A spoonful Of Sugar Helps The Medicine Go Down
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.
Our existence as human beings is interwoven by our life experiences. When we are born we are a blank canvas and it is our life experiences both good and bad that can shape and form us into who we are. Just as the wind and sea shape our coastline so also do the experiences of life shape, molds and touch every one of us without exception. In a world divided by cultural, economic and financial barriers the one thing that unites us all is the empathy we feel for those who face both the good and the bad that life brings our way.
In many respects it’s true to say that day-to-day life can also be a bitter-sweet experience. We work hard to earn money to pay our bills to go back out work hard to earn money to pay our bills and so this never-ending cycle goes on. Of course, life just doesn’t consist of the never-ending bitter mundane cycles that we seem to just slip into. Life can be truly sweet as well. The sweetness of coming home at night to our families, our wives ,the joy of our children, the incredible memories we make and the greatness of gods mercy to each and every one of us! (Nehemiah 9 v31)
It was as I pondered on the bitter-sweet of life that I felt God speak to me about his word. Last week we looked at some of the hard sayings of scripture and I really feel that Gods word can also be a bitter-sweet experience for us as believers. Today I found myself, yet again, drawn to more hard sayings, this time in Proverbs.
Proverbs 22 v 21 “If your enemy is hungry give him food to eat.If he is thirsty give him water to drink”.
Here in proverbs we have yet another difficult to digest, hard saying. Yet to focus on the bitter is to only tell half a story. It is much like listening to only a part of a glorious musical symphony. We must remember that our God is the ultimate planner, he is perfect in all he does and he never leaves anything incomplete both in his actions and in his divine word which he has left for us as believers (Eph 2 v 10). For this reason an important part of considering it pure joy, a foundation principle if you like, is for us to get the full picture (the sugar) that God has left for us in his word. Proverbs 22 V 22 reads;
“In doing this you will heap burning coals on his head and the lord will reward you”
As I sat at home this evening soaking in Verse 22 God plainly spoke to me and said “everything I ask you to do is for a reason. It may be bitter and hard to swallow – but, If you look in my word, I will always give you a spoonful of sugar to wash the bitterness away”
If we briefly look at the two verses I used as examples yesterday the bitter and the sweet are clearly revealed to us;
Matthew 5 v 44; Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you that you may be children of your father in heaven.
Matthew 16 v 25 & 25; If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
As we return to James 1 v 2 there can be no more a bitter request than to rejoice in our trials and difficulties. There can be no greater a challenge than to “consider it pure joy”. For those of you suffering with cancer, bereavement, depression, anxiety, marital difficulties and disabilities this may be a completely unfathomable request which you may feel is far above and beyond you. To find the strength we must all draw it from the first three words of verse three which are the most powerful of all the words in this passage;
James 1 v 2-4 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.4Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. ”.
It is these 3 seemingly insignificant words, often overlooked, which are the key – the sugar if you will that helps us understand and accept the bitterness of the command to “consider it pure joy”. For they speak of a divine plan and destination for each and every one of us (Jeremiah 29 v11). Not simply that, they speak of us as individuals having that assurance, that faith and unshakable confidence in facing whatever situation that God allows into our lives is in our best interest (Romans 8 v 28). This death to self and submission to God’s will is the foundation principle for growth. It is not enough that we read this or even understand it – it is God’s desire that we TRULY KNOW IT. “Because you know……because you know………because you know.”
Anyone who knows me will tell you that I love chocolate. They will also tell you that where chocolate is concerned I am a bit of a magician as I have the ability to make it disappear faster than you can say “abracadabra”. But of all the chocolate I have ever eaten I can honestly say that nothing in the world comes close to that beautiful spoonful of sugar provided for us by God in his word. It is only when we accept the bitter that we truly realise that God always gives us far more in the sweet than he asks of us in the bitter (Ephesians 3 v 20). Like Abraham who truly tasted the bitter when he was asked to sacrifice his only son Isaac (Genesis chapter 22), let us too hear Gods command, embrace it and receive gods countless blessings on our lives. It is only then we can truly “Consider it pure joy.” James 1 v 2