The more I live, the more I see the trials, tribulations, and problems that can enter people’s lives. Some folks cope with the issues surrounding finances; some close to me have health issues, others have difficulty in their marriages; many people are very perplexed with their job situation; and for those who desire a deepening of relationships there are always those who wish to destroy the same.
In the Introduction of Dr. John MacArthur’s great Commentary on James, he does a masterful job examining the various points to be considered when discussing trials. James’s major emphasis in the first chapter, and in the entire letter, is that if a person’s faith is genuine, it will prove itself during times of trouble, whatever the nature or source of the trouble may be.
For that reason, this epistle is valuable for unbelievers as well as believers. That is especially true for unbelievers who consider themselves to be “Christians” and need to lean upon their faith only when things are not going well. When things are going great they don’t need Jesus in their lives. This is not saving faith and is worth nothing. It is, in fact, worth less than nothing, because it deceives those who trust in it. Not only will it fail them when they need help the most but, immeasurably worse, it will lead them to think they are headed for Heaven when they are headed for hell.
James shows that when faith is but an empty profession or mere sentiment and not based on firm and intelligent convictions of divine truth, the fire of trouble will burn it up. But where there is true faith, a person who is struggling with issues finds solace in the arms of Jesus. The source of weakness leads to earnest wrestling with God in prayer; and the experience of the sustaining grace thus obtained strengthens and exhilarates hope.
This little story helps us appreciate why we might face the trials we do.
Quilt of Holes (It is worth a little more space to incorporate this wonderful story)
As I faced my Maker at the last judgment, I knelt before the Lord along with all the other souls. Before each of us laid our lives like the squares of a quilt in many piles; an angel sat before each of us sewing our quilt squares together into a tapestry that is our life.
But as my angel took each piece of cloth off the pile, I noticed how ragged and empty each of my squares was. They were filled with giant holes. Each square was labeled with a part of my life that had been difficult, the challenges and temptations I was faced with in everyday life. I saw hardships that I endured, which were the largest holes of all.
I glanced around me. Nobody else had such squares. Other than a tiny hole here and there, the other tapestries were filled with rich color and the bright hues of worldly fortune. I gazed upon my own life and was disheartened.
My angel was sewing the ragged pieces of cloth together, threadbare and empty, like binding air. Finally, the time came when each life was to be displayed, held up to the light, the scrutiny of truth. The others rose; each in turn, holding up their tapestries. So, filled their lives had been. My angel looked upon me, and nodded for me to rise.
My gaze dropped to the ground in shame. I hadn’t had all the earthly fortunes that some displayed. I had love in my life and laughter. But there had also been trials of illness, and financial hardships, and false accusations that took from me my world, as I knew it. I had to start over many times.
I often struggled with the temptation to quit, only to somehow muster the strength to pick up and begin again. I spent many nights on my knees in prayer, asking for help and guidance in my life. I had often been held up to ridicule, which I endured painfully, each time offering it up to the Father in hopes that I would not melt within my skin beneath the judgmental gaze of those who unfairly judged me.
And now, I had to face the truth. My life was what it was, and I had to accept it for what it was. I rose and slowly lifted the combined squares of my life to the light. An awe-filled gasp filled the air. I gazed around at the others who stared at me with wide eyes.
Then, I looked upon the tapestry before me. Light flooded the many holes, creating an image, the face of Christ. Then our Lord stood before me, with warmth and love in His eyes. He said, “Every time you gave over your life to Me, it became My life, My hardships, and My struggles. Each point of light in your life is when you stepped aside and let Me shine through, until there was more of Me than there was of you.”
May all our quilts be threadbare and worn, allowing Christ to shine through! For those who have supported our ministry for so long may our quilts of life bare a resemblance of Jesus.
- Are you, or someone close to you, going through struggles or hardships? What does Psalms 23:4 tell us about fear?
- In Psalms 56:3, the Psalmist tells us “When I am afraid, I will trust in you.” Where do you place your trust? How has God helped you cope with challenging situations.
- Next time you see someone going through difficult times, share your story with them. Your words and experiences with Jesus will help them with their challenges.