2Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:2-4 NIV
I was reading the above passage to my children last evening as we shared in our family quiet time. My kids shared some "trials" that they are going through...relationships, school, homework, etc. Then we talked about how God is using those to teach us something. James says here that God is working to make us more complete. So I was re-reading that passage this afternoon and thinking about the things my kids had shared. On the second time through, that word--complete--jumped out at me. That's why I went and looked at this definition.
1. having all parts or elements; lacking nothing; whole; entire; full
It's not that I didn't know what it meant. I guess I just had to see it for myself again to firm something up in my mind.
You see, the Bible teaches that every follower of Christ is on a journey. The road is long and hard. Jesus called it narrow and said the gate to enter this journey is small. The "toughness" of this life is why James wrote this passage. Here's the news that may shock many of us. It will not get any easier...at least not until this portion of the journey is over.
You and I will not be complete (for those of us who know Christ) until the day that we stand before God. Until then, we are under construction. God is working on me. He's refining the edges. Tossing aside the extraneous matter. Breaking me down so that He can rebuild me the way He desires. (For those of you old enough to remember, think "Six Million Dollar Man"...only heavily discounted. You know, "We can rebuild him.")
That's what God is up to in every trial of our life. Now, some of us have big trials (bills outnumber the paychecks); others of us have bigger trials (illness or death). That's God's way of using the right tool. Kind of like a sculptor. If you've ever watched one of those guys work, they don't use the same tools. When the need is detail, they pull out the smaller tools and work delicately with brushes to smooth away the dust. But when there's a big chunk of rock to be removed, they bring out the big hammers--the kind that would make the "Tool Man" proud.
Here's the catch. In order to mature and move towards completion, you have to stand still. That rock can't get up and move and neither can you and I. When the trial comes, it's time to stand still, wait on God. If you don't, you might just mess up the Master's work. He knows best. He knows the tools to use and how to use them. When the pain of trial comes, praise God for the masterpiece He's working in you and that you are one step closer to completion.
One final word. When completed, the work of art does not proclaim itself. These beautiful objects stand as unswerving tributes of their master's ability to build. You and I must do the same. After every difficulty and every trial, we must emerge from the furnace with God's name on our lips...proudly proclaiming to the world the work of our Father.
Whatever your trial today...whether chunk removal or finishing details...thank God with joy that He sees the value in you.