I suppose I have never really liked reading what James has to say in his letter. ‘Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. (James 1:2, NLT). How can I experience great joy when things go wrong. What can James possibly mean? He goes on to explain that troubles bring a test of our faith which will help us to grow more mature as Christians. ‘For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing’ (James 1:3-4, NLT).
Peter writes a letter to believers who are exiled in faraway places to encourage them to rejoice in their imperishable inheritance kept in heaven for them even though they are going through times of trouble and suffering. ‘So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world’ (1 Peter 1:6-7, NLT).
How exciting it is when someone discovers a piece of jewellery which has been buried in dirty, wet soil in their garden since Roman times. That gold emerges as shiny and bright as the day it was made into an ornamental bracelet or brooch so long ago. There is no deterioration in pure gold. It is perfect. It is beautiful. But it has been refined in the furnace. That furnace brought any worthless dross to the surface where it could be skimmed away. It is a spiritual metaphor used in the book of Malachi. ‘But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver…’ (Malachi 3:2-4).
Fire was also used as a metaphor by John the Baptist. ‘I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire’ (Matthew 3:11-12).
If we are willing to allow the Lord Jesus to purify our hearts, we will grow in holiness and be drawn closer to Him. We will be ready when Jesus our Lord and Saviour comes again to the earth, or we pass into eternity before that day. We will receive the crown of life, the winner`s wreath at the end of a race. `Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable’ (1 Corinthians 9:24-25).
I would like to pray a prayer based on the words of a song written in 1990 by Brian Doerksen.
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