Everything suggests that some COVID-19 restrictions are likely to remain in place for some time, even into next year. What the new “normal” will be for local churches remains unclear. Social distancing and close fellowship seem incompatible. How should we respond?
According to James 1, with considered joy.
To the scattered people of God James wrote – “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. (James 1:2-4 NIV)
“Consider” what we can “know” about trials from these verses –
TRIALS ARE INEVITABLE
Trials come. It’s not a question of “if” but “whenever” we face them. We should not be surprised when they come.
Trials are multicoloured
“of many kinds”. Of all shapes and sizes; including the current trial of lockdown with its varied and often very personal trials.
TRIALS ARE UNPLANNED (by us)
The verb “face” is elsewhere translated “fell into”. It’s what happened to the traveller who fell into the hands of robbers in the parable of the good Samaritan. Which of us anticipated the current lockdown?
TRIALS HAVE A DIVINE PURPOSE
They are designed by God to test our faith and to produce perseverance. True faith does to collapse when tested. Like a muscle it grows through exercise. Arthur Matthews, a missionary to China, wrote home sharing some of the difficulties he and his family were enduring: “These trials of faith are to give us patience [perseverance], for patience can only be worked as faith goes into the Pressure Chamber. To pull out because the pressure is laid on, and to start fretting would be to lose all the good He has in it for us.”
TRIALS BEAR FRUIT
“So that we may be mature” (grow to spiritual adulthood); complete (becoming like Christ); not lacking in anything (having all we need to live as God desires). All meaning that trials are necessary in God’s sovereign purposes for us and through us.
All this means that as we properly understand our trials we are able to “consider them pure joy”.
Without God’s Word we would only see trials – like lockdown – as negative, grievous and painful. As we trust the revelation of God’s Word about our trials and the fruit he purposes through them, the Holy Spirit enables us to consider them pure joy.
May it be so for us and the churches in which we serve.
May the considered joy of the Lord be our strength.
Warmly yours in our Lord Jesus