This coming weekend while Kellie and I are at the Vineyard National Conference, our worship director Joe Vercellino will be preaching. He chose James 1:2-4 as his key text and that led me to take a trip down memory lane. Because that passage is one of my Top 10 all-time favorite passages. God used it to impact my life big time back in ’99. Here’s how…
It was early 1999. I was attending Primetime, a Friday night singles ministry at Kensington Church. Brett Ray was the guest speaker one evening. At the end of his message he was sitting at the piano playing softly. Ever minute or so he shared a thought, then played some more, then shared some more.
At one point Brett said something like, “Find something that matters and pour your life into it.” As soon as he shared it, something broke inside of me. I started sobbing right in my seat and I couldn’t stop. The service ended and Jeremy Zilkie (my small group leader) saw me crying, came over to me, and started praying for me.
Then he explained that God was in the middle of whatever caused me to break down. So he said I shouldn’t lose this moment. That I needed to leave the auditorium without talking to anyone, drive straight home, keep the radio off, and pray the whole way. Once I got home I needed to open up my Bible and pray, spending time with God to discern what He had for me.
I did exactly what Jeremy suggested and God met me in a very cool way.
When I got home I opened up my Bible to the book of James. To this day, I’m not sure why I opened up to James. I began reading and the first verses I read (James 1:2-4) hit me like a ton of bricks.
James 1:2-4 (NIV) – Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
At that time I was working as an engineer for GM/Delphi and feeling like God might be calling me to seminary at some point in the future. Because of that, I felt like I was in a holding pattern in life, simply waiting for the green light to go to seminary. I hated my job and felt there was nothing in this “season of life” for me.
That verse told me otherwise.
That evening after Primetime I felt God tell me my job was a trial that I needed to not just endure but to consider pure joy. It was a test of my faith, and this testing would develop perseverance in me. This perseverance would refine my character. And God needed to get all of this work done in me before He would call me to seminary.
Everything changed when I went to work the following Monday. Well… almost everything. I still hated my job. 🙂 And to be honest I never considered it “pure joy.” But now I saw my job as a proving ground to develop my character and mature me in my faith. So my perspective was entirely different.
One example of how things changed… as soon as you walked into our suite there was an admin seated at a desk. Everybody in our suite (including me) ignored her, treating her as subhuman, because she wasn’t one of the “beautiful people” of the world and she was “just” a contract employee to boot.
I felt God leading me to talk to her every time I went in and out of our suite.
And I did.
Our conversations started slow. A “hi” here and there. After all, she was used to being ignored. But over a period of several months, we stopped just saying “hi” and started talking several times each day. I learned her story and shared my spiritual journey with her as well. Who knows how God watered those seeds I planted and what fruit they may have ended up bearing?
As it turned out, God called me to seminary sooner rather than later. Nine months after Brett preached at Primetime, I was in a UHAUL driving across the country to attend the International School of Theology. I have no way of proving this, but I believe that timeline got accelerated because I was a good student of James 1:2-4 and the lessons God was trying to teach me.