Making the word order a little easier to follow in the Greek Interlinear, this verse reads, ‘Esteem it all joy, my brothers, when you might fall into various trials’.
This verse may well be the equivalent of that common saying, laugh in the face of danger.
Neither are reckless or uncaring of what happens next – danger or trials.
But both offer a logic which is counterintuitive.
Mindset is a buzz-word everywhere in recent times, but all the way back in the 1st Century, Jesus’ brother is onto it.
The word James uses for trials is peirasmos, which means ‘temptation’.
It is the experience of temptation rather than an abstract notion.
It is only used three times in the N.T. Once by Jesus, here in James, and once by Peter. It is differently translated as trials or temptations.
When these temptations happen we are to esteem – hégeomai/think or judge (the only occurrence in the N.T.) – it chara/joy or delight.
We should all be aware that life is not without its difficulties.
James exhorts us to have a different mindset at such times. We are to see these kinks in the road, or low points in our self-belief, as opportunities to face up to these temptations in faith and trust in God.
Interestingly in the Greek Interlinear text of this passage, the phrase ‘from his great variety of spiritual gifts’ does not appear. This is clearly an addition by the translators to further inform on the meaning of the passage.
The more straight forward Interlinear ‘(as) each has received a gift’ is much more inclusive than the addition of spiritual gifts.
You can read of specific spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians 13, and no doubt your ‘gift’ may be part or inclusive of these.
Yet there is a difference.
Your gift maybe of conversation or hospitality, music or poetry, confidence or encouragement, teaching or listening, art or craft.
God’s Spirit will be abundantly clear in all of these, no doubt, and they are your gifts to use in service of others, reflecting God’s ‘manifold grace’.
The word gift is charisma occurs 8 times in the N.T. and is always translated as gift, ‘free from God’ and only once in Romans 8:1 as ‘spiritual gift’.
You all have at least one gift from God, which brings something positive to others.
The word which jumps out in this verse, when you read the Greek Interlinear version, is that ‘answer’ is written as ‘defence’.
We are to always be ready to give a defence of the hope we have in Christ.
The word for ‘defence’ in Greek is apologian and only occurs in the New Testament 3 times: 2 Corinthians 7:11, Philippians 1:16, and here in 1 Peter 3:15.
According to Strong’s definition, the word means to give an answer for oneself, to be a clearing of self, or a defense.
The religious hierarchy was very anti the 1st Century Church – remember its actions had led to the leader of The Way – Jesus – being crucified. Saul of Tarsus had led the Judaic witch-hunt of the post-Resurrection followers.
As the Word of God spread out into the Gentile communities there were many other debates and challenges to this new faith. The Book of Acts provides sufficient examples of Paul having to defend his faith.
We are still being challenged to ‘defend’ our faith.
Sometimes this is in the face of violence and persecution, but for most of us it is in the form of the unbelief of those around us and a society which is increasingly humanistic in tone.
Peter challenges us to have our ‘defence’ for our faith in the hope of Christ.
What is your apologian?
What is it in your life, day in and day out, which convinces you to be a follower of The Way of our Lord Jesus Christ?
It has been more than a year since I entered a physical church building.
No one could have imagined the events of the last year which has contributed to me making that statement.
I have always believed that the church of God is the people and not the stone and glass, but it did strike me sitting in the pew of St. Oswald’s at 6:30am that I really was just one of many believers who have sat in Easter Day services since it was dedicated in April 1241.
People have found many different ways to connect to what is important to them over the last year.
So it has been with faith.
That we strive for connection with God is the important part.
Whether it is in a church building or online, with others or alone, out in the countryside or on city streets as we walk, God waits for us to start the conversation.
A steady walk along dirt roads in an undulating landscape.
That’s how we expect life to be.
There will be some more difficult uphill walking and some summits to look out from.
There will be some easier down hill walking and some hollows where it is difficult to see ahead.
Part of making any journey easier is having the right tools.
When Sando and I used to go winter mountaineering in the Cairngorms, we took some extra tools – ice axe and crampons.
It is difficult to describe walking up a the steep side of a mountain in snow with just crampons and your ice axe for extra purchase. Ropes are not always needed.
When there isn’t any snow, the same route is difficult even with ropes.
Along the way you meet people with more tools than you.
And you may have different tools to them.
Sando had the tools of being relaxed. Able to immediately see any difficult situation in a humorous way. He broke the ice of tension easily
Like peregrinos on the Way, you may walk with some people for a short time or most of the route. You may just rest and share food or water, or wine! You may chat about the small things of life or the large questions which come to us all eventually.
