James 1 v 2-4 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds,3because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.4Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
Ever since I was a child I have always been a great fan of the TV Detective series “Columbo”. For those of you unfamiliar, the actor, the late Peter Falk, plays the role of the unassuming yet brilliant Detective Lt Columbo of the Los Angeles Police Department. It’s a Detective series where Lt Columbo always gets his man or woman. He proves that no one, no matter how clever, is above the law.
One of my all-time favorite episodes of Columbo has the title “A Case of Immunity”. It centres around a foreign diplomat who commits a murder. He then attempts to use his diplomatic immunity to evade justice. Of course he hasn’t figured on the wily, resourceful and intelligent Lt Columbo. He unravels the case. Proves the murderer’s diplomatic immunity useless and reveals his guilt.
This week I would like to look at immunity in regards to difficult situations and circumstances. Why, as Christians ,God can’t let us have immunity and reasons why he allows this to be the case.
John 10 v 10 “I have come that you may have life and have it to the full” (NIV)
Here in John 10 Jesus states that he has come to bring us life….not just life, but life in abundance. This will be a familiar and favourite passage for many of us. It lifts and comforts us because it speaks of an inexhaustible supply of Gods goodness to each and every one of us. But if this is truly Gods promise, why don’t we have immunity from our problems? Why do we experience such dark times? And why are our lives so interwoven by trials and difficulties?
As I looked closely at John 10 v 10 the verse itself does become very clear. Here Jesus states that “He has come to bring us life”. It is through his death on the cross that we have the life he speaks of (John 3 v 16). But the fullness of life or abundance he mentions is clearly the eternal life promised to us by God in his word (John 3 v 36). So, remember that whatever problems you face today. However difficult or demanding they may be. You can face them with this eternal promise in John 10 v 10. You can face them with sins forgiven and promise of an eternal life so amazing that no words can describe it. You will live forever. Forever free from sickness, pain, problems and trials….and that is Gods eternal promise. (Isaiah 65 v 17)
For all Gods wonderful promises to us in John 10 v 10, there is no promise of immunity from problems in the “here and now”. Through my entire search of scripture I can find no specific promise that states “we will never experience problems”. In many respects what I have found does tend to point to the exact opposite. Jesus tells us quite plainly in Matthew 16 v 24 “To take up our cross and follow him”. These are not words spoken lightly. They are spoken by the Son Of God, who, above all others, knew the cost of following the father.
Christ’s entire existence was based on sacrifice. He gave his life to pay the price for us. (John 3 v 16). If we looked at his brief life and ministry it becomes clear that his was a desperately difficult, problem filled, existence. Born into poor surroundings (Luke 2 v 16). He was hunted by King Herod as a child (Matthew 2 v 16 & 17). He knew rejection (Luke 4 v 14 -20). Homelessness (Luke 9 v 58). Sorrow (John 11 v 35). Anguish (Luke 22 v 44). Which all culminates in his betrayal (Luke 22 v 1 – 6) Torture (John 19 v 1-3 Isaiah 52 v 14). Crucifixion (Matthew 27 v 32 -56) and rejection by his heavenly father (Matthew 27 v 46). Christ left the immunity of heaven. He became subject to our world. This was the only way that salvation could be purchased. We must never forget the price he paid and what a wonderful Saviour he is.(Phil 2 v 6 – 8).
There is nothing that we can suffer today that would even compare with what Christ suffered for us. But like Christ, we too have a mission to complete for God. James 1 v 4 clearly states that Gods mission for us, his children is “to be complete and lacking in nothing”. It’s a divine call for maturity, in us, his followers. It’s a call to move away from being childlike and press on to being Christ like (Romans 8 v 29). It’s a call to have depth, character and unshakable faith. In the natural, with our sinful nature, this is impossible to achieve. Impossible because it’s a process that removes the one feeling human beings value above all others…comfort.
When I first got married I left my bachelor pad and moved in with my beautiful wife. Not only did I leave my bachelor pad but I also left my favorite comfy chair. I’ll be honest with you…..I loved my chair. Over the years it had acquired my “groove”. Very often after a hard day at work I would come home and just sink into it. The cares of the day vanished in the sheer comfort of that chair. I expect all you ladies are reading this and shaking your heads in disbelief. I can guarantee however that all you guys out there know exactly what I’m talking about. When we talk about chairs, there is nothing more important to a man than the “groove”.
