Labor Day 2020...
This day probably has 1000 more meanings than any other Labor Day. For some, this is a day off from a job. For others, it's another day of homeschooling because the job site and the classroom are in the same place and neither can afford to get behind. Whether the view of this holiday is from quarantine, the hospital, at home, at work, in the company of a house full of people or none at all, Labor Day, for all of us, is an indicator of both what we have overcome AND how little time is left in this year.
Josh and I have been studying the book of James together. James was one of the first books in the Bible that we studied after Josh got injured and we got a little more serious about knowing what we believe. We both love the book of James because James is practical. As Jesus's half-brother, James grew up with the Savior of our world. If Christ's own sibling can be convinced that He was the Son of God, then we should all be convinced! Because James grew up with Jesus, He is practical and affirming in his accounts of not only who Jesus is, but what we can expect when we take up our cross and begin to follow Christ. On this Labor Day, I hope to spread some encouragement and reality.
1 James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ:
To the twelve tribes dispersed abroad.
Greetings. (told you he was practical)
Trials and Maturity
2 Consider it a great joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you experience various trials, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. 4 And let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.
5 Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God—who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly—and it will be given to him. 6 But let him ask in faith without doubting. For the doubter is like the surging sea, driven and tossed by the wind. 7 That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord, 8 being double-minded and unstable in all his ways.
9 Let the brother of humble circumstances boast in his exaltation, 10 but let the rich boast in his humiliation because he will pass away like a flower of the field. 11 For the sun rises and, together with the scorching wind, dries up the grass; its flower falls off, and its beautiful appearance perishes. In the same way, the rich person will wither away while pursuing his activities.
Joy in facing trials. How often does the world pursue happiness instead of joy? Happiness is a state of elation that can often be unpredictable and not repeatable (trips to Disneyland, free ice cream, running into a friend you haven't seen in years, finding $20). Joy is a choice. A choice is controllable and repeatable (choosing to bless someone instead of curse them, looking around at all there is to be thankful for, remembering what Christ has done for us). The problem is, joy is learned in not-so-joyful times. As much as we are called to be saved (meaning accept Christ as our Savior), we are also called to be sanctified--allowing Christ to do a (sometimes painful) work in us so that his kingdom may expand.
Why God won't give wisdom to the double-minded doubter. When I read this the first couple of times, I was pretty confused. I was thinking if anyone needs wisdom, it's the skeptical people, right? I accidentally cross-referenced this in the book of Jeremiah. Jeremiah is a prophet during some of Israel's most rebellious times. These same people that God delivered out from under slavery are literally breaking every commandment. They are carving and molding idols to worship. They have completely abandoned God and Jeremiah has been called to both beg for the repentance of the people and warn of the consequences. Jeremiah uses a lot of shameful language toward Israelites and God does His best to let them know how displeased He is with their wandering. As I read through this book, I begin to see how the Lord cannot trust the hearts of these people with progress or blessing as He acknowledges the Israelites tendency to follow their flesh into sin. "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?" Jeremiah 17:9. What does a deceitful heart do with wisdom? In the case of the Israelites, and for many today, it's used for selfish ambition. So much so, that in Jeremiah chapter 3, God exposed the nation of Judah for only attempting to return because of God's warning of destruction, not because they desired to repent. When we ask for wisdom, we have to accept the answer without doubting or using it to self serve!!
A rich person will wither away pursuing activities. The term "activities" has been called into question on every level this year. Everything from sports to how we make our living has been investigated for it's necessity. In hindsight, I think we will be thankful for combing over our schedules seeing what needs to be done. But right now, it's just confusing. I find myself saying but I enjoy that... or I can't make this a habit because I won't have time for it after quarantine... should I reach out about that or is it just going to get shut down eventually? How do we know what to do and what to stop doing? When James says "In the same way, the rich person will wither away while pursuing his activities," I can't help but think of people instead of activities.
Our questions should revolve around the nature of helping, discipling, and checking on others. This season of life will equip us for the rest. The next hard time is just around the corner. If we fill our time with loving on people in a meaningful way, the kingdom grows with people who can find joy in the trial. Think of ways to uplift your coworkers, make a list of family members that live alone and check on them, look at your calendar right now and invite a neighbor over for dinner, thank your kids' teachers!!! I'm praying this Labor Day is one that clears the path for all of us, even if it's only enough to take the next step. We will remember how we made each other feel. ALL troubles are temporary, impact is eternal!