The way you see it isn’t necessarily how it really is, it’s just how you see it.
Truer words could not have been spoken when it comes to understanding how God operates in our lives. Too many Jesus followers base their beliefs about God on their circumstances rather on who God says he is. Here’s the bottom line, Jesus is a crystal clear image of who God is. Why then do we exalt God’s adapting to mankind’s failure over the clear picture of God’s intentions toward mankind through Christ? I don’t know either.
Well, that’s not true, I really do know. It’s because well meaning people want to honor the “whole counsel of the word” and not leave out the parts about God killing the entire planet except one family, God telling Aaron to kill thousands of people, and of course Job, don’t forget about him when you’re developing your theology about God taking things away from people.
All those things happened, God did that. However, those actions were before the cross, when God was still holding sins against people and executing judgment real time. Except for Job, all the judgment displayed by God before the cross was in response to sin. Job eventually admitted he was wrong about God, but that’s for another time.
Now, under the New Covenant, Jesus is the sin offering for the entire world, past present and future. That doesn’t mean you can get away with sin, it means that God has already judged them in Jesus, never to be judged again.
When we read the Bible, we have to keep in mind that we’re on this side of the cross, under a new and better covenant, one based on faith rather than obedience. One that’s upheld by the faithfulness of Jesus rather than our own faithfulness. So when we read books in the Bible, like James, we have to put on our New Covenant filter.
Perspective is everything, here’s an example…
James 1:9 Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, 10 and the rich in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grass he will pass away. 11 For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits. 12 Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.
This passage can be read from 2 different perspectives:
The rich man should rejoice and remain faithful when God puts him through a trial and he loses his wealth because he’ll gain a crown of life after the trial if he rejoices and remains faithful in the midst of the trial.
If you’re rich and lose everything, don’t worry about it because all that stuff is temporary. Remain faithful toward God because he’s going to lead you into life no matter what happens.
Do you see the difference? One attributes the trial to God, the other simply believes that no matter what, God will lead you into life because you love him.
By the way, did you catch the point about the crown? Who is the crown of life promised to? Those who love God. Interesting huh? It doesn’t say the crown of life is promised to those who pass the test or endure the trial.
Let me add a little more to the scenario. Back up a little bit to James 1:2-3.
James 1:2 My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; 3 Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.
Then take a look at James 1:13
13 Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: 14 But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.
In verse 2 we’re instructed to count it all joy when we fall into temptations but verse 13 instructs us to never say they’re from God. In context, the example James chooses to give as the kind of temptation/trial he’s enduring is losing what you have. Of course James is writing to the early church who was facing all kinds of persecution and hardship so they would have understood his meaning from their current experiences, but the plain example he gives us is loss.
Side Note: The word for “temptation” in verse 2 is the same Greek word in verse 13, it means trial, experiment or test. Some translations translate the word as “trial” in verse 2. Because of this people have developed a doctrine that God won’t tempt you but he’ll initiate trials of hardship so you’ll learn patience. That can’t be true though because he clearly uses the same word in verse 13 and says “don’t say it’s from God.” The testing God does in inwardly, by his spirit, with his word to discipline, instruct and determine if you’re ready.
So you’re left with a choice between two perspectives, you can see trials one of two ways, either from God or not from God. One recognizes that they come, yet God will lead you to life through them, the other concludes the trial is from God for your benefit. Yes, you can certainly learn from trials/temptations, but I’m with James on this one, DON’T SAY THEY’RE FROM GOD!
Let’s read on in James…
James 1:16 So don’t be misled, my dear brothers and sisters. 17 Whatever is good and perfect comes down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow.
James goes out of his way to state that only the good things are from God, and that won’t change. This a literary device to expand on his previous point. He states how to see trials, then he goes even further to state that only good things come from God, he covers how to see both sides of the “trial” equation. Do you see it?
He’s writing to an early church that is relating to God in a whole new way, a way they’ve never known. They’re no longer the children of Israel wandering in the desert subject to God’s judgment for their performance.
James’ letter is a bold correction of their mindset. James is correcting their erroneous view of God and telling them to quit blaming God for their problems. It’s sad to me that James is often used to cause Christians to accept their hardships through attributing them to God when his intention is the EXACT OPPOSITE. James is setting the record straight, quit blaming your trials and loss on God, only the good things come from him!
Once you see it, you can’t unsee it.
Which perspective do you see"?
What are you blaming on God that he’s not actually doing in your life?
When you see that only good things come from God, how will that change how you see your circumstances?