New Year, New You
The start of a new year means different things to different people. As you look down the stretch of road leading into the year that lies ahead, are you filled with excitement or fear? Are you a glass "half-full" or "half-empty" kind of person?
The fact is that we don't know what lies ahead - whether good or bad. We can't control what happens but only our reaction to the event or circumstance.
So then, how should we approach this new year and decade in a spiritual way?
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.4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
In James 1:2-4, he does not say "if" but 'whenever' trials of many kinds come. Bottom-line, they will come. What trials can we expect this year?
For many of us, it could be financial, with the country facing a poor economic forecast. For some, it could be health problems, trouble at work or in our relationships. Crime is also an ever-present shadow hanging over our daily lives.
The question is: how will you face these trials? With a positive outlook, willing to let God teach you whatever He wants you to learn OR "grinning and bearing" them because you have to?
James says: we need to consider trials "pure joy". Hang on, you say. "Pure joy" is that feeling when your favourite sports team scores the winning goal or try; when your baby takes his first step or what we'd imagine feeling on winning the Lotto. Suffering and pain is no fun.
Yet, this is what James learned from Jesus' Sermon on the Mount.
In Matthew 5:11-12, Jesus said: Jesus calls suffering for doing what is right a "blessing" and a reason to rejoice.
His big brother's teaching was always contrary to the world's way of taking the easy way out. Persecution strips away superficial belief.
James, at one stage in his life, also made fun of Jesus - mocking him (John 7:3-5) and believing he was crazy (Mark 3:21).
But, as he himself became a believer, he learned first-hand about suffering.
His encouragement to believers over 2000 years ago and also today, is that your character will be built if you persevere through trials. Jesus promised a reward in heaven.
REFLECTION: How do you respond to trials? With faith or fear?
PRAYER FOCUS: Commit every year to the Lord, and ask him to carry you through every situation you face, the good and the bad.
ACTION: Make the decision to face trials in your life with the help of our big brother Jesus and not on your own, looking at every situation from a mature and godly perspective.