After we got married and moved in together my wife bought us a new three piece suite. She loved our new three piece suite. I , on the other hand did not hold it in such affectionate regard. The truth was it wasn’t my old chair. It was pink, ugly and uncomfortable. No matter what I did I couldn’t settle on it. This had a profound psychological impact on my life. You ladies have to understand the effects that your furniture choices can have on your husbands. A man without a “groove ” is not really a man at all!
In the end I had no choice. I declared war on the sofa. It took a lot of time and hard work but eventually I began to work my groove into our sofa. The more I did it the more comfortable it began to feel. The more comfortable it began to feel the more time I spent sat on it. The more time I spent on the sofa the less active I became. My weight increased, I became lethargic. I lost all motivation. What happened to me was simple. My comfort had become my enemy.
There is a great spiritual truth to be learnt from my experience. Comfort is a place of immunity. It’s a place where nothing happens and nothing changes. A place where we settle for what we have instead of striving for what we could be. The question we have to ask ourselves is “are we in that spiritual comfort groove?”
God will never be able to accomplish anything in us or through us if our Christian walk was one of comfort. In James 1 v 4 Gods desire for us is clear. “To be complete and lacking in nothing”. To be complete in Christ is something that is an ongoing process. It is only achievable if we are prepared to let God work in us. The problem is that Gods best work in us comes not through comfort, but discomfort. It does not come through great victories but through defeats. It does not come through times of plenty but times of famine. We will never reach that place of completeness on the mountain top – it can only be found in the depths of the valley. 2 Corinthians 12 v 9).
God does not give us immunity from trial because of cruelty. He does it because comfort is our spiritual enemy. Comfort stops us praying. It stops us reading his word. It stops us drawing into the closer relationship he desires we have with him. Comfort stops us reaching our full potential. It stops us becoming the people he would have us become. Comfort robs us of ministries and gifts he has for us. Remember – comfort is the place where nothing changes. It’s the place where WE don’t change.
When we are born we are babies. We don’t remain babies our whole lives as it would be unnatural . The natural process is for us to grow and complete our cycle by developing into adults. As Christians the process is identical. We cannot stay as spiritual children. We must grow, develop and move into the futures that God had planned for us before we were born. (Ephesians 4 v 13-15)The bad news is that this true growth can only come through the fire of trials. (1 Peter 1 v 7)
Christians with the greatest faith have not acquired this by accident. They have faced the greatest trials. Christians with the greatest testimonies have faced the greatest tests. The strongest Christians have experienced the greatest weakness. Those with the greatest hope have known true hopelessness. Believers who have met the great physician have truly known what it is to be sick.
True growth will never come through strength. It must come through weakness. We can never know God as a healer unless we are sick (Mark 1 v 40 – 41). We will never know him as a provider unless we have great need. (Luke 9 v 12 – 17). We will never know him as a deliverer until we face overwhelming odds (Daniel 6 v 27) We will never truly understand faith until it’s all we are holding onto ( Proverbs 3 v 5 – 6). Fire reveals the power, reality and provision of God in our lives. It is the catalyst for true growth. ( 2 Corinthians 12 v 9)
Whatever fire you are facing in your life today you need to know that God isn’t punishing you…..he’s trying to transform you. The key is will you let him? Are you prepared to loose your comfort in order to gain what he has for you? Can you allow God to remove the things that hold you back from the plans he has for you? Can we submit to Gods full picture for our lives? Can we trust him to work his will in us so that he can begin to work through us? (Philippians 2 v 13).
Today we need to change our perspectives on the problems we face. Don’t see the situation you face today as the end. See it as Gods sees it. A beginning of something great if you let him shape and mold you (Luke 22 v 54 – 62 & Acts 5 v 14 – 16). To do anything else is to rob yourself of the future God has planned for you. The warning about this is clear in the first part of John 10 v 10. “The thief comes to kill, to steal and to destroy”. The Devil would use your situation, not to build you up but break you down. Not to give you a future but to rob you of the future God has for you. He would have you “Count it as anger, count it as frustration, count it as sadness and count it as bitterness”. He would rob you of all that Gods storehouse has for you. Recognize this, trust God, allow him to begin to work in you. As he starts to work in you his plan will begin to work through you. It is only then that you can truly “Consider it pure joy when you face trials of various kinds” James 1 v 2.
Jeremiah 29 v 11 “For I know the plans I have for you says the Lord. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future”