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Living in Humility – by Adam Howell

“Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, and the rich in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grass he will pass away. For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits.” James 1:9-11

James has an incredible way of issuing all-encompassing sentences. The one above tackles lowly and poor, and the haughty and rich. If you’re anywhere in between those, you can assume you need to listen up, as well. It doesn’t matter where you find yourself on this spectrum that James describes, it will all pass away like a flower of grass. This is something I’ve needed to be reminded of lately.

Losing my job of 11 years and choosing to go back to school, I found myself running low on funds. The time to find an income has arrived. The Lord opened up a door at a local gardening store, despite my complete lack of a green thumb. Management is a skill of mine, and something I pursue with passion. This job has me at the bottom of the totem pole; a grunt doing the dirty work. My body was aching after four consecutive shifts.

Frustration snuck its way in quickly. How can this be happening? How does this make any kind of sense? I’m called to serve the Lord, not clean muck out of gutters in the rain (that happened). Yes, I’m aware that Paul was a tent maker (Acts 18:3), but that does not make this any easier. I’m a manager of people and resources being built up for Kingdom work!

Nick hit the nail on the head Sunday when he said, “There are really only 2 places that a person will go to boast in the midst of a trial or trials. The things that the world offers or the promises from our all-knowing, all-powerful Heavenly Father.” What the world is offering me is pride, and I’m buying it hook, line, and sinker. To rub salt in the wound I couldn’t make a FLI meeting due to work, yet another friend told me, “I hope God is glorified at your work today.” My frustration is certainly not glorifying to the Lord.

This job that I question serves the same purpose as any other job: that I might glorify the Lord. This requires humility, a humble approach to all things. Humility is a side effect of trusting in the Lord. Confidence in what you do is an outcome of humility, for we “count it all joy…when meeting trials of various kinds” (James 1:2). We, brothers and sisters, “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). A complete trust in the Lord disarms the vices and temptations of this world, for we are to stand firm in the Lord’s promises, lacking in nothing. Knowing this, how can work frustrate me? Death, where is your sting?!

Adam Howell serves on the Hospitality Team and works as an intern at VLC. He is currently enrolled at Georgia Highlands College pursuing a degree in Communication. He enjoys reading, hiking, and good fellowship.

Trials – by Jason Pierce

My wife, Brandy, works in the recycling industry. Her job is to buy scrap alloys from manufacturers that have leftovers from the products they make. For example, aluminum is often mere shavings, small scrap pieces, or larger bent and mangled pieces. For the manufacturers, the aluminum is good for nothing but scrap. It will be thrown out in a roll-off scrap container. Brandy and her company, however, see the value in these old scrap pieces. They purchase the discarded aluminum, recycle it, and sell it to companies like Novelis. Novelis then uses this recycled aluminum to make products that are sold to car manufacturers like Ford and Range Rover. When you see a Range Rover, you are looking at a $100k vehicle that is made of aluminum that likely started from old discarded pieces of scrap that the average person saw little value in.

Our faith in Christ is like that. Often our lives are mangled and destroyed by our own choices influenced by sin and the circumstances of life in a fallen sinful world. Many times, the people around us see us as good for nothing, while begin to believe the same about ourselves. Regardless of how we are viewed by the people around us (or ourselves), God saw us in Christ before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4). God saw our potential in Christ and knew, through the Cross of Christ and His redeeming love, He could take our lives and make them something beautiful. That is to say, His plan of saving grace was to transform our mangled shredded lives to be conformed to the image of his glorious Son (1 Cor. 5:17-21).

