A few years ago, our pastor started a sermon with this quote from AW Tozer: "What we believe about God is the most important thing". I remember thinking 'Oh, that's good'. I then heard, saw or read that quote five more times in the next two weeks. So, I thought, maybe God was trying to get my attention with those words.
Do you agree with AW Tozer? I do. I believe that what we think about God shapes everything about us - our thoughts, our words, our actions. So my question for you is: "What do you believe to be true about God?"
Do you think of God as being similar to your human father - with his strengths and failings? Do you think of Him as a judge waiting up in heaven for us to mess up so he can mete out punishment? Do you think of Him as a loving Abba Father, waiting to bless you? What do you believe to be true about God? How you answer these types of questions, shapes how you live your life as Christian.
Here's another one: Do you believe that God is good, all the time? It is easy to believe in God's goodness when the path we walk is easy. When things are going our way and when we don't have much pain in our lives. But what about (to quote one of my favorite songs - “Blessed Be Your Name”) when the road is paved with suffering?
I remember when my husband and I were struggling to start our family and an older Christian woman came up to me and said dramatically, "Remember what it says in James 1:2." She then opened up her Bible and read, “Consider it pure joy, brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds” and then looked up at me like she had just given me a wonderful gift. As if to say, 'here you go, see you're supposed to find joy in this situation.'
I'll be honest, I wanted to punch her. I thought, you have no idea what I'm going through. How could you understand my suffering or my struggle?. You don't comprehend my circumstances because if you did, you wouldn't be giving me this verse. You'd be giving me something I could actually use.
Well now, years later, I understand that verse. The Bible is pretty clear that we will face suffering or trials. James isn't telling us to be happy or put on a smiley face when we are suffering, but rather to look positively at what trials can bring about in our lives. It's the second part of the verse that holds the key. Verse 3 says "…because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance."
Our pastor recently said that, "God created man in His image and man returned the favor." I thought that was not only funny but most likely true.
The Bible says that God is love and often we as humans equate love as kindness or happiness. If we love someone we want them to be happy or for them to make us happy. So then we project that definition of happiness onto our relationship with God. If God loves or loved me He would give me what I want to be happy. But that isn't God's goal for our lives. God doesn't want us to be happy. Rather God wants us to be more like Him. Just as we train our children to be adults or grownups, God is training us to be who He created us to be.
So James is not advising us to be happy or joyful about the trials and painful experiences in our lives. He is instead telling us to look hopefully at the outcome, the maturing of our faith, and the refining of our character into who God intends us to be. I believe, we won't understand the depth of our faith until it is tested. Trials teach us humility and self-knowledge and shape us into the women God has designed us to be.
God is good all the time but sometimes our circumstances don't seem to be good or the best of what we think we deserve. If we take our eyes off our circumstances, we can come to a deeper level of faith in God and realize that as our struggles shape and refine us, we are becoming the women God created us to be. I know that it may be difficult during times of uncertainty, struggle and pain to view these times as the 'gift' that they are. But as we grow through the struggles, I believe we can state with certainty that God is good all the time.