Wednesday, October 08, 2014

“The Perfecting of Our Faith”

Insights #2 October 11, 2014
Fourth Quarter 2014 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
"The Perfecting of Our Faith"
For the week of October 11, 2014
The apostle James had long resisted the witness of the faith of Jesus, his brother (John 7:5; Matt. 13:35; Gal. 1:19). But at some point he had surrendered to the powerful evidence (Heb. 11:1) that Jesus' faith had provided, not only to His true identity, but also to the dynamic of faith working by love that we could easily say is how God runs the universe (Gal. 5:6). And though James, like all of us, battled unbelief as long as he lived (as long as the flesh remains; Gal. 2:20), he was not content with baby faith ("little faith"; see Matt. 6:30; 8:26; 14:31; 16:8). He saw the importance of God's plan--"the trying of your faith," and what would come from that. "Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing." (James 1:3, 4). Paul wrote of this goal to be "entire"--"The very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." (1 Thes. 5:23).

When we view faith in the "circuit of beneficence" which is the "law of life for the universe" (Ellen White, Desire of Ages, page 21), it becomes clear to us that faith originates with God, as a function of the agape love that He is. Paul described it this way: Love "believeth all things" (1 Cor. 13:7). In the creative force that His love imparts, He is seeing "all things" in the way they would look were they all motivated by unselfish love. It is in that sense that Jesus is "the author ... of faith" (Heb. 12:2). By dealing with all through that dynamic, He has actually imparted to all that way of living, the "measure of faith" (Rom. 12:3).

God's word brings to us the evidence of how God imparts faith. This process is beautifully described in this statement. "To those who take God's word with reverence, seeking to learn His will that they may obey it, all is changed. They are filled with awe and wonder as they contemplate the purity and exalted excellence of the truths revealed. Like attracts like. Like appreciates like. Holiness allies itself with holiness, faith with faith. To the humble heart and the sincere, inquiring mind the Bible is full of light and knowledge. Those who come to the Scriptures in this spirit are brought into fellowship with prophets and apostles. Their spirit assimilates to that of Christ, and they long to become one with Him." (Ellen White, Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 5, page 705).

But James is addressing more the question of how Jesus moves beyond authoring this faith, and becomes "the ... finisher." And this seems simple also when we view the circuit. He treats us in faith, and imparts in that way of relating to us the very principle itself of faith. Then His providence arranges or allows us to "fall into divers temptations" (James 1:2), to give us opportunity to exercise that very faith--to deal with life based on faith working by love in very practical situations unique to the life of each of us. As we, through surrender to His faith and love, learn in the practical situations of life to reflect those same principles to others, we are "letting patience have her perfect work." We allow the circuit to be completed, and to continue flowing in an unending stream, powered by the source of all--His love.

The giving nature of God's love means He is teaching us how to continue giving, through the challenges we encounter. James addresses the fact that faith working by love does not use possessions as its criteria. It acquires in order to give, and it empowers others to do the same.
Trials and suffering are but the school where we learn not just how to give but what to give, by listening to the creative promptings of His Spirit. Thus we learn to endure--to keep giving no matter how much "taking" we encounter. This "patience" in its end-time development is what enables God's people to endure the final storm of lawlessness, by loving to the end, and thus giving a witness to the gospel that will flood the earth (Matt. 24:12-14; Rev. 14:12).

It is the "joy ... set before" that empowers such giving (Heb. 12:2; Neh. 8:10), knowing that others will also see the dynamic, be captured by it, and adopt it as their way of living, for eternity. This joy continues even through suffering, as one gives more and more in the presence of those who are taking more and more. This joy is based on principle, not feeling. Faith leads, and feelings follow.

This growing process follows the measure of faith (Rom. 12:3) and love (Eph. 4:16), learning more and more how to love as Christ did. The goal is "a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ" (Eph. 4:13). This is the "perfect work" James saw. As the Spirit unfolds to us more and more what this means in each of our lives, we develop "the wisdom that is from above." And it "is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy." By His word and Spirit, we see through the eyes of faith; we view things from God's perspective. And we act on that. This is the "meekness of wisdom" (James 3:13).

In this process, we do not always learn what to do on the first attempt. We have many opportunities to repent of our unbelief, our resistance to God's faith and love working through us. We will see much evidence in our past (individual and corporate) of unbelief that like Israel at Kadesh, has blocked God's plans. We will have to repent and confess these failures, and submit to God's correction and instruction, spending more time meditating on God's faith and love, demonstrated throughout the past and the present.

So let us "ask in faith, nothing wavering." (James 1:6). Don't stop; keep asking. Steady yourself by leaning on Him. "Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him." (James 1:12). The circuit will be complete, and will continue through eternity, in the beauty and joy of unselfish love, receiving and giving.
-Fred Bischoff

Raul Diaz