Despite the rain on Sunday morning, we had a wonderful time of Bible study and worship. Our study of James 4 made us all contemplate our motivations in prayer. James said, “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures” (v. 3).
Out of curiosity I looked up this verse in The Message, a paraphrase of the Bible. “You wouldn’t think of just asking God for [what you want], would you? And why not? Because you know you’d be asking for what you have no right to. You’re spoiled children, each wanting your own way.” Tough words!
James knows us! Even separated by thousands of years, his words still challenge us and our approach to life. In these challenging times, we pray for many things, and yet I believe we must remember Paul’s testimony in Philippians 4:12,13: “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.”
Should we ask for help from God? Definitely! But the secret is our relationship with God. When we recognize that God is with us, no matter what the situation, we can pray with honesty and integrity, not seeking selfish gifts and the “easy way out” of our problems. Why would God want me to go through a struggle? Paul knows that secret, too. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
TIMES AND SEASONS
It is truly hard for me to believe that by the time you read this it will be fall, a brand new season. When I was a child, the change of seasons and passage of time often seemed to drag by, but as I’ve aged (don’t tell anyone), time seems to fly by, and I find myself wondering where the time has gone. We learn from Ecclesiastes (and the 60s band, the Turtles), that there are times and seasons specific to each of our lives. I no longer think as I did in the past. My priorities have changed, and the important things, well, they have changed, too.
It is much easier to recognize the “seasons” when we talk about change of weather and the cycle of plant life. But recognizing the seasons in our lives and what God is doing is much harder to do. How can we understand what God is doing within us as we face each new day and each new season?
First, it is important to recognize that there are only two things consistent in life: God is always present and everything else will change! Friends will come and go. Family members will be born and some will pass away. We will gain possessions—some of which we will treasure, some we will cast away, and some may be taken from us. Things will change, but God remains the same.
Second, it is imperative to recognize that God has a plan for each of our lives, not just an ethereal “get to heaven someday” plan, but a purpose. “’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’” (Jeremiah 29:11). These words were written in the context of Israel’s exile in Babylon, having been forcibly removed from their homes by Nebuchadnezzar. In this context, God spoke through the prophet telling the people to settle down and live their lives to the fullest in their situation, knowing that one day God would return them to their homeland. In each season of our lives, we need to “make the best” of whatever comes our way, knowing that each day is part of God’s working in not only our lives, but the lives of others through us.
Finally, it is absolutely necessary to grow in faith as we are transformed into the image of our Savior. Any plant that does not grow will be pulled from the garden and replaced with another. And to live well in every season of life, we must be continually growing, changing, and developing our faith in God. If I don’t know who God is, how can I know what God wants for me? And if I don’t know what Jesus would do, how can I know what I should do? Everything that comes into our lives has a purpose, many of which we may never know until the day we meet God face to face. When we respond in faith to God, in every circumstance, even when we don’t understand, we will find ourselves not only being stretched, but also growing in hope and trust.
Soon, the leaves will change and fall from the trees. We will take out our winter clothes and pack away those from summer and prepare our homes for the cold winds to come because we recognize the season in which we are living and the one that is to come. In the same way, take time to think about the season where you find yourself today. Approach each new experience with the knowledge that God is with you and will always be so, that God has a plan for your life and is working that plan out, and that each day is a new opportunity to grow closer to and become more like Jesus. Enjoy fall!
Pastor Mary Kay Glunt