It is so easy to be hearers of the Word of God and not doers. It is so easy for me to go through the motions. I read but don’t absorb or apply.
This hit me like a ton of bricks this morning.
I’ve been working my way through the book “God’s Healing for Life’s Losses: How to Find Hope When You’re Hurting” by Robert W. Kelleman. This morning I was continuing to work my way through questions on waiting through suffering. I was led to read James 1.
I got stuck on several verses in the chapter, but I’ll start the ones in the middle that made me stop and reflect.
Verse 22-24, “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like.”
I’ll admit, there are days that I look in the mirror and wish I could forget what I looked like. Puffy, red eyes. The zit that decided to camp on on my chin for days on end. Let’s just be honest about it…there are days that even makeup doesn’t help us out. So it’s a good thing me and James weren’t friends ’cause he might tell me to forget what I saw as well some days.
What I don’t want to forget is what I have read in my time with Jesus each day. I don’t want to hear or read the words God has given for my good and walk away unchanged. But I do. All the time. Too much of the time I do not allow the Word of God to penetrate my soul and produce change, leading me down the path of sanctification. What a better reflection of Jesus I would be if I allowed it take root and grow more often.
There are several reasons this hit me hard this morning.
Reason one can be found in the preceding verses.
Verses 19-21 “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteous of God. Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.”
I used to have three post-it notes on three cabinets in my kitchen in Winston-Salem. They read “Quick to Hear,” “Slow to Speak,” and “Slow to Anger”. Daily reminders of how I need to respond to the other people in my house. Today, when I read these verses I was reminded of those post-it notes and how I need to put them up again. I am slow to hear, quick to speak and quick to anger. The exact opposite of how I am told to be. I have HEARD these words but too often have left without DOING anything with them.
I cannot expect my children to learn to listen if I do not listen to them with my undivided attention and without interrupting them. I cannot expect my children to learn to think before they speak if I am constantly chomping at the bit to say whatever is in my head despite the consequences of those words. I cannot expect my children to learn to control their tempers if I cannot show them what it looks like to do so when I am angry.
Furthermore, I cannot expect to grow in faith if I cannot read/hear and then do or not do that thing that I read/heard. As much as I want to be a good example to my children, I want to do these things so that I can better know the heart of God. If I know Him intimately then I can be a beautiful reflection of Him. If I am stagnate, if I refuse to DO instead of just HEAR, I will never know the full joy that can be found in Him.
The second thing that hit me is tied to verses 2-4:
“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
My father once said that there is something to be said about being steady. He was right. But don’t tell him I said so. Steadfastness, or endurance, is produced during trials, suffering, loss, times of hurt, etc. according to James.
I never get angry when things are peaceful and going great. I get angry when something tries me. It is during these moments that I am able to see my maturity or lack thereof. Am I steady when trials come my way? Am I able to apply the truths of scripture in the midst of suffering, heartache, or hurting? Have I “received with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save [my] soul”?
Paul addresses the same thing in Romans 5: 3-4 when he writes, “More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings; knowing that suffering produces endurance (steadfastness), and endurance produces character, and character produces hope.”
It is during times that are difficult that I will grow, in which steadfastness will increase producing a character that looks more like Jesus and a hope that is found in the never-ending love of God Almighty.
So as I move forward from today, my prayer is that I will read God’s Word in such a way that I allow it to penetrate the depths of my soul so that I can be changed, doing what it says, and remembering it during times of hardship or suffering so as to be able to endure the race of this life that is set before me…hopefully with a little more listening, a little less talking and a little less anger.