POSTED 06 JUNE, 2009
One of the easiest to overlook, yet most instructive verses, that we find in the entire Bible, is James 1:2. Here, the brother of our Lord Yeshua teaches,
“My brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy” (NRSV).
James the Just says that whenever trials come into our lives, we are to face them with joy. This should not be too surprising for us to hear. Psalm 81:1 exclaims, “Sing for joy to God our strength; shout joyfully to the God of Jacob.” Similarly in Nehemiah 8:10, “Do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.”
What is easy to overlook is the first part of James 1:2. Translated variably as “encounter” (NASU), “meet” (RSV/ESV), or even “experience” (HCSB), the verb peripiptō actually means, “so to fall as to be encompassed by” (Thayer, 504). It is better rendered as “when you fall into various trials” (NKJV).
One of the things that I get to do as a Messianic Bible teacher is counsel Messianic Believers on how to properly explain their faith practice to other people. I have always encouraged people that the best way to demonstrate that Torah observance is something that the Father wants His children to do, is to actively show His blessing and love to all. Yeshua’s prefaces His words about fulfilling the Law with, “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). When we can remember that a proper Torah obedience begins with love for neighbor (Leviticus 19:18), then today’s Messianic Believers can truly demonstrate good works in the world and can do exactly what God wants us to do!
Sadly, as many of us can testify, some of our Christian family and friends have met our Torah obedient convictions with criticism and rebuke. Not only do they not understand what we have been called by God to do, and not only do they want nothing to do with it—but they make it their duty to let us know why they think we are in error. They will give us one-line responses, and bits of Scripture quoted here and there out of context. Too frequently, they are not interested in reasonable dialogue. As James 1:2 tells us—consider it all joy when these trials come!
In experiencing the joy that James speaks of when trials come, we are not allowed to victimize ourselves. Instead, we are to remember Yeshua’s word, “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:12). Let the Lord be the Judge of any person who may unfairly criticize you for your Torah obedience—because He is the only One who can judge any of us. God alone gets to determine who enters into God’s Kingdom.
But how many of us realize that it is exactly that—“when you encounter various trials” (NASU)? Trials will just come as a fact of life. James the Just did not say, “When you cause trials” or “When you create problems for yourself.”
There are many Christian brothers and sisters who do not want to sit down with us, crack open letters like Galatians and Romans, consult the Greek Apostolic Scriptures, join into the conversation of modern scholarship, and really consider various statements that appear to be anti-Law. This is unfortunate, because it is really the only way that one-liners and canned answers can be overcome. Such is the call of the modern Berean (Acts 17:11).
Yet similar to the Christian who does not want to hear about the complexities of Ephesians 2:14-15, or what telos means in Romans 10:4—what about the Messianic who wants to respond to criticism with the same kind of one-liners and canned answers back? What good can this really do? How many of us, rather than responding in fairness, and in wanting to represent the example of a life that is really experiencing God’s blessings—do something else?
In testifying of our Messianic faith to Christian brethren, how many of us have done the following?
- Hand someone a copy of a DVD, audio CD, or cassette tape that uses insulting and berating techniques to explain the significance of Torah observance to Christians?
- Hand someone a copy of a sensationalistic publication that makes claims about the Bible, religious history, the Biblical languages, and theology that cannot be substantiated with evidence?
- Actually take a person to a conference or seminar where a Messianic teacher not only spends more time explaining perceived ills of the Christian Church, pandering to the crowd, but is there to peddle his or her latest wares?
I could list some more things, but I think you all get the point of what I am saying.
Too many of the trials we encounter or fall into, are actually trials of our own making. Consider all of the websites, audio teachings, YouTube postings, blogs, and publications that make a killing on “Christianity is pagan!” rhetoric. If you have directed any of your Christian family or friends to this kind of “stuff,” you may have very well stirred up a hornet’s nest of your own making. For that, you may need to go back and not only apologize, but humble up and ask for their forgiveness. These kinds of things not only do not help the credibility and believability of today’s emerging Messianic movement, but they represent base human emotions that do not originate from the Holy Spirit.
In the future, I would encourage you to not hand a copy of that sensationalistic DVD or publication to your fellow brother or sister in the Lord Jesus—but instead find constructive ways of focusing on areas of common agreement. Find a way to ask a targeted question like, “Have today’s Believers really been empowered by disregarding the Old Testament?” Find quotations from Christian pastors and theologians who recognize that the Law of Moses needs to be reconsidered, and that lawlessness is not a good thing. Allow them to see that your pursuit of God’s Torah and a Messianic lifestyle is something that has aided your relationship with Him, allowing you to further grow in God’s grace and love, and by no means has made you into a person that is only interested in insulting others. Remember the Apostle Paul’s words of Ephesians 4:1-6:
“Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.”