Sando never asked why him in anything.
We never questioned why he developed a brain tumour.
It was there and he had a life to be lived.
He hoped to see certain milestones with his family.
Perhaps there was a little more impatience for some of these milestones to come more quickly than otherwise might have been the case.
The destination for this day’s journey is Estella.
Development of this town began in the 11th Century after a shooting star led people to a cave where they discovered a statue of the Virgin Mary. The town quickly grew as did its reputation, soon being known to travellers as ‘Estella la Bella’, Estella the beautiful.
Today’s route is from Zubiri to Pamplona. A distance of 21.1km.
Famous for the Festival of San Firmin and the ‘running of the bulls’, the city is the largest place and population along the Camino route.
San Fermin, or Saint Fermin, is one of the two Patron Saints of Pamplona – the other being San Francis Xavier – who died in 303AD. One legend has it that his death was due to being dragged along the street by a bull, but this was unlikely to have been in the city itself.
Just before entering Pamplona is a village called Villava.
This was the birthplace of five-times Tour de France winner Miguel Indurain.
He was a huge cycling hero of mine, along with Laurent Fignon and Gianni Bugno.
During or after his initial treatment – I can’t remember which – Sando got bitten by the ‘Brompton Bicycle’ bug. I couldn’t work out if he was more taken by the idea of the bike folding up or that there was a bag to put it in?
He had a number of forays out upon the roads once he had purchased one, but his pinnacle was taking part in a Brompton race in London.
It may not have been running with the bulls in Pamplona, but it was certainly more technical than motor racing with a Le Mans-style start, which in this case was unfolding your bike before setting off on the route.
He may not have won, but neither did the ‘bulls’ catch up with him.
He had made it past that first Christmas – which had been given to him as an event which he was unlikely to celebrate – and he fully intended to stay ahead of any further medical predictions.
His was ‘on the Way’.
It may not have been the route he had been expecting to travel, but he did not hesitate in passing through Pamplona and continuing the journey.
Jesus has just had an argument with a Synagogue leader because he was criticised for healing a woman on the Sabbath.
The only things you were permitted to do on the Sabbath were to go and pray publicly or at home. Food had to be prepared the previous day. It was to be a complete day of rest.
Jesus took pity on a woman who had had a debilitating illness for eighteen years. He saw this as God’s work.
The Synagogue leader was wrapped up in the man-made laws surrounding this day of rest. He was completely unconcerned about the plight or the healing of the woman.
In response to this Jesus teaches him about the Kingdom of God.
Israel’s expectation was that the Messiah would come in triumph and over throw their oppressors. They expected a military leader who would restore the nation to power and might.
Jesus tells them the the coming Kingdom was starting with the mustard seed – the tiniest of seeds – but would eventually grow into a great tree, whose branches would become home to many types of birds.
He was teaching that the Kingdom would not just consist of the nation of Israel.
Jesus’ continual references to going plants and seeds in his parables was a common ‘language’ for the majority of his listeners. The majority of people lived rurally and would grow some food to eat and also keep a few animals.
For many of us growing is a separation of commercial growing for food, and personal plants for visual aesthetic, if you are lucky enough to have a garden.
We can use this growing metaphor and apply it to ourselves as well.
If we plant the smallest of seeds – if we begin with a positive intention – and tend the soil and care for its growth – attend daily to develop that first positive action – over a period of time the seed will become a tree – the habit will become a strength and be clearly seen by others – eventually providing a home for the birds amongst the branches – and will prove a blessing to many others as well as ourselves.
What seed could you plant in your lives?
Do you want to be more creative or organised? Do you want to learn a musical instrument? Do you want to learn a foreign language? Do you want to learn to cook better?
Do you want to develop the courage to talk to more people? Do you want to find ways to do small positive actions for those in your lives? Do you want to be fitter and healthier?
All of these things will enable you to develop those branches and bless the people who come within their reach.
If you ever get the chance to watch the documentary-movie Skid Row Marathon then I would highly recommend it.
A Los Angeles Judge is a keen runner. He is then asked by a man who he convicted and sent to jail to go down and see the Midnight Mission which was helping him get back on his feet after his release from prison.
The Judge is encouraged to help out with the Mission, so he starts a running club.
Watch the film – it is uplifting and will leave you teary eyed at the same time.
The Judge’s seed was his love of running. The tree grew as the running club developed. In the branches miracles happened.