This is Hard Stuff!

Posted on December 10, 2020

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By David Ettinger

Beautiful Writing
This post is not so much a teaching as it is a reflection … a meditation … an exhale of frustration. Yeah, I like that last one: an exhale of frustration.

So, what’s causing my frustration? It is the New Testament Book of James, 3rd chapter, verses 17 & 18, which read:

But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peace-loving, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial, free of hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.

Aesthetically speaking, this is a beautiful piece of writing, even poetic. But this is not James’ intention! He isn’t trying to impress the literary-minded among us. In fact, though the writing is his, the content isn’t; it is God’s as communicated via the Holy Spirit.

The Reality
Though beautifully penned, the reality for believers in the Lord Jesus Christ is that what James wrote in these 2 verses is intended to be meditated over, comprehended, and implemented into our lives.

This is where my frustration enters. I’m not the world’s brightest light, but I’m certainly not an idiot – at least when it comes to the Word of God. For instance, I’m at least “sharp enough” to know that James 3:17-18 is not only an expression of truth, but a snippet of instruction to be heeded.

In the previous 4 verses – 13-16 – James speaks of what the “understanding” of human beings leads to: “bitter jealousy,” “selfish ambition,” arrogance, lying, “and every evil thing.” As Christians, however, we are not to live by human, sinful understanding, but by spiritual, God-inspiring wisdom.

As such, our lives should be characterized by: purity, peace, gentleness, reasonableness, mercy, good works, and righteousness. Every one of these? Every day of our lives? This is hard stuff!

Better Than We Are
Fortunately, if you’ve read enough Scripture, you know God understands just how sinful we are – what with being trapped in our fleshly bodies and all, and how impossible it is to live in a godly manner every minute of every day.

And, of course, there are other passages – particularly in the New Testament – which encourage, and even command, us to live in like fashion. God knows we can’t do it perfectly, but He knows we can always be better than we are.

Yes, James 3:17-18 is hard stuff, but it reflects how God wants us to live, and we should aspire to do so. Every believer should determine whether or not their lives are defined by purity, peace, gentleness, reasonableness, mercy, good works, and righteousness.

Of course the answer is “no,” but we are not to despair. We are to acknowledge God’s Word is perfect, we fall short of it, but we desire to do what He wants us to do. We are to confess to Him our fleshly weaknesses and ask Him to enable us to obey His Word.

No, yesterday I may not have exhibited peace, gentleness, and mercy, but at least I know I’m supposed to, and with God’s help, I can do so today.

May God help His children in our fleshly frailty, and may we in turn always cry out to Him to help us navigate the “hard stuff” – living lives that bring honor and glory to Him!