Saturday, August 11, 2012

Problems - Friend or Foe?

J.B. Phillips translates James 1:2 this way, "When all kinds of trials and temptations crowd into your lives, my brothers, don't resent them as intruders, but welcome them as friends!"

Is it really possible to view troubles as "friends"?   Is God setting us up for failure?  Would He ever tell us to do something that we cannot do?   God would never set us up for either failure or frustration so He gives us this passage of Scripture to instruct us on how to turn our problems into our "friends."

How can we turn everyday problems - large and small - into opportunities for joy?  James 1 says it is possible because we know at lease 4 things:
  1. Problems come to everyone - none are exempt.  James tells "whenever"  not "if."
  2. Problems are unexpected - Jame's use of the word "face" is the same word used for the robbery that the Good Samaritan experienced - it was inconvenient and unplanned.
  3. Problems are of "many kinds."  Some are minor and some are major.  From being laughed at for praying before you eat lunch at work to being imprisoned for telling your children about Christ.
  4. Problems have a purpose.  Problems "produce"  perseverance which leads to maturity in your faith and character.
Once we know these four things, we can choose a different attitude about the problems that come our way.  The word, "Consider it pure joy" in James 1:1 means that we make up our mind or make a choice about how we are going to respond to problems.  Our attitude will determine if we are bitter or better.  When the Olympians went through vigorous and difficult training, they determined it was worth it for the "gold".  James tells us that there is a reward for those who make problems into opportunities for growth rather than excuses for failure.

We need to ask God for help (James 1:5).  When we do, God will not make us feel foolish or guilty but will give us what we ask for with great generosity.

We need to be open and rally a community of believers about us because we will encourage them while they are helping to lift us.

Paul did just what James instructed. Philippians 1:12-26 tells us that Paul rejoiced in the midst of problems.  He spent 2 years in Caesarea on trumpted up charges; while on his way to Rome (in chains), his ship was wrecked, he was stranded on an island, and was bitten by a poisonous snake; he was incarcerated in a Roman prison for 2 years with two guards chained to him 24/7 and he "rejoiced."  How did he rejoice?  He followed the instructions of James 1 and chose joy.

If Paul experienced the truth of James, you and I can also. 

In a recent "problem" you experienced, what pressure did it bring on your faith?  Was there anything in it that would cause you to rejoice?  What are some of the "good" and "perfect' gifts of God for which you can be thankful when you face trials and difficulties?

Growing with you  ~    Bob

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