Transitions can be very tough and if they’re not made in today’s world, it’s called an adjustment disorder. James writes as a Jewish man who knows that. There he was, a half-brother of Jesus, learning to get over any stereotypes he may have had of Jesus and surrendering to Him, as Lord.
It’s always tough to accept changes within a family when one member rises to an unexpected position. But James whole modus operandi changed after the resurrection of Jesus. As one example, see his thinking changing about trials in life.
Dear brothers and sisters, whenever trouble comes your way, let it be an opportunity for joy. For when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be strong in character and ready for anything. James 1:2-4 NLT
Right off the bat, this alone is enough to sour people on the book of James. But it gets even worse! He says the rocky road we travel on our journey to maturity is to be one of joy.
Now, I don’t know about you, but I don’t necessarily have a great deal of joy when I’m going through difficult times. This whole idea of joy when facing trouble sounds a little crazy. I can understand the idea of not letting troubles destroy us, but to consider it pure joy!? That can seem like a little much.
It’s not natural to think this way. But James isn’t saying we should have some kind of superficial party when adversity comes, or that we should plaster a fake smile on our faces and look religious to the world when we’re hurting deeply inside.
But he does encourage us to consider letting it be an opportunity for joy, because something very important is taking place for our benefit.
The phrase, “…whenever trouble comes your way…” was used of a young bird, whose wings were being tested: like an Eaglet being pushed out of its nest.
I’m sure the eaglet would love watching a video about flying, or learning about the details of swooping down on fish, or gathering information about lift and trajectory; all from the safety of the nest. But real life doesn’t work that way. When the hard times hit us, it can feel a lot like a helpless eaglet that’s been kicked out the nest by its mother.
But trials, James says, are not to make us fall but to make us fly; not to make us stumble but to make us stand and not to defeat us but to make us rise to victory. So let it (faith) grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be strong in character and ready for anything.
If we don’t mind this gap and change our modus operandi to James’ view of trouble, what could happen? Any thoughts?
There was a cartoon several years ago in the Saturday Review of Literature in which little George Washington is standing with an axe in his hand. Before him, lying on the ground is the famous cherry tree. He has already made his smug admission that he did it—after all, he “cannot tell a lie.” But his father is standing there, exasperated saying, “All right, so you admit it! You always admit it! The question is when are you going to stop doing it.”
The father in that cartoon was exasperated because the necessary ingredient for George to change isn’t just admitting he did it.
After finishing the series on Twisted Games, I thought it important to look deeper at a change process which focuses on having a quality relationship with God, where we can experience our substance even in the face of disappointment or a profound sadness. What’s the modus operandi for something like that!?
Today I read a letter from the daughter of dear friends of ours who served in a summer campus outreach project in South Carolina. She was full of joy, humility, overwhelmed by God’s grace and love. So many good things were learned in her experience. At the end of the letter she said, “The Gospel really does change lives!
Well I’d like to address the how in that process. This series on modus operandi isn’t by any means going to be the final word, but I do have thoughts on it and as we walk down this trail, I’m looking forward to yours as well.
We’ll be traveling through the book of James as our reference point. And like the story on little George Washington, James is interested in more than just being sorry for sins. We’re going to a place where we discuss being sorry enough to quit.
I think Modus Operandi is an equivalent phrase to use for the word repentance, which is why I’ve entitled this series as such. So, to start this off, do you have thoughts on what you’d say to little George to head him into a new M.O.? 🙂
Every twisted game mentioned in this series is wrapped by the God Like game: I want it-I own it-You have it-I want it-then I own you and it too.
So much can be said about this game but in the movie Hunger Games, we see Donald Sutherland’s character personifying anyone with a god like attitude.
There’s enough in history to assess the evil behind any atrocity of those playing this game, but I want to illustrate this game player’s attitude by twisting scripture. That’s right – deliberately changing what God says – to be god like, and not like God. I won’t talk about Satan misquoting God to Adam and Eve. We all know about that impact on humanity.
So here’s one. “The LORD is close to those whose hearts are breaking and he rescues those who are hurt by that.” Ps. 34:18 TTB or The Twisted Thinker Bible. There’s no such Bible because this game player is too lazy to write one. They’d rather twist truth instead of coming up with an original thought.
Here’s what it actually says. “The LORD is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those who are crushed in spirit.” Ps. 34:18 NLT
In the proverbial TTB, this game player acts and feels like their heart is breaking and uses God-talk and the Bible to control others that they think shouldn’t hurt, leave, or be independent of them. They’re so hurt and pull on you to feel bad for the hurt! They control the storyline and out of jealousy make you pay if they think you act like you’re out of their control.
I’ve seen this god like game being played when counseling groups of men who did and said unmentionable things to or about their wives. Most of them were not crushed in spirit because of what they perpetrated.
In the NLT, the context is about the LORD’s people calling out to him for help. It’s preceded by “But the LORD turns his face against those who do evil….” Quite different from the TTB rendition isn’t it? These people were crushed in spirit by what was happening to them by those who do evil.
To mind this gap it’s imperative to see the difference between acknowledging the rights of others and demanding our perceived rights; avoiding and exposing double standards where what’s right for this game player isn’t right for anyone else; and believing that ownership of people only belongs to the creator.
For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. Jn 3:16 NLT
There we have it! The creator gives us a choice. He won’t play this game. He respects our dignity and although he provided the sacrifice of his one and only Son for our sin/depravity – we still get to choose to believe him or not.
What other thoughts would you like to add about the god like game to end this series?
If there’s anything that sets up the twisted games I’ve previously mentioned, it’s the Overconfident game. How?
As a kid, I remember standing in an open lot and taking a baseball bat to hit stones. I would imagine myself being Al Kaline, Rocky Colavito, Charley Maxwell, Norm Cash – all home run hitters on the 1960 Detroit Tigers team. There’s nothing wrong with imagining who you can be like.
Did you know we operate with images in our minds? They provide powerful energy to accomplish what we want to do or be. The problem comes when we distort who we think we are by using images to reflect something confidence was never intended to be – Overconfident.
It’s amazing what a person will do to protect their overconfident images. This person quits on anything that threatens their mental self-portrait. In truth, the overconfidence hides their fear of failure not because of failure per se, but because the failure exposes them as nothing more than anyone else!
Before my father came to know Jesus Christ in a personal way, his heroes or images were Baby Face Nelson, Al Capone, Pretty Boy Floyd – criminals – and look out if anyone resists.
Overconfidence is the poster child for entitlement issues. All twisted games rest on this cornerstone image of being different and better than anyone. How dangerous and arrogant do you think that is?
Once, a commercial from Canon featuring Andre Agassi used to say Image Is Everything. Is it possible to pursue excellence to our last breath and still not live off some distorted image which really expects more out of others than we’re committed to deliver ourselves? Yes!
Jesus taught us about commonality. He left the glory of heaven and became flesh just like us. He made himself a servant and didn’t quit on us when things got tough – like on the cross.
To mind this gap, we can pursue excellence; remember we’re all made of the same mud; ask for help when we need it and stay out of any self-imposed isolation or fantasy world which has no accountability for the images of who we think we are. And like Jesus, serve others out of love. How can anyone live overconfident when we remember Jesus?
What images come to mind when you see this game being played with others or yourself?