Posted on: 10th December 2018
“And she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.”
When I read in the gospels the story of the birth of Jesus, I read a verse like “Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem”, without stopping to consider the implication. Have you ever stopped to question how far that was, what the route was like or how long it would have taken? Let’s just say, it wasn’t close, easy or quick! Factor in the pregnancy and you must come to the conclusion that Mary knew what it was like to face adversity.
Compare this to the opening verses in the book of James 1:2, “Consider it pure joy when you face trials of many kinds.” I wonder if that is the sort of encouragement that spurred Mary on to the stable in Bethlehem. Interestingly, the book of James was written by Jesus’ brother, another son of Mary. I wonder if the story of Jesus’ birth as well as his death were in his mind as he wrote those words.
I heard a story once about a lump of rock that made me consider the meaning of James 1:2. In a busy museum there was a beautiful marble statue that people in their thousands would come and admire. The statue was magnificently crafted and showed the expertise of the sculptor. A marble tile from the floor looked up and grumbled at the statue, “It’s alright for you, everyone loves you and admires you. All I get is walked all over and trodden on each day.” The statue looked down at the tile and replied, “My friend, we were once the same but when the sculptor came at me with his tools, I allowed him to break me and shape me in the way he saw best. There were times when I wanted to crack and give in, but I trusted his workmanship.”
Maybe the reason Mary was able to face her adversity was because she clung to the promise in Isaiah 7:14, “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.” During this season as advent, let us consider how we can be thankful for adversity, clinging to the promises we have been given.
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. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
Posted on: 8th October 2018
“Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven…”
Verses like this in Matthew deserve making into fridge magnets, bumper stickers and t-shirts. What a fantastic encouragement to all who need encouragement. But we do not present the gospel fully if we just cherry pick the best bits. The whole verse reads, “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
When we look into the life of Saint Wilfrid, we see a saint who lived to establish the church in the north of England against many oppositions. His determination and strong confidence in his beliefs led him to face lots of opposition from all sides. But he showed resilience and character and stood strong for what he felt was right. Through our assemblies and form worships this week we will be looking more into the life and achievements of Saint Wilfrid.
James, the writer in the New Testament offers a gift money cannot buy. In James 1:4 it says, “…so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
What an offer! Who wouldn’t want some of that maturity, completeness and a life without lack? James precedes this offer with what it takes to achieve such rewards by saying,
“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. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
Are you facing a trial at the moment? Whatever you are up against, my prayer is that you will see the fruit of your determination as you grow perseverance that leads to completion. If it is persecution from others because of your determination to do what is right, then take heart, rejoice and be glad, because God has reserved a reward for you.