How does he do this? James tells us that one of God’s processes for us to be transformed and matured is to put us through trials. That’s a hard pill to swallow! It’s like knowing that you have to get an inoculation. We know it will hurt, but at the same time, it heals us and prevents future sicknesses. Trials are not easy for even the most mature Christians. We have to keep in mind that God never promised us exemption from trials, but He did promise to use them for a great purpose (Rom. 8:28). Jesus preemptively warned us, “in this world, you will have trails, but take heart, I have overcome the world!” (see John 15:19; 16:33; 17:14) Moreover, the Scriptures are replete with this truth (see Job; Rom. 5:1-5; 1 Pt. 2:19; 4:16; 5:9)

James says that trials are used to “test our faith.” The Greek word here for testing is dokimazo. It is only found here in the New Testament and typically was used in describing the act of refining metal. It is very much like the recycling process that I described above. Precious metals are not so precious when they are first mined. They must go through the fire several times to remove all impurities. Then after much testing, the result is refined, precious metal! Our faith is the same. God see’s our potential and He uses the trials of life to mature us in the image of His son.

Like I said, Christians are not promised exemption from trials. There are a few primary reasons why. First, even after we are spiritually renewed in Christ through faith and repentance, we still wrestle with a fallen sinful nature. We are still susceptible to bad choices, which unfortunately bring trials. Second, we have other people all around us that wrestle with the same fallen nature and they make choices that bring trials our way. Third, we must always realize the forces at work in the spiritual realm. Satan and his demons work to bring about destruction in our lives. He was there in the beginning (see Gen. 3) and he is here now. His sole purpose is to kill, steal, and destroy (John 10:10). The only exemption we can hope for is after we have endured the final trial of death, at which time we will have passed from this fallen world into the presence of God where there is no more sin and suffering.

Since we cannot extricate ourselves from trials—I’ve tried, it doesn’t work– what should we do? James’ answer is to “count it all joy!” I’m just going to be very honest here. That is a tough one to wrap my mind around. Here’s the conclusion I have come to over the years: James is encouraging us to develop a Christian perspective when it comes to trials. Do trials hurt? Yes! Are trials painful? Yes! But for the Christian who is submitted to God’s will, and seeking to grow in Christ’s likeness, trials can be a catalyst for transformation into Christ-likeness. When our perspective on trials changes from one of pessimism, self-pity, defeat, dejection, discouragement, apprehensiveness, anxiety and worry to one of “knowing that the testing of our faith produces perseverance” and perseverance produces maturity in Christ, we can have a spiritual, Christ-centered positive out look on trials because we know that the sovereign, all powerful, creator of the world has our backs! He promises to not only be with us, but to use our trials for the glorious purpose of making us more like Christ. For that reason, I can count it all joy!

Once we develop the proper outlook on trials, it is important that we start asking the right questions. What is God saying to me in this trial? What lessons can I learn? Is there an aspect of my character that God is working to change? How can I use what God has shown me through my trial to help others? Our questions do not always get answered immediately, but if we are genuine and open to what God is doing, he will show us how He is using the difficult circumstances of life to grow and mature us.

It has been well said that we are typically in a trial, leaving a trial, or about to encounter a trial. Trials come in all shapes and sizes and are a part of life. Next time you find yourself in the midst of any size trial, try keeping a Christ-centered perspective, know that God is with you, and know that God is going to use it for a greater purpose. If you cannot see exactly how God is working in your life specifically at that moment, try meditating on Joseph in the Old Testament who suffered so much but could say to his brothers, “what you meant for evil, God meant for the good!” Remember Job and Paul. And ultimately, remember Jesus. He is the greatest example of how God uses suffering for a greater good. Jesus suffered more that any human to ever live being tortured and ultimately going to the cross to bear the sins of the world! Yet the outcome was a salvation offered to all and resurrection to be seated at the right hand of God!

Jason Pierce is a manager for Nickell Rental in Hiram. He has been involved in ministry for the last 15 years. He enjoys spending time with his family and bass fishing.

In all things, worship Him – by Brad Winklesky

Worship (v): to honor with extravagant love and extreme submission (Webster’s Dictionary, 1828).

