Monthly Archives: September 2012

An Opportunity for Joy

Don’t you hate it?

I know I do.

I was reading through James and I only made it through a few verses.

 Verse 2 says, “Dear brothers and sisters, whenever trouble comes your way, let it be an opportunity for joy.”

 Don’t you hate that?

When you’re going through trouble or trials of any kind, don’t you just want to deal with that pain?

Don’t you just want to be upset?

Don’t you just want to squeeze into a ball and cry?

Don’t you just want to give into your emotions and do whatever you want?

 I doubt I’m the only one who has had thoughts like this while going through trials.

 In fact, I know I’m not because people have recently shared with me all of these feelings they’ve had in the past.

 But don’t you hate that?

 Right away in this letter, James hits it hard.

 “When bad things happen, let it be an opportunity for joy.”

 Really?  Let it be an opportunity for joy?  You mean, in the midst of my hurt and my pain, I’m supposed to be thinking about how this mess I’m in should be an opportunity for joy?

 There are times when I don’t want to step back from my pain and think like this.  But James is saying, “Look.  You need to step back from the pain you’re going through and have a little bit of perspective.  Be joyful, knowing that what doesn’t kill your faith makes it stronger.”

 So live in that place.

 Live in the continual reminder that whatever you may be going through, your faith will have a chance to grow and you can get through it.

Ultimately, you have two choices.  In your pain, you can be bitter or you can be better.

Bitterness is easy.

You can quit on your relationship with God.

You can sit in a bar and drink away your sorrows.

Past sins can sneak up on you and you can fall into bad decision-making.

There are a thousand bad decisions that can be made.

Being better requires more.

It means you don’t give up.  You don’t give up at all.  You scratch, claw, and fight to not fall into the sin that so easily entangles us.

Being better means choosing your relationship with God above all.

Being better means working on things that need to be worked on.

Being better means that in the midst of the pain, you continually work on your endurance, so that in the future, you will be stronger in character.

So yes, in the midst of any garbage you may be going through, it’s easy to not be the person God has called you to be.

But let it be an opportunity for joy, knowing that your faith will have a chance to grow and you can be stronger in character.

Choose to be better.

-Jason Kinzel-

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Love to the End

Just before the Passover Feast, Jesus knew that the time had come to leave this world to go to the Father. Having loved his dear companions, he continued to love them right to the end.”  (John 13:1, The Message)

Have you ever stopped to consider what was on Jesus’ heart just before the crucifixion?  What might he have thought about?  What images played across his mind?

Obviously, the shadow of the cross fell plainly on his path.  He also knew what Judas was about to do.  Jesus had chosen Judas, knowing Judas would not choose Jesus in the end.  Jesus knew Peter would betray him and that all the other disciples would scatter.  He would be all alone.

What might his thoughts have been?  Were the words of his Gethsemane prayers already taking shape?  “Is there a plan B?  Yet, not my will, but your will be done, Father.”  How about his answers to the questions of Pilate and his planned silence before Caiaphas?

We certainly could paint quite the picture of the storm Jesus faced.  John takes time in the midst of the gathering gale to let us in on where Jesus’ heart was.  Jesus loved his disciples, even as the end was coming.

While Jesus was certainly troubled and growing increasingly distressed, at that moment what mattered is that he loved his disciples.  He showed it by doing the lowest of low tasks among the Jews, washing his disciples’ feet.

I find in this a comfort and a challenge.  Had I been at the table, Jesus’ love for me would still be real and tangible.  It is very real today, 2000 years later.  As he was facing the end, he knew he was making a beginning for us.

The challenge comes in taking up his example and serving others in the most basic of ways regardless of my life’s circumstances.  When things are well, my comfort may keep me from loving through service.  When things are hard, my hardship may blind me to the needs of others.  The imitation of Jesus here is to not let the circumstances of life, whether easy or hard, to keep us from loving and serving one another.

Today, we know that Jesus loves us and he will love us to the end.  We have opportunity today to love someone else as Jesus loves us through the ups and downs of life.  In this way, we show ourselves to be his disciples.

Mike Spinelli

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