The story is told of a lady who, years ago, had no money to buy food. She prayed, “Dear Lord, please send me a side of bacon and a sack of corn meal.” Over and over again she prayed the same prayer aloud. One of her town’s unscrupulous citizens decided to play a trick on her. He dropped a side of bacon and a sack of corn meal down her chimney. It landed in front of her as she knelt in prayer.
Jumping to her feet, she exclaimed, “Oh, Lord! You’ve answered my prayer!” Then she went all over town telling everyone the good news.
This was too much for the man who’d dropped the food down her chimney. He ridiculed her publicly and told her that God didn’t answer her prayer; he did. The lady replied, “Well, the Devil may have brought it, but it was the Lord who sent it!”
James challenges us, as followers of Jesus, to not compartmentalize. Be people whose lives are integrated – people who are consistent to their values, to their faith, to their ideals, to their god. Are you suffering? Are you happy? Are you sick? Don’t forget the primary relationship of your life is with God. Do not shut Him out, in anything.
But we are so prone to compartmentalize. We leave work at work; we leave home at home; we leave leisure at the cottage; we leave God at church. But James challenges us to see God’s hand in all things. What has made us poor, or rich; sick, or healthy; happy, or sad? In all of these things Jesus works to turn you to Him. We often tend to commit like the young boy who considered enlisting and then commented that he “…wouldn’t mind going to war and being a hero if [he] knew [he] wouldn’t get hurt.”
So let’s do an exercise: imagine, if you will, a Grey Cup win for the Roughriders. Do you dare imagine? Imagine the joy, the exultant joy, the energy surrounding a Grey Cup win. If you can’t imagine it, then remember. Do you remember what that’s like? So here’s a question: who do you suppose is more excited about it: the fans, either in the stands or at home in the living room, or the players? I tend to think the players. The person who suffered through the bumps, bruises, and hurts to get to the victory – that’s the one who will gain the fullest joy from it.
So here’s the question: when we don’t feel like God is moving in our lives, do we assume it’s because he’s absent (not coming through on His promises to be with us always), do we consider how committed we’ve been? When we take a step toward deeper commitment, toward deeper disciple-ship, toward following nearer to Jesus (ie. three things I pray: to see Thee more clearly; to love Thee more dearly, to follow Thee more nearly), Jesus reciprocates. Do you ever feel like you’re in this alone – like it all depends on you? It doesn’t. Do you feel like it’s been a long time since you felt like God was moving in your life? Do you need a fresh touch of the grace of God? John Wesley suggested Christians “Bear up the hands that hang down; by faith and prayer support the tottering knee; reprove, encourage…Storm the throne of grace, and persevere therein, and mercy will come down.” It’s the paradox of faith, that even the faith that we need in order to reach out to Him has already come to us from Him – a gift.
Who could use God’s mercy poured out on them afresh, today? Let’s pray:
Almighty, eternal, just, and merciful God, give to us to do what we know you to will, and to will always that which is pleasing to you; so that inwardly purified, inwardly illumined and kindled by the flame of the Holy Ghost, we may be able to follow in the footsteps of your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, and by your grace alone come to you the Most High, who in perfect Trinity and simple Unity lives and reigns and glories, God Almighty forever and ever. Amen.1