23 January, 2006

James: Faith, ______, and Love

The greatest of these is love, but it's hope that we need now, desperately! And it can be had.

Faith and love seem to invite discipline. I know that I have to do those things that build faith, and that deepen my love. But hope is just so, "wishy." I wish that one day those good things that God has promised might happen, but it doesn't happen that way. Despair, discouragement, and weariness sneak into the door of my heart before hope is even out of the starting gate.

James knows all about this, and he reminds me that hope is not a gift, but a discipline.

My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing [this], that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have [her] perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing. ... Blessed [is] the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.
James 1:2-4 & 12

Patience makes us perfect and entire. The gaining of patience even qualifies us to receive the crown of life. Knowing this is a fountain of hope.

Paul makes it even more clear:

And not only [so], but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.
Romans 5:3-5

It is on experience that hope is founded, and experience comes only by tribulation, and by patient endurance thereof. Discipline is the theme again.

Hope does not come from endurance alone, though.

Hope comes because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts. There is something life-giving about suffering when it is mixed with the love of God in our hearts. The reception of love mingles with the acceptance of pain, and a strange alchemy happens. Those two do not belong together. Pain and love are not natural partners, but God makes them work.

Of course, the worst of our pain does not come from God.

Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.
James 1:13&14

The worst of pain is that which springs from within, when our old nature fights against our new nature, and against the One we love. It is not when my children push me and challenge me that I hurt the worst, but when I want to lash back. (Single parenting is not for the cowardly.) It is when the lust within me rises up against the quiet voice of the Spirit that I almost give up. Nothing hurts like suddenly realizing that all these years down the Road I am still the same cowardly child I always was. I still want my petty wishes above any needs of those around me. I am still lazy, and still pretty easy to live without.

It is into that void, into that reality that only Christ can change, that His love is shed abroad, and abounds. It is with that suffering that His love is mixed to yield the precious fruit of Hope. James starts his book by talking about divers temptations, and ends this little section by promising a crown. Between the two there is a world of hurt, but that hurt is mixed with His love.

There, I might be able to find the joy of the Lord, and it will be my strength.

Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.
Romans 15:13


Kansas Bob said...

I wonder if trust is more like hope than it is like faith. Hope and trust both involve the unseen and the yet to be.

codepoke said...

Great point. I had never made that connection.

Danny Kaye said...

That is really well written. You and I have a lot in common in the way we think about ourselves. I, too, am lazy, cowardly...etc. No one around me thinks that of me. But I know the truth within and strive to change it daily.

For the longest time, James was my favorite book in the Bible. It has recently been taken over by Colossians, but James still ranks up there among the "books I keep going back to."

Great post. I look forward to reading more.

codepoke said...

Life and the Lord have only started ruining my illusions I'm afraid. ;-)

Thank you for the kind words about the writing. That means a lot. (Now to add "insecure" to the list of sad but true things.)