COLLINS COLUMN: Navigating Life’s Challenges with Faith

Published 10:00 am Friday, June 14, 2024

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James doesn’t pull any punches as he instructs us about how to wait for the Lord’s return, deal with sickness, suffering, and even drought. The answers to each struggle are remarkably consistent with the rest of scripture:

Be patient

Prepare or establish your heart

Don’t grumble against others

Consider the examples of the saints

Pray, sing praise, and pray again

Confess your sins and pray for each other

Wait on the Lord purposefully and with hope

While we all know these are the right attitudes and behaviors, they are often not our default mode. In order to live according to these instructions requires that we take time with God, receive encouragement from others, and remain steadfast to get through our difficult seasons. It might be that as James ends his short and direct letter, he is simply saying that to live for Christ requires us to be all in. We will never be able to navigate what is ahead if we are halfhearted in our commitment to Jesus.

James gives us so many common reminders. Farmers do not toss seeds out and the next day have a full harvest. It takes work, time, patience, and God’s provision to grow everything, from an heirloom tomato to raising a child to maturity. And we can’t be good stewards of the things God has given us unless we daily align our heart with his heart. To establish our hearts and minds requires daily attention. Just as the farmer has to tend the soil and regularly weed, so must we do the same with our minds and hearts.

As James finishes his letter, I imagine that he is thinking back on what happened in the lives of the apostles and in the early church as they came together in prayer. They saw the sick healed, the poor provided for, and God strengthen his church, even through persecution. As he concludes his letter, he calls all who will pay attention to imagine and even experience the miracles that follow earnest prayer. Our prayers break down walls that separate us from each other, facilitate forgiveness, correct mistakes, bring healing and wisdom to those in need, and strengthen us in our resolve to follow Jesus until our death or until he returns.

Earnest prayer also allows us to not only accept that God’s ways are good, even when we do not get the outcome we desired. Job’s response was that even if God slayed him, he would still place all of his hope and trust in the Almighty.

The psalmist’s words in verses 49 through 64 remind us that in all circumstances we can and must place our hope and lives in the hands of God. As we discipline ourselves to pursue God’s word and apply it to all aspects of our lives, we can not only endure great difficulty, we can even rejoice that God is using us to accomplish his purposes, not only now but through us in the next generation.

Father, today we choose to establish our hearts and minds in you and your promises once again. Holy Spirit, guide us to receive your truth. Fill us with wisdom from above, that we would not only endure but thrive, no matter what is happening in our lives and in the world around us. We trust your promises and eagerly await your return. In Jesus’ name, amen.