Focal Passage: James 1:2-18
We were traveling through the Nairobi National Game Park located outside the Kenyan capital. It is a beautiful reminder of what life was like before the advent of the tribal society which now inhabits the nation. In the park is a
rich diversity of African wildlife and flora that remind one of primeval Africa.
The mini-safari we took was filled with breathtaking views of herds of zebras, antelopes, and gazelles. In dense pockets of the preserve were hidden lions and hyenas. And along the lake were hippos and crocodiles. It was an incredible and dangerous experience!
One such danger occurred when we approached a herd of cape buffaloes. At first it appeared to be a small group, so we continued driving ahead. Suddenly, we were literally surrounded by a herd of at least 100 buffaloes. We could not back-up nor move forward. For an instant, we were immobilized and powerless. Knowing that cape buffaloes are the most unpredictable and dangerous animals in Africa, we could only sit still in our truck and wait until the herd moved on.
Gratefully, they ignored us and moved on to an awaiting pool of water, allowing us to proceed gingerly and quietly ahead.
James describes a similar experience in relation to facing trials and temptations. He writes, “Count (consider) it now whole and unmixed joy whenever you fall into the midst of manifold temptations or testings.” The term he uses describes the experience of being totally surrounded by trials, not sought or pursued but fell into. He recognizes that sometimes we fall into testing (sometimes positive but more often negative) situations, like our herd of buffaloes, and encourages us to face it with full joy.
For James each unexpected trial is part of a larger story that God is telling through the lives of his people. If faced in the right way it produces what William Barclay calls unswerving constancy (patience) — that is, the ability to turn those trials into something great and glorious, making us perfected and completed, lacking in nothing.
In the midst of trials we are called to be joyful, and when we face temptations and remain unscathed, we are truly blessed. We are not mere puppets to an unpredictable God who changes with every passing mood and passion, but instead,
we are chosen and protected by the God “who does not change like shifting shadows” (NIV). Thus, life becomes more abundant and rich when temptations are encountered and defeated by God’s grace, for there is nothing which comes from God which is not good and does not re-create our lives showing us that we belong to Him (1:17-18).