Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. James 1:2-3 ESV
James tells us that we are to count trials as blessings. I am always reminded of the hymn, “Count your blessings, but if James means the trials that I have been through I sometimes wonder if our dear brother knows how to count! Can he really mean that when we meet trials of pain or a broken relationships that we should come away saying, “Yup – now that’s a blessing. I can’t wait for the next one!”?
My own recent testing began after having a wisdom tooth removed. Somehow in the process a nerve in the back of my throat was damaged. So for the last three weeks, singing has become a painful process and even speaking I must carefully shepherd both the quantity and volume used in order to communicate. Needless to say, for a big talker like me (Blame it on the Italian DNA) this has been a traumatic lifestyle change. But since James has commanded that I count trials as joy, here are a few,
A) I am reminded that words have value because it is an effort to say almost every one of them
B) I have had to ask for help while singing at nursing home and been delighted by the response
C) I get to listen while others sing around me in church because I cannot get a note out
D) My wife has taken over the bulk of our joint prayers and it is wonderful hearing her bring our family friends and church before the Lord.
Truthfully, I earnestly am hoping this will be temporary (My doctors think so) but in the meantime I know that this is one part of God’s work in my life to build up patience into my treasury of faith. Now that is something only God knows how to do!
Here are a few photos of my friends and helpers from Saturday’s meeting at Sunshine Christian Village. The weaker I have been, the more precious God’s help has become to me!
Who doesn’t want to be blessed? I could use a few today but Paul reminds me that Jesus said; “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” My wife and I have been listening to Pastor Rick Warren and in one of his recent messages he talked about finding someone who is going through more problems than we are to serve. What a key to blessing that is. Learning to give a blessing opens us to seeing and appreciating the blessing that God has already given us!
The Lord bless you and keep you;the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you;the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace. Numbers 6:24-26 NIV
About a year and a half ago my wife and I retired and moved to Florida. Moving meant getting used to a new neighborhood, finding new doctors and most importantly of all finding a new place to call our church home. Moving from a small Brazilian church to an American mega-church was in many ways great. It was awesome praising God together with so many people and it is a joy witnessing new baptisms monthly. But the end of our Sunday services always felt like an important something was left out. This week I realized that what I was missing was the blessing from the book of Numbers that our pastor had always prayed. I was suddenly so sorry for just taking his blessing for granted. (I sent a message to him yesterday thanking him).
One of the really neat cultural things we learned from our Brazilian church was the concept of blessing. Not only in church was blessing a big deal, but even in the home. In the older generation after families got together for a visit (always with lots of food!) the children could not leave with asking the older relatives for bênçãos (blessings). “Bencoes tio (Uncle), Bencoes pa-pai(Daddy) or bencoes vo-vo (Grampa)” they would ask as they took the hands of the older relatives. Did you ever stop to realize how many of the blessings that God gives us that we take for granted? Maybe even just as importantly have we considered how important it is for us to use every opportunity that we have to bless others.
The blessing our pastor always prayed was the one that God commanded Aaron the High Priest to bless the people of Israel with. I’m not sure if this is an illustration of God’s grace or His sense of humor. After all God was asking the same man who had made the golden calf while Moses was up on the mountain to bless His people! So don’t think that because you have messed up with your family, friends or church that God cannot also entrust you with a blessing to give. One part of God’s healing process in our lives is to find ourselves at a place where we can impart blessings to others. So this coming Sunday when you leave church whether on-line or in person, don’t think lightly of the blessing given to you and remember to take advantage of the chance to bless others. Have a blessed week everyone!