I’m starting again in a one-on-one Bible study, going through James. Evidently, once was not enough.
James suggests several things that could safely be categorized as counter-cultural. For instance, his emphasis on the blessing of poverty or humility vs. the curse of riches - that does not sit well in downtown Milford. Or how about this?: “Watch what you say!” Clearly James was not on Facebook.
But it is James’ counter-cultural counting that hits me hard. No, it is not 2 + 2 = 5. That’s not counter-cultural. Government does that all the time. James’ brand of counter-cultural counting is found early in his little letter, chapter 1, verse 2: “Count it all joy, brothers, when you fall into all kinds of trials.” Sure, that’s what you do. Right?
‘Counting’ is an accounting. It is a reckoning and placing in a proper category. So when ‘disaster’ strikes, we must account for it. Bad luck? Some would say so. It’s not fair! Many would agree. But in a world where God reigns from the uncontested throne of the universe and is actively involved in the lives and affairs of men, we cannot resort to luck or arbitrary rules of fairness. The Bible teaches that God is keenly interested in the training and education of His children. And He often uses hardships in order to teach us what we could not possibly learn otherwise.
It is not a case of God using a big stick to whack us when we are wrong, or a feather to tickle us when we are right. This is not about punishment and reward. The Gospel instructs us that every day we live and breathe as a direct result of God’s mercy, totally undeserved; and that every day we engage in and enjoy life as a blessing of God’s grace, again undeserved. No, if we think a flat tire or broken nail is a result of God getting back at us for something, we have completely missed the point, and have trivialized both our sin and God’s justice.
Hardships and trials and tests are evidences of God working in us and on us. If we desire to grow stronger and wiser, then we will welcome these experiences as divinely appointed opportunities. We will count them as such. And when we forget, we will find our frustrations and resentments returning. And then, you, like me, will need to return to James all over again, read the verse, “Count it all joy, ..” and repent of an attitude the pretends that the world is supposed to revolve around me, and then thank God for another chance to learn, and grow, and change. It’s like learning to count all over again.