Sunday 8 November
Welcome to our usual reading and message on this Remembrance Sunday. We have a separate post of the text version of the short act of Remembrance we used in church today should you be interested. Remembrance Service
Our normal service this week looks at the Reading from the Book of James chapter 1
James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,
To the twelve tribes scattered among the nations:
Trials and Temptations
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.
Believers in humble circumstances ought to take pride in their high position. But the rich should take pride in their humiliation—since they will pass away like a wild flower. For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich will fade away even while they go about their business.
Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.
When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.
Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of first fruits of all he created.
As we will read the book of James, over the next three weeks, it focuses on Faith tested by trials, Faith shown by works, Faith proven by conduct and lastly with faith comes persecution. So, as we begin, I wonder, are you like me in wondering “how” it can possibly be pure joy to face the trials of life that can be crushing; mentally, physically, emotionally and can come close to destroying our faith?
It is in enduring these trials that “with hindsight” one can see the success and on doing so it is then that I can get a handle on what is being said here. At the time however it probably wouldn’t make any sense to a person hearing this for the first time.
In a song I played in church “When Trials Come”, Kirstyn Getty sings these words
‘When I am weary with the cost, I see the triumph of the cross, so in its shadow I shall run, till He completes the work begun, till you complete the work begun’.
Two things come to mind. The first of which is that I have yet to meet a person able to do everything perfectly without practice. Some may be especially gifted in one or two areas but never in every area of life. There is always a barrier to perfection that needs perseverance to learn or increase skill levels or endurance or both.
The second thing that comes to mind for me is that comparison of the costs. The cost the person in the song has become weary with. After all we all know the expression: - nothing in life is free! We naturally, to some extent, weigh the costs against what we are getting and if the cost is too high, we don’t bother with whatever it is we are considering. In the lyrics, it is then that the cross looms large. The cost involved in the cross can only be extortionate extravagance. The death of Emmanuel, of God with us, for you and you alone is incredible and yet that was the cost and it was the price paid for your salvation. Compared to that, the cost of our trials pale into insignificance.
Whilst the book of James begins by telling us to consider it pure joy when we face trials, it goes on to advise us to be strong in our faith and to ask for what we need to endure. To ask with unwavering faith and on receiving to respond in living our lives as the Bible taches us, with honesty and integrity.
To do so effectively almost demands that we call on God to give us strength to endure. But it also points to the price of eternal life and prize of salvation that is waiting for us. It points to Christ as an example and as a mentor for each one of us.
Like the song, it points to the cross as our anchor, to which we can rely when trials come. However, on this Remembrance Sunday we need to think of those for whom the cost has been too great. Not just in past battles but still today if not in wars with guns and bombs then in the mental anguish caused by PTSD as well as from bullying or by Covid-19 and isolation. I encourage you to find the song “You Say” and as you listen to it, I pray you can take the words to heart and know God’s truth for yourself.
The truth that took Christ to the cross for you because the cost, although extortionate extravagance, was a price Christ knew to be worth it for you!