Today’s AMI QT Devotional is provided by Joshua Chzen who serves as the college pastor at Kairos Christian Church (San Diego, California). Joshua, a graduate of University of California, San Diego, is currently pursuing a Master of Divinity at Bethel Seminary. He and Sandra were married in 2017.
Devotional Thoughts for Today
“Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, 18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.”
Our church has been going through a study on the book of James in our life groups. (We just finished up the first chapter this week.) Since James begins his letter talking about enduring through trials and testing of our faith, we naturally spent a lot of time discussing the topic of suffering.
If I’m being completely honest, I haven’t experienced much suffering. As someone who grew up in relative stability and now lives in relative comfort, there hasn’t been a lot in the way of adversity or trauma. Depending on your perspective, you could argue that it was to my benefit, or to my detriment (or both). You may find yourself relating to my background, or you might be reading this as someone from the opposite end of the spectrum.
Looking to the prophet Habakkuk, we see someone who understood the pain of suffering, for God had shown him the impending destruction and violence that was to come upon the people of Judah. They would be subject to attack, plunder, and oppression by Babylonian Empire, and consequently, experience the ultimate humiliation and injustice. In response, Habakkuk voices unhappiness, confusion, and pain—even questioning God’s method and challenging His motive in allowing something like this to happen to His own people. And at the end of his closing prayer he paints a bleak picture of complete desolation: there is no fruit on the trees, no crops in the fields, no animals in the farmland; there is nothing left in which to find value, comfort, or joy. However, it’s in this same breath that Habakkuk reaffirms his faith and joy in God, and that He is still worthy of praise. It makes little sense from a worldly perspective, but Habakkuk knew God so deeply that his conviction to worship Him remained even in the worst of circumstances.
Having only a limited experience with pain and trial, it can be easy for me (and likely many of us) to default to unhappiness and confusion when difficulties arise. That combination can often give way to doubt—doubting God’s character, His intentions, and His plan. Paul presents one way to keep suffering grounded in perspective—it produces perseverance, character, and ultimately hope (Rom. 5:3-5). James writes that trial leads to maturity (Jas. 1:2-4). And while these are good reasons to rejoice in difficult moments, ultimately, they are grounded in God Himself. He is our deepest source of joy. Tough circumstances may change (for better or for worse), or they may not; but God himself is always good, always faithful, and always worthy to be praised.
Prayer: Lord, I thank You that You’re unchanging in character, intention, and plan. I could have nothing going my way, or everything going my way; but God, You are still the same, and You’re my greatest reason to rejoice. Help me to remember who You are when things are hard. In Your name, Amen.
Bible Reading for Today: Genesis 36
Lunch Break Study
Read James 1:2-8 (NIV): Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. 5 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. 6 But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7 That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. 8 Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.
Questions to Consider
- What does James say about trials? What is the ultimate result?
- What does James say about doubt?
- What role do you think wisdom plays in this context?
- James states that trials serve to test faith, which produces perseverance, which ultimately leads to maturity and completeness. It’s because of this that we should approach these situations with joy.
- James refers to those who doubt as “double-minded and unstable in all they do” and demonstrates this with the imagery of waves. He also says those who ask with doubt should not expect to receive anything from God.
- Those who lack wisdom presumably have not completed the process of becoming “mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
Are you going through any sort of difficulty? Are there circumstances you’re unhappy with? Relationships that only bring you frustration? Ask God for joy to fill your heart and wisdom to live out His will – He might not change our surroundings, but He will change our hearts when we are open.