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“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21). 

There is no alternative choice—we either overcome evil or we are overcome by it. The natural response is to return wrong for wrong, slander for slander, hurt for hurt, evil for evil. In so doing, we have been overcome by evil at the very time we could have been victorious. The charge before us isn’t to endure evil but overcome it. It is a labor of love and grace that we undertake to preserve and perpetuate that which we have experienced in Christ; it is what can be accomplished when we live as victors in Christ instead of victims of circumstances.

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“So have I become your enemy by telling you the truth” (Galatians 4:16)?

Throughout history, speaking truth has always been unpopular to those perpetuating lies. While the elites of culture would bully the masses to embrace identity politics and other oddities of falsehood, or to at least remain silent, those speaking truth, or even holding forth common sense, run the risk of being publicly attacked, maligned, and labeled as an uninformed, ignorant, mean-spirited bigot. In a culture of fear, that just goes along to get along, the danger of silence is that the propagandist voices for aberrant behavior and beliefs will remain vocal. Their agenda is their livelihood; the means by which they have acquired their fifteen minutes of status, wealth, and power. The perilous outcome is that lies, shouted loud enough and long enough, eventually become accepted for truth. Telling the truth isn’t being cruel, and should not be held forth cruelly. The cruelest thing we can do, however, is to withhold it.

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“And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:4).

Ultimately, the most telling quality of the Christian faith, the one that brands us as the people of God is our endurance. Jesus said, “Those who endure to the end shall be saved” (Mt. 24:13). Endurance is a spiritual grit, determination, and toughness, that perseveres through adversity with hopeful anticipation regarding the promises and providential purposes of God. The perfection being accomplished doesn’t mean the achievement of some sinless state but, rather, it points to the process by which God’s desired end for humanity is being realized—our becoming instruments of God’s service for his glory. Keep enduring and it will have a perfect result.

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“Knowing that the testing or your faith produces endurance” (James 1:3).

Knowing what we know as believers is to be evident in how we interpret and face life. Nowhere is this to be more evident than in our response to adversity. Admonished to consider it all joy when encountering various trials (v.2), and that this is accomplished only by an attitude of faith that sees through the hardship to the awaiting providential possibilities, every unexpected circumstance then becomes a test of where I am in my faith journey, and my ability to respond appropriately; with joy. The passing of such tests builds up endurance; a spiritual toughness that stays the course and will not be distracted, regardless of circumstances. It is this kind of faithful response that bears the testimony of a living hope to a world consumed by a neurotic anxiety. 

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“Consider it all joy, my brothers and sisters; when you encounter various trials” (James 1:2).

In your suffering and hardships, you are not alone. One of the meaningful realities of the community of faith is that you exist in the presence of, and together with, wounded healers. Not only are we brothers and sisters in Christ, we are brothers and sisters in the human dilemma, the brokenness of the created order; we share together in the wounds of grief, disease, and disappointment of this present life. And while the wounds of some are fresh, bleeding, and painful, for others the same wound has healed over, and their ministering presence is for you one of assurance; that God is present among his people and a new day is coming. This mutual benefit is realized only when we are all committed to being consistently present.

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“James, a bond-servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes who are dispersed abroad: Greetings” (James 1:1).

As a believer, it’s only as you have a sense of identity fixed and rooted in the person of Christ Jesus, that you can appropriately bear witness to the living hope of the resurrected Savior. Though he was the brother of Jesus, James never used this kinship as a means of leveraging power. He writes and instructs as a servant of God, not as one desiring the favorable opinions of man. His acknowledgement of Jesus’ lordship isn’t a statement of theological reflection, but a confession of what shapes his beliefs and behavior. Knowing who you are will determine your response to the various trials of life (v.2).

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“Another of His disciples said to Him, ‘Lord, permit me first to go and bury my father.’ But Jesus said to him, Follow Me, and allow the dead to bury their own dead” (Matthew 8:21-22).

In Jewish tradition there was no greater obligation than a son to his father, and no more so than in the responsibility of providing an honorable burial. These strong words of Jesus point to the weightiness and exclusiveness of his call of discipleship upon a persons life; a call so pervasive that all things formerly deemed as important, noble, and honorable are now considered dead or dying. The passionate pursuit of Christ is the only course leading to life. Everything else is a dead end.

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“All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything” (1 Corinthians 6:12).

The freedom believers have in Christ Jesus led some in the Corinthian church to declare, “All things are lawful to me.” It was to this that Paul offered his two statements of check-and-balance: “but not all things are profitable” and “I will not be mastered by anything.” Observation usually reveals that those who speak most often of their “freedom” in Christ do so in association with some social behavior or lifestyle practice not widely embraced by the greater faith community of which they are apart. In verses 12-20, Paul’s counsel offers a more mature, responsible, and proper understanding of freedom in Christ. In the light of these scripture, we do well in the exercise of such freedom when considering the following questions: Will it benefit the witness of the church? Will it reveal Christ’ Lordship in my life? Will it depict resurrection living? Will it glorify God?

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“Jesus answered and said to Him, ‘Because I said to you that I saw you under the fig tree, do you believe? You will see greater things than these’” (John 1:50).

Every miracle performed by Jesus was done for a redemptive end, and to make known the in-breaking of the Kingdom of God. And while such a feat brought Nathanael to a place of conviction and confession regarding the Messiah, Jesus wants to make certain that while this might make for a good start, it’s not a place to settle. There is far more to be experienced, understood, and discovered in the unfolding purposes of God’s redemptive plan. What was true for Nathanael is no less true for us; what we have seen, heard, and known to be true, will unimaginably surpassed by what is to be seen, heard, and known.

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“Nathanael answered Him, ‘Rabbi, You are the Son of God; You are the King of Israel!’” (John 1:49).

While initially skeptical that anything good could be from Nazareth, much less the Messiah (v.46), Nathanael’s conversation and experience with Jesus was transformational; moving him from a place of skepticism, to conviction and confession. The titles he ascribed to Jesus were neither random nor haphazard; Nathanael understood well the significance of what he was confessing. Just as Jesus was accused as such by the high priest (Mt. 26:65), Nathanael knew that to acknowledge Jesus as the Son of God would have been considered blasphemy by the religious leaders. Such is the nature of encountering Jesus: opinions are changed, minds are opened, religious traditions are broken, truth is discovered, hearts are renewed. What are your convictions regarding Jesus? Might we be living confessions of His presence in the world.

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