From The Book of James.
In a world of chaos and pain, we’re not alone like the rest of the world. We have the Creator of the universe who is writing a unique story for each of us. The reality is that without conflicts in our world, we would not grow.
With conflict, comes growth.
Today, I hope to convince you that this statement is true. In the book of James, we read:
“James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes scattered among the nations: Greetings. 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 1:1-4)
Like I said, with conflict, comes growth.
Before we start unpacking these verses and this ‘with conflict comes growth’ statement, let’s consider the historical context that this group of Believers would have lived in.
It is believed “…that this letter was written before A.D. 50 to the Jewish Christians who were dispersed due to persecution. James writes this letter as a pastor to a scattered flock whom are enduring hardship.” (http://www.trinitystudycenter.com/james/james _1-1-4.php)
If we’re really going to set the stage for this passage, we need to understand that the Believers that James is writing to were experiencing conflict at every turn.
They were under rule of a foreign government and a military that despised their race and their culture. Death due to illness was a daily occurrence. Financial security was uncertain due to the numerous amounts of corrupt taxation.
Furthermore, their family members and tribesman were rejecting them because of their new-found faith in this man named Jesus. Their tribesmen who are fellow Believers were scattered all over the known world with little or no communication.
Let’s be clear that these Believers were experiencing some conflict.
Principle 1: Share The Conflict
As we come back to our passage, focusing on the first verse, we read,
“James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes scattered among the nations: Greetings.” (1:1)
It’s important to recognize that though these Believers were scattered due to an array of conflicts, James considers them unified in their struggles. Therefore he greets them accordingly, as a group of Believers who is ‘sharing the conflict’.
God is leading James to recognize their disconnect as a people, but to show them that they’re not alone and that they’re in this conflict together.
One of my preferred Christian authors is a man by the name of Donald Miller. Perhaps you’ve read his book, “Searching For God Knows What” or his memoire, “Blue Like Jazz”? Mr. Miller’s latest book is titled, “A Million Miles in a Thousand Years”.
In this book, he explores the concept of God as the writer of a dramatic screen-play. We all have pivotal and dramatic roles. He proposes that if our Writer (God) does not allow conflicts within our screen-play, then our stories just simply aren’t worth telling.
The following is a quote from chapter 27: “The Pain Will Bind Us“.
“I remember seeing a story on 60 Minutes about a group of American businessmen who were taken captive and held for ransom in South America. They were chained to each other for two years. They were kept in a cage and treated like dogs. In the interview, the three of them looked healthy, but I wondered about the scars they had on their bodies, the scars we couldn’t see. I noticed during the interview, the men were better with each other than most groups of men tend to be. They didn’t finish each other’s sentences, they knew when to stop talking and let the other express what he was better at expressing. And there was a love between them that was not a mushy love or even a brotherly love; it was a love I can only imagine being melded in the kind of torment that is only understood by somebody else experiencing the same pain. They were bound by conflict. And it’s not just big pain that binds. It’s any sort of conflict. It’s any sort of common purpose being arrived at through a tough middle that brings people together.” (Miller, 2009, Pg. 183-184)
Principle 2: Embrace The Conflict
After the first verse and James’ recognition that these believers are disconnected; he jumps right into the subject at hand:
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds,” (1:1-2)
James is advising these scattered Believers to ‘embrace the conflict’ that’s set before them. To joyfully accept what they cannot avoid. Now these Believers have no better human nature then you or I. Try to imagine their initial reaction?
The fact is that this passage and the principle of joyfully accepting conflict are just as foundational for us as Believers today. Yet, how often do we allow our inner conflicts and conflicts with the people we interact with, overwhelm us?
It’s not an easy task and it’s not supposed to be. It’s not a natural reaction for us as human beings. This is what separates us as Believers, from the world around us. In a world that is selfish, we are called to be selfless!
Also keep in mind that this concept of rejoicing in the face of adversity is found throughout Scripture.
Principle 3: Endure The Conflict
As we look to the end of verse 2, we need to take note of the comma behind the “…trials of many kinds…” If by this point, we’ve established that we should be joyful during times of trials, but why? The answer is found in verse 3:
“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.” (1:3-4) It’s all about perseverance!
Verse 3 is our call to ‘endure the conflict’ in order to complete the growth process. And if we didn’t get the message, verse 4 fully explains the process: “…that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
We are called to grow. In order to grow spiritually into mature, complete Believers who are not lacking anything, we must ‘endure some conflict.’ Unfortunately, an easy life does not produce strong Christians.
“…I realized how much of our lives are spent trying to avoid conflict. Half the commercials on television are selling us something that will make life easier. Part of me wonders if our stories aren’t being stolen by the easy life.” (Donald Miller – A Million Miles In A Thousand Years)
Share, embrace and endure your conflicts this week. In turn, experience the growth needed to persevere.
Join the Conversation, Leave Your Thoughts
What conflict are you facing right now? How could you share this conflict? How will you embrace it and endure it?