(James 1:2-4) My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. 4 But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.
I like stretching things. Whether it’s a rubber band or a bungee cord or whatever. It’ fun to see how far you can stretch it and what it can do. That’s like the Christian life. How far can you stretch and what can you do? You never know until God stretches you. Then you find out a lot of things about yourself you never knew before.
James said that God allows testings to come into our lives so that our patience will grow. We are not naturally patient people so maybe that’s why we have so many tests of our faith! But then James said we should let patience have its perfect work, so we can be mature and complete not lacking anything more in the patience department. Maybe if I realized that, I wouldn’t try to squirm out of my problems so quickly. I would be more “willing to yield” (James 3:17) with the working of God in my life through that stretching experience. God knows when I’ve had enough, and my patience is at a level of maturity and growth that He finds useful.
God wants to make my life purposeful. As we mature and are stretched through trials, we gain a greater capacity for service. Let’s go back to the rubber band analogy. If you stretch it a little it will probably be wide enough to hold a few pencils together. But if you keep stretching it then it now has a greater capacity for service. Like when I go out and get my newspaper in the morning and see that it’s held together by a rubber band. You see, that rubber band was stretched, and its utility value increased for greater things.
I think that’s why James says to count it all joy when we fall into various trials. There is a purpose for that stretching experience, so we might as well agree with God and the process of his broadening us for His kingdom. Otherwise we would see our troubles as useless annoyances and unwelcomed hindrances and we would just try and shake them off the best we could.
Cheryl and I still talk about a Gary Lawson “The Far Side” cartoon we saw a long time ago. It was Gumby on the stretch rack. He was tied down and being tortured but there was a big smile on his face. He was unfazed. Why? He allowed himself to be stretched. How does the old saying go? “Blessed are the flexible for they shall not be broken.” The more you fight the process the more you will feel like snapping and breaking. When we let go then we just roll with things and trust God that He is allowing us to grow up! (Eph 4:15) but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head; Christ.
I think of Joseph being stretched as he received notice that he and Mary had to travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem to be taxed. Who would want to travel all that way to be taxed, adding on the fact that Mary was pregnant? What purpose could come out of this experience? (I’ll let you answer that one.) How about the Joseph of the Old Testament? In Genesis he was thrown into prison completely innocent. What good could come out of this? Well, Pharaoh had a dream and in one day Joseph went from the pit to the palace. Soon all Israel was spared the famine. Both Josephs were stretched and both times immense good came out of it. And if you think about, God can take any ole “Joe” and stretch him and use him.
The next time your patience is tried . . . think of James and Joe. Oh, and don’t forget Gumby on the stretch rack!