Encouragement? Yes Please!

From Kevin Funk…

If any of you who are reading this know me, you will find out that one of my spiritual gifts is the gift of encouragement.  Now I’m not saying this as some sort of pat-on-the-back comment.  I receive joy when I’m able to come along side someone in a time of need or perhaps just by smiling and talking about things in common.  I know when someone encourages me, it really lifts my spirits.

Just recently God has been telling me to study the book of James.  It’s always been an interest to me but for some reason He is saying let’s dig in.  Let’s read James 1:1-4  1. This letter is from James, a slave of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ.  I am writing to the “twelve tribes”—Jewish believers scattered abroad.  Greetings! 2. Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. 3. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. 4. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.

There are a few different ways to go about these verses but let’s just stick with the encouragement side of things.

James (Jesus’s brother) wrote this letter because of dispersed Jewish-Christians that were being persecuted.  James is concerned about the quality of their walk with God.  I think James has a feeling that some areas of the church needed to be looked at.  Notice in verse 2 he says “when troubles come your way”.  The word “when” is not an “if”.  We wish it said if in that verse. Like there could be a group of us that could escape the rocky roads of life.  If you’re a believer in Jesus Christ, on the day you received Him and agreed to follow His life and not your own, there is a reason you didn’t immediately vanish and arrive in glory.  There is a reason He has you here in this world.  100% of us will have some level of anguish in this life.

Encouragement time….You cannot separate your Savior from your trials.  The theology of Scripture doesn’t allow you to do that.  Paul says it clearly in Acts 17 that God is in careful control of the details of our experiences.  He says that God chooses the exact place where we are to live and the exact length of our days.  Listen!  God is in the middle of your trouble.  That’s awesome!

So why then would God allow trouble of any kind to come into the lives of His children when He has said in over a 100 different ways how much He loves us?  Look back at James 1:3.  For when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.  If you believe in the sovereignty of God, you should not be surprised to know that God is in the middle of it all.  If you were alive at all in the last couple of weeks you know there were times when you didn’t say the right things or you didn’t always think the right thing or do the right thing.  You basically demonstrated over and over your need of refinement.  This is all essential for our growth and grace.

Praise God because God has chosen us by His grace to be a part of His agenda on earth.  I no longer live life for the purposes of self, but to begin to find joy for the expanses of the kingdom of God.  So when I wake up I should reflect the joy that I’m getting by my now fixed direction for the purpose of pleasing and pursuing what God has in store for me.

God will take you where you were not intended on going, in order to achieve what you could not do on you own.  That’s grace!  Sometimes the grace of the Lord will come to you in uncomfortable forms.  That’s why James says you can look at those trials and experience joy.  I hope you can be encouraged by knowing that our Heavenly Father is in control of every detail of every trial set before us.  James has the mindset to encourage those through his letter.  I pray we can use our spiritual gifts to encourage those around us and those who God sets before us.  Amen.