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Robbers or Reapers

I’m slowly working my way through Beth Moore’s study on James right now. I so love doing studies in a small group! You get the benefit of accountability, but if you do it with someone else who also is short on time, you can stretch the study out.

James 1:2-3 Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kind because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work in you so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

I love this perspective! Trials result in us being mature and complete, not lacking anything. I don’t know about you, but I seriously need some help. Immaturity and brokenness have been some of the hallmarks of my life.

In the study, Beth compares trial to robbers (p. 45). They steal things like our peace of mind, our hopes, our dreams, sometimes even just plain old things, like our time. But in Christ, they don’t have to be. As she puts it, “Trials don’t get to steal from followers of Christ, unless we hand over the goods. In fact, they’re commanded to give goods to us if we’re willing to receive them.”

It really puts a whole new spin on “sucking the marrow” out of trials. Lately as I’m re-writing, I’ve found myself meditating on old wounds and old shame. But I don’t have to be haunted by those things. I can go through the process of mourning, but also examine them for what treasures I left behind. I can change the past and walk away a victor. Robber or reaper . . . it’s up to me.

God, help me to reap maturity and completeness out of the trials I’ve been through. Don’t let me hang onto them pointlessly! Grow me, God! Show me what treasures I left behind. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

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To Press On

I’ve been thinking about these two quotes in connection with each other:

“I went to the woods because I wanted to live deliberately … I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life … to put to rout all that was not life and not when I had come to die, discover that I had not lived.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” ~ Paul (Phil. 3:12-14; NIV)

What does it mean to “suck out all the marrow of life,” especially in circumstances less than ideal? Is it merely passive acceptance?

It seems to necessitate more–such as James 1:2-4: 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. (NIV)

Here the Holy Spirit gives us a glimpse behind the scenes, just like in Romans 8:28. God works all for the good of those who love Him. Trials ultimately bring about maturity and completeness.

Can I just say that I love God’s amazing grace in lifting the veil? I love that He gives us inside information sometimes. Not all the time (see Job), but when it benefits us He gives us a glimpse of what He’s up to in our lives with all these apparently extreme circumstances.

So, is “sucking the marrow out of life” and “pressing on” to seek out the unveiling of our behind the scenes? To realize that God works everything for the good of those who love Him and therefore, whatever difficulties we encounter, they have passed through His loving hands?

If I have correct visional priority–if I base my worldview on God’s character and then understand my identity and circumstances through that lens–I won’t passively be waiting around. I’ll be actively waiting in wonder to see what God’s going to do. I’ll be participating in the adventure of a relationship with Him. My circumstances will be transformed in front of me–not because they have changed, but because I can glimpse behind the veil to know that He has purpose in them. And knowing that circumstances are not spinning out of control, headed into some abyss of doom, I’m able to stop worrying about circumstances and start running after God … I can throw my whole being into studying His hand at work. I can press on toward the prize.