Through the Word in 2020 #127 – Sep. 30 / The Pain of Misunderstanding

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Misunderstanding things can lead to all sorts of misery.

There is the well know account of Martin Luther in an exchange with Johann von Staupitz, Luther’s confessor.

Before his coming to understand the Gospel and still bound up in the works/salvation Romanism of his day – Luther would confess sins for hours on end trying to rid himself of every little foible. One day, wearied by this behavior Staupitz told him to stop being this microscopic about every little thing and just love God. ‘Love God?’ Luther shot back – ‘I hate him.’

He hated God, because did not understand either God, nor the Gospel. And that misunderstanding tortured him day and night until he at last saw that Believers are justified by grace through faith – with the righteousness of Christ.

And as our readings today include Isaiah 42–44:5; Luke 20:27–40; James 1:2–18 and Proverbs 30 – we’ll find a misreading or misunderstanding in James that has frustrated and discouraged many a Child of God.

We’ll talk a bit about that today on Through the Word in 2020. I’m Reid Ferguson.

Count it all joy when you meet trials of various kinds counsels James 1:2. And a simple misreading here can make James’ point onerous and heavy rather than sweet and helpful. 

Note first that the text does NOT say, consider trials in and of themselves joyous things. It is not a plea to become masochists and take pleasure in pain. He says count it all joy “when” – or, on the occasion of meeting trials of various kinds.

Many in misreading this have tried to do the impossible and make the trials themselves joyful, only to fail and then imagine themselves as having failed God in it. Soon they come to ignore, or even resent or hate such a passage. But the idea here is not to ignore the difficulty of any trial, but to see that upon entering trials, we have an opportunity before us which is joyous. And that opportunity is at least in part to use our weakness as a place to learn dependence, to experience the sustaining power of God, and to grow in the image of Christ as we look to His Spirit in it. That by His grace we can take advantage even of the most harrowing things.

So the call is not to somehow make pain itself pleasurable. It is to say that in Christ, everything can be redeemed for our good. And that each trial presents new opportunities for that.

Now how to do that in each case, takes a wisdom we do not natively have. But it is a wisdom God delights to give when we seek Him for it. Each trial may require some new insight, some new glimmer of wisdom peculiar to that particular trial. But if we are assured in our hearts that He loves us so and desires to meet us there, we will find the prayer for that wisdom answered in due course.

We must trust our God, His care, power and good will toward us in Christ.

Believer – keep looking to your Savior. He not only redeems your soul, but all of your experiences, trials, temptations and woes. Nothing is beyond His reach. Especially you yourself. And He holds you, in the palm of His nail-scarred hand.

And if you lack the wisdom to live there today – ask. He won’t chide you for it – but gives generously to all in this regard.

Think on that today Christian.

God willing, we’ll be back tomorrow.

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