John Eldredge, while speaking at a men’s retreat, said he was talking to one of his friends years before about what we will do with our lives in eternity. “If you look at Nehemiah 9:6, Revelation 5:11-12, or Revelation 11:16 as a couple of examples”, his friend said, “it appears that we will be in worship”. John jokingly responds, “We are going to worship…like forever. You mean it will be like an endless church service? That sounds like hell to me.” If we look at worship as a just something we do with our hands or our voices, I could see how you might arrive at that conclusion.

As we covered this past Sunday, worship is certainly something we do, but it is so much more than that as well. True worship is the acknowledgment of God and all His power and His glory in everything we do. This is irrespective of our occupation, our income, our education, where we live, our marital status, the gifts we have been given, or any amount of influence we might have. How this actually plays itself out in people’s lives, I was so confused about for so long. I did believe that real worship had a consistent pattern.

If I’m being honest, this is what I thought happened to every person that became serious about their faith. I believed that they worked in the marketplace for as long as it took them to get on staff at a church. Then they were able to start doing ministry. Then they were able to go to seminary, take on additional responsibilities and continue to grow in their relationship with God. Now that is living the dream!

Continuing to be honest, I was frustrated for years because my life wasn’t following this pattern. I became very serious about my faith while I was an aviator in the Army. During that time, I looked into transferring from Aviation to be a Chaplain, but that just wasn’t going to happen. When I got out of the Army, I hoped to do something in ministry but that didn’t happen either. I served in various capacities at previous churches thinking I might find my way onto staff at some point. In the past 5 years, I even thought that God might be preparing us to go into full-time ministry in Slovakia. No again.

There were two things that I keep coming back to that tell me that this pattern I thought I saw was probably not true.

• Paul didn’t work for a church.
As you probably know, Paul made tents for a living (Acts 18:1-4). And it’s not that he made tents just to support his ministry. He viewed his tent making as ministry. That is, he viewed all of his actions as a witness. Paul employed his skills and possessions for the sake of the community, and he explicitly says that this is an example others should follow. He does not say that everyone should follow his example of preaching. But he does say everyone should follow his example of toiling to help the weak and being generous in giving, as Jesus himself taught.

• Any job can be Christian work.
Paul told the believers in Corinth that they shouldn’t rush to leave their current situations (1 Corinthians 7:17-24). It appears that they were ready to make some changes without thinking through the second and third-order effects. It’s as if he was saying that they could do God’s work and demonstrate their faith anywhere. Often, we might be so concerned about what we could be doing for God somewhere else that we miss great opportunities where we are.

The word that I discovered in the past year that has solidified this for me is avodah. The root word means “to work” or “to serve”. The cluster of words derived from the root give us insight into the nature of both worship and work. An oved is a worker. An evid is a slave. Avdut is slavery. Work involves the idea of serving someone. Avodat Elohim is the service or worship of the true God. Work (labor, enterprise, exertion) is always serving. For the believer in Jesus, it is serving God (Colossians 3:17).

In some verses the word, avodah means work, as in to work in the field and to do common labor (Exodus 34:21, Psalm 104:23). In other verses, Adovah means worship, as in to worship You, O God (Joshua 24:15, Exodus 8:1). What a powerful image to think that the word for working in the fields is the same that was used for worshipping the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

True worship is indeed the acknowledgment of God and all His power and His glory in everything we do. There probably isn’t any pattern, there’s likely no formula, and there is no perfect path for someone who is serious about their faith. Jesus told us to love God and love people …in that order. Thank the Lord that exactly how we are called to love God and exactly how we are called to love people look different.

I feel that doing things with all your heart, as if working for the Lord and not men is hardly a New Testament concept. I also feel that you don’t have to work for a church to be serious about your faith. Let’s worship God exactly as we are, partner with God wherever we are, and let’s get to work!

Brad Winklesky serves on the Hospitality Team at VLC. He currently serves as the Director of the Managed Services Program for ServIT, Inc (a technology and Managed Service Provider headquartered in Kennesaw, GA). He enjoys reading, spending time with his family and anything to do with technology.