Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.
Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures. James 1: 12-18
God is good. That's pretty much a given, isn't it? He is good. I know that – head knowledge – but do I truly believe it? Do I believe that all of His gifts are good and perfect? That every day is a gift from Him even if I don't feel it in that moment?
We discussed this passage at a college group Bible study last night, and what mostly struck me was the discussion we had about the fact that keeping our eyes focused on God's goodness and gifts can be a deterrent to sin, and how the opposite is true as well – losing sight of God's goodness can make one vulnerable to compromise, justification, and slipping into things you didn't want to do and places you swore you'd never go.
It is easy to lose sight of God and His will, bit by bit, piece by piece, until it feels like I'm a mile away and I don't know how I got there. Once I have lost sight of God's goodness and generosity, satan comes and whispers more lies, states God is not good, that He means harm for me, or at the very least that He is bent on keeping from me what should be mine.
At that point, it becomes an easy thing to simply create my own “happiness”. Trust me – I've tried it, even to the point of creating a romance where there should not be one – and eventually breaking a man's heart in the process. Even during the “romance”, it became too easy to slip a little here, justify a bit there, and then find myself deeper in justification than I thought I'd ever be.
So I backed up. I redetermined what is and what should be. I prioritized. It is easy, in a moment, to determine; “I will keep my eyes on God, I will be fully content to wait on His timing!”. Not so easy is the actual outworking of that, the daily struggle to maintain contentment – it can be very difficult.
But it is so necessary.
If I don't have hope that God will work good in my life, then I can only trust in myself to work that out. If my eyes aren't set fully on His goodness and mercy and love – rather than the trappings of comfort in this world – I begin to wonder how to give myself the gifts I expect from God. The problem is that only God can give good and perfect gifts.
Only He knows my past, present and future. Only He knows what I need to do the most meaningful and fruitful work for Him. I may think I know what I need, but often what I think I need and what God gives me in reality are two very different things. I may not see it at first, but I hold fast to the promise; God gives good and perfect gifts continually, and He never changes.
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. - Romans 8:28
That is the promise He has made, that if I love Him and am called according to His purpose, He will work all things together for my good. Even if the situation isn't my “ideal”. Really, my ideal should be based on His anyway. What is His ideal? Whatever brings the most glory to God; in me, through me, and reaching out to touch others with His love. I claim that ideal as my own!
It will be difficult, to keep my eyes and heart fixed on the prize before me, on God's perfect will, rather than the comfort, distraction, and temptations of the world. I will falter, and I will fail; perfection will only be reached when I've stepped into heaven.
But I can, every day, make the determination and commitment that today I will focus on the Lord. Today I will stand firm. Today I will be content in whatever situation comes my way, and whatever I have to deal with. I can only live one day at a time, and I will live today with my eyes fixed on Jesus.