In this morning's time of Silent Prayer & Meditation, we read a passage from the book of James. I've loved this particular book for a very long time now. It is like the New Testament version of Proverbs. Meaning, it's a collection of Wisdom-sayings, but after having encountered the revelation of Christ, directing us to love, bless, and pray for our enemies because we are recipients of God's intimate and relentless love and blessing.
I also love the book of James because James was Jesus' brother. They grew up together! While Jesus was alive, James (it would seem) was not a big fan. That tension wasn't so much Pharisaical, but familial; brotherly. Having grown up in church, that resonates with me a little. It's a touch of drama that I like pondering. But after his brother's death and resurrection, James abandons those tensions and sees his older brother as someone bigger than just an older brother. What a beautiful story arch.
Christians come to respect James deeply. He is wise and says profound things. His book is a collection of those sayings and it's wonderful to know how they come from someone with intimate knowledge of Jesus' character.
James begins his book with:
Consider it wholly joyful, my brothers and sisters, whenever you are enveloped in or encounter trials of any sort or fall into various temptations. Be assured and understand that the trial and proving of your faith bring out endurance and steadfastness and patience. But let endurance and steadfastness and patience have full play and do a thorough work, so that you may be people perfectly and fully developed, lacking in nothing.
– James 1.2-4
“Lacking in nothing.” That's the American Dream. But it looks so remarkably different from what James is addressing. He's valuing endurance, steadfastness, and patience as freedom, rather than the collection of possessions, status, or comfort. This is the Christian journey.
This "lacking in nothing" is something Paul describes in Philippians 4:
I know what it’s like not to have what I need. I also know what it’s like to have more than I need. I have learned the secret of being content no matter what happens. I am content whether I am well fed or hungry. I can do all things [which He has called me to do] through Him who strengthens and empowers me [to fulfill His purpose—I am self-sufficient in Christ’s sufficiency; I am ready for anything and equal to anything through Him who infuses me with inner strength and confident peace.]
This is a glimpse at what Jesus defined the purpose of His life as, “so that you may have life and life in abundance.” It is a life of relationship, intimacy, peace, and love that transcends circumstance. It is ultimate freedom and enjoyment.
In James 1 we get Jesus' brother's wisdom and insight into that Contemplative Christian Spirituality. “Consider it wholly joyful.” God desires that we fully know and comprehend peace, love, and happiness. And God knows that as long as we confuse those dispositions with circumstances, rather than right-relationship with Him, we will remain frustrated. So Jesus teaches us, “seek first God’s residence, and all these things will be added to you.” May all our other desires come second as we seek God’s residence within us before anything else today.