June 7, 2011 Devotion Sharing

Submitted by James Chao, Gracepoint San Diego

James 1:9-11, 2:5
What are some things that make me “rich” and how does this tempt me to be proud? The things that make me feel “rich” and take pride in myself often come when everything is going well or are even blessings in life. When my life seems to be going smoothly, when my career seems to be on track and my bosses like my work, when there is the nice cushion in my bank account, when my relationships are going okay, and I feel like I’m handling well the demands of life—these are the good things that can make me feel rich and take pride in myself. Objectively, my life is very “rich” compared to so many people, as I’ve never faced suffering or hardship in life and I find myself in very comfortable settings surrounded by modern comforts, and overall my life has been stable for the most part. These things are not bad in themselves, but these things can dull my awareness of the frailty of my own life. Perhaps like the rich young ruler, these favorable circumstances can prevent me from seeing the darker things that are really going on inside my heart.

What truths should I remind myself of? It’s important for me to remind myself of who I really am before God and who I really am inside, that I’m a sinner through an through. I should not forget about where I was before I came to know God and the destructive end I was headed towards if God and his people did not intervene in my life. I should remember how the prayers, talks with leaders, shaping moments, and times of struggling that it took for me to even be here today, and the labor of love it took on the part of my leaders that helped me make important realizations and convictions. I should remember the times when I saw how the sins I thought affected no one else actually deeply hurt the people in my life who cared about me. I should remember the incredible trust that I have been given so much trust to serve in ministry, in the past and today, even though I do not deserve the privilege. So much of who I am today is not because of my own effort or will, but is more the result of what I have received from others. These are some truths I should remember lest I think that I made it here in life by my strength or will.
What is the “low position” that I should take pride in? The “low position” that I should pride is that even though I am a sinner and undeserving, I have received God’s love and grace so freely. Before I even had a chance to give back to God and before I was even mindful of him, he already poured out so much love on the cross for my sins. Even though I still struggle with so many worldly desires for comfort, for success, I am still given the chance to serve God and get to pass on his love and represent him to the people in my life. The continual struggle with sin is a reminder of how undeserving I am, and I can “take pride” in this only because my lowliness helps me to see that preciousness of what I have received.

What might be the reasons why those who are “poor in the eyes of the world” are often “rich in faith,” and what can I learn from this about what I should value? One thing this shows me is that money and material possessions and favorable circumstances in life do have a dulling effect on spiritual life, such that often it’s in the absence of these things that richness in faith develops. Whether or not I intentionally seek after wealth or comfort, I need to recognize that when these things fall into my lap, there is always that danger of being made dull spiritually and to lose my focus and clarity of my identity in Christ. On the flip side, although suffering and hardships are unpleasant to face, objectively it is through these times that my character is shaped and my faith is refined and built up. It is not through the easy times that my faith grows but it’s through times when I feel like I’m being stretched and slightly overwhelmed that I have to depend on God and really wrestle with the truth of what I profess. This teaches me that I can’t just avoid or resist times of challenge or unpleasant circumstances, but that when these times do come, I should appreciate the good that can result in my heart and my relationship with God through this, even when there isn’t much immediate practical result. I should value the inner effects these challenging times can have on me, rather than short-term benefits that I can point to and feel good right now.
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