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Practicing faith, not fear

By Myrtle Virginia Thompson

We are creatures of emotions, one of which is fear. We laugh, we cry, we sympathize, are sometimes able to empathize, and in times of crisis, we are even willing to listen. Just now we have been bombarded with news of an attack by an unseen organism.

It has managed to screw up so many plans, putting under a ban individuals, communities, our country and many parts of the world. Sensitivity to the situation affects our emotions. When it is as serious as the past few weeks have been, stress is the unwanted ingredient. Our eyes and ears are riveted, waiting for any bit of news. The media insists the government is lax, but mobilizing for a battle when the enemy cannot be seen takes time.

I had just begun the study of the Bible book of James when the coronavirus became headline news. My first reaction was to ask if our Wednesday night church suppers could become a time for concerted prayer. Before I could circulate the idea, the governor banned all gatherings, so no suppers, no prayer meeting. The nature of this enemy is continuing to leap out and make its presence known, causing us to realize how vulnerable and inadequate we are to fight an invisible war. It will need to be done in prayer, “in our closet” just like Jesus said. (Matthew 6:6)

One thing I learned from James was personal behavior in the face of unexpected and difficult circumstances. Different Bible versions brought new thoughts to my mind, but most used words having the same meaning. Consider it pure joy whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know the testing of your faith develops perseverance. For James to tell us to consider a difficult circumstance a time of joy is a hard pill to swallow, and none of us likes bad tasting medicine.

None of what James wrote would be applicable to our present war on the coronavirus if James did not tell us more, but he reminded the Jewish Christian believers and us how serious situations could transform lives and remove our egotism and self-centeredness. That should be one lesson we learn while we endure this current testing.

There is another lesson, possibly forgotten but vastly important.

In chapter 4, James reminds us we cannot count on going to some place or doing something “today or tomorrow to spend time there, carrying on business and making money.” He writes, “What is your life? You are (like) a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.”

This wretched coronavirus has underscored what he wrote. It has wrecked the plans of brides, end-of-the-year school events and so much more. Why? Because we can’t count on what will happen in our lives from one moment to the next. God holds the key to life and to death.

What Jesus told us is to be ready for any and every eventuality. That readiness comes when we know our sins are forgiven and we are ready to receive the “crown of life” James says God has stored up for those who love Him. (1:12) It will be given as a reward only to those who remain faithful, “keeping on keeping on” in faith. We do that through prayer.

James says when we are in trouble we should “sing songs of praise.” (5:13) We cannot sing songs of praise without confessing our sins. This special period in our life right now may be a virtual reality, an unexpected gift from God to get us ready to meet Him.

Myrtle V. Thompson, 92, is a retired educator, Bible teacher and writer. Email her at mvtgrt@gmail.com.