“My brothers and sisters, think of the various tests you encounter as occasions for joy. After all, you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. Let this endurance complete its work so that you may be fully mature, complete, and lacking in nothing.” (James 1:2-4)
Last Sunday I had the privilege of sharing the morning’s message at the worship gathering at VLC. I talked about joy. In the preparation for that talk (and for the next two weeks as well) I had the above passage rolling through my thoughts. It often comes to mind when I experience difficult situations. This week was no exception.
Pastors often joke that they are “tested” according to what they are sharing. I made the same quip to Pastor Stuart before he left for Guatemala. He understood.
The “testing” that I’ve been experiencing reminds me of Jesus’ parable of the soils in Luke 8. While listening to Pastor Stuart’s talk on this recently, I began to see the different soils as progressive instead of qualitative, as levels of faith and/or maturity instead of good or bad.
The soils are as follows: the pathway of hard packed dirt, rocky shallow soil, weed-choked soil, and cultivated soil. The seed is not only the word of God but ideas, thoughts, dreams, etc. The pathway soil is the introduction to the seed. We can take it or leave it. The rocky soil is where acquaintance and understanding develop. It’s exciting, but short lived. The weed-choked soil is the place of testing. The life of the seed it challenged. It’s at this place that the plant can gain strength or be overcome. The cultivated soil is where the life of the seed is reproduced in fruit, which perpetuates the cycle.
As I have been working through joy the last few weeks I feel like I am living out the passage I quoted above in James. Through the testing I’m not afraid of losing faith or joy, but I am assured that I will come through with a deeper understanding of joy and a stronger faith to persevere. I pray this encourages you in whatever you are experiencing. “I’m sure about this: the one who started a good work in you will stay with you to complete the job by the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6)
Grace and peace,