Gift of Joy, a gift from God
Have you read the book of James in the Bible? When I was a teen, I decided to read the Bible cover to cover. I got through Genesis and started Exodus and decided to read the New Testament. Switching Testaments was my downfall. I failed to finish the Old Testament.
I decided once to read as many of the short Books of the Bible as I could once as a kind of study of my own. I can honestly say depending on the version you use, it is harder than you think. A summary Bible spins a great tale, but with little actual scripture in it. You can fly through these short books, but what did you accomplish? Checking off a list is not an accomplishment.
I am preparing to teach this Sunday the Book of James. I have read James several times. I pull this jewel of a book out when I need encouragement in my Christian walk. I knew very little about James. In my Christian education, I seem to have missed some facts along the way. Yes, I knew he was Jesus’ half brother (different Fathers). But that was it.
James the Just was how he was known. He was killed around AD62. It seems between rulers, a high priest got it in his head that James needed to die. So, he and his followers took James to a Pinnacle of the church and threw him down. That did not kill him, so they stoned him. Nope, not done. One of the men took a club to him.
As I am reading James 1:2-18, I am struck by his words. “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kind, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.” (James 1:2-3). Count it all joy when you meet trials. He faced trials and wrote about joy.
Joy, not happiness, comes from a place deep within our Christian faith. Non-believers think joy and happy are interchangeable. But we know that is not true. Last weekend, I listened to a speaker guiding us through the “Joy in the Journey”. How do you find joy? I would say in the little things around you.
See, I am a gift giver. I love to give gifts (wish I could give more that did not cost my pocketbook a pretty penny). I love to make others feel special. I think I must have gotten that from my Heavenly Father. I see gifts that God gives us, do you? The wren that sits outside your window singing his song to wake you up, gift from God. The gentle wind blowing your hair every which way, yep, gift from God. The car that was sliding towards you on ice and suddenly missed you somehow, gift from God. Those gifts are kind of obvious. What about an ache that will not go away that leads to a diagnosis that you do not want? What about the loss of a loved one, could that be a gift? Yes, it can be depending on your faith.
I lost both parents, one grand parent and my Mother-in-Law all in about a year’s time. Both of my parents were considered young (66 &72). I was young (44) with a young child (9) at the time. How could I possibly view the loss as a gift? I am selfish in this gift. I do not have to care for elderly parents, to make decisions for them, to change their diaper. But I also think of the joy they experienced when they got to see Jesus face to face (I’m a little jealous). So, reading James 1:2-3, I do count it a joy that I suffered trials; maybe not as I experienced them, but definitely after I am on the other side of them.
I found a verse back in October last year that gives me joy. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” This verse is a road map as to how to have joy in all circumstances. James 1:2-18, is the road map to perseverance through faith. The saying is somewhat true, “What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.” What I want to say is “What doesn’t kill you if you turn to God, makes your faith stronger.”
Gifts from God are not always wrapped beautifully, they are not always tied up with a pretty bow