't "see" the grace that freely gives me the comforts of life that I have not earned. I don't "see" the One who is the invisible source of my life and well being.

I am protected. I am loved. I am forgiven of all my sins, past, present and future. This, I cannot "see," but will acknowledge. For this reason, I seek to serve Him and proclaim Him to a world that also cannot see Him.

It is a natural tendency to only acknowledge God when we are in trouble or pain. My test of faith is to acknowledge Him when I am comfortable.

What is my other test of faith? It is to let go of some of that comfort and share it with others....share my time, my money and my love with those who need it. I admit, I can be as selfish as anyone. And it is easy to develop a sense of entitlement to my "wealth."

But God challenges me to give as He directs me. And He has blessed me with more opportunities than ever before. And with each opportunity, it brings me great joy.

Okay, so maybe that can't compare with those saints who suffer for the gospel. But, each of us has been put where God wants us to serve in our own unique way. For today, this is how I have been asked to serve.

For tomorrow, who knows?

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