Have you ever listened to or read someones work and been amazed at how inspiring their story or the book was? Maybe you’ve been like me, a tad jealous, thinking “I wish that I had that sort of inspiration that would encourage others”. We know who provides it, God, but the real question is “how can I have that inspiration too?”
This level of inspiration won’t come from surface dwelling. It only comes from digging deep and living deep. Being quiet and listening. Employing something that I call “participatory listening”. Why? Because richness isn’t found without digging deep.
It starts with spending time reading God’s Word – slowly. Blistering through many verses or chapters in one sitting serves well to provide context but does little for providing substance. Read through whatever portion of scripture that you’re interested in to get the context. Learn who the writer is. Who the writer it writing to and what about. Learn what the setting is. Then go back and read it again slowly. Look at the definition of key works in the verse. I’ve underlined only some of the key words in James 1:8 to understand the concept.
James 1:12 (HCSB) “A man who endures trials is blessed, because when he passes the test he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him.”
Let’s dig deeper into endures and trials.
Who is the author? James, the half brother of Jesus. Something to note, James didn’t accept his brother as his savior until after Jesus’ death.
Who is James writing to? He’s speaking to a dispersed congregation of Christian Jews. See Acts 8:1, 4. (OK, stop now and go look it up). This dispersion brings many troubles. Imagine the troubles Christians living in Rome experienced when they were used being burned alive as street lights.
Endures (HCSB), perseveres (NIV), steadfast (ESV): comes from the Greek word hypomenō which means to remain i.e. abide, not recede or flee. Not recede? This would imply that we have the choice to recede or not recede. We can remain or walk away. We can remove ourselves from the situation. In this case it was about persecution.
Trials (HCSB & ESV), temptation (NKJV): comes from the Greek word peirasmos which comes from the root word peirazō which means to scrutinize ones behavior. What behavior is being scrutinized? Whether or not you or I remain in a particular circumstance. In the context of James’ readers, those being persecuted for their faith, do they remain followers of Jesus or bow to the pressure of others to renounce Him and submit to a lifestyle contrary to Biblical values.
The dispersion also brought opportunity. Opportunity to spread the gospel by letting others view their lives. When we face a tough situation, others are watching, what will your actions communicate?