In The Meantime Part 5: Believe It Or Not
On Sunday 1st May at our morning service, we continued our series 'In The Meantime' with a talk called Believe It Or Not. In this blog you will find a summary of the talk and then some questions and reflections for you to think through on your own or to discuss in your small group.
To listen to the talk online, please click here.
Talk Notes and Summary
One of the things we have been saying throughout this series that we feel in and ‘in the meantime’ season is that nothing good can come from this. But is that true?
Another thing that we have been saying throughout this series is that the people who wrote down the stories of Jesus, the people who wrote the letters that make up a lot of the New Testament part of the Bible and the people who’s stories we read in the Old Testament, were men and women who were very familiar with adversity. They were familiar with hardship and trials, they were very real people with very real lives and struggle – faith was not pie in the sky for them. And yet these were ordinary men and women who believed and not only believed but maintained faith. For many of them there was no conflict between a faithful God and a difficult life.
We have been learning from several of those people during this series and we are going to learn from another one today and his name was James and he was the brother of Jesus.
He wrote a letter in the New Testament part of the Bible and in chapter 1 verses 1 to 6 we read what he had to say about adversity. You can read that by clicking here.
In verse 2 he says consider it pure joy when you face adversity. This is complete opposite of what I naturally do in an in the meantime season. I suspect that it is the complete opposite of what you do too. Consider it pure joy – really, that seems totally counter intuitive!
The word consider in the original language that James wrote this letter in actually means adopt a different mindset or embrace. He is saying whenever you face adversity, embrace it, adopt a mindset of joy. That feels hard doesn’t it?
In verse 3 James acknowledges that facing trials or adversity is a test of faith, trials test our confidence in God. James tells us that the testing of faith produces perseverance and if you read God’s story what you discover is that God seems to honour and be most glorified by persevering faith. And you know this actually, whether you are a Christian or not because the faith that is most impressive to you is the faith that perseveres through struggles.
In verse 4 James says let perseverance finish its work. He says “wait, God is up to something, in the process of building in you the kind of faith that awes people. Let endurance and perseverance finish its work”. And one of the things James says God is doing is maturing you. There is something about perseverance that makes us stronger. There is something about perseverance that makes our story more attractive and believable, in God’s story spiritual maturity is measured in terms of persevering faith, not perfect behaviour.
But James is a realist too, knows this is difficult and in verses 5 and 6 he says: ask God and he will help you, he will give you wisdom. And wisdom here simply means the ability to see current circumstances within a broader context. But James also says you must believe and not doubt and what you need to believe is that God is up to something. God is doing this work in you, making your faith more real and more attractive.
When we are in an ‘in the meantime’ season we can believe and trust that God is up to something – he is maturing us and making our faith more attracting if we choose to believe and trust him. God can and does do beautiful things in our in the meantime seasons. He makes beautiful things out of what feels like dust.
Questions for Reflection
1. How do you usually handle sudden changes in your schedule? Do you go with the flow, or does the unexpected stress you out?
2. Talk about a time in your own life or the life of someone you know when good eventually came from adversity. How did that event influence your faith?
3. “Faith that gets a yes from God is nothing compared to faith that gets no answer or no for an answer but endures anyway.” How does that statement challenge what you believe (or want to believe) about faith? What is comforting about that statement?
4. Do you think it’s realistic to be able to consider your trials “pure joy”? Why or why not? How would a perspective like that change your relationship with God? How might it change the way you deal with your circumstances?
5. Do you agree with the idea that spiritual maturity has less to do with what you know and more with how you trust God and persevere in the face of adversity? Why or why not?
6. As you think about the adversity you face right now, what is one thing you can do to “let perseverance finish its work”? If you choose to “endure to mature,” how might your current circumstances grow your faith? What can this group do to support you?