Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don't try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way. (James 1:2-4 MSG)
Our passage today refers to the process of our "faith-life" being forced into the open by the challenges we face in our daily walk. We don't always like it when our "faith-life" is brought into the open, though. Many times we try to compartmentalize our "faith-life" as something separate from the rest of our 'real life'. Pressure helps to produce evidence of our faith in Christ and brings evidence of Christ-like maturity in our choices - those 'real life' choices. I don't want you to miss the statement that "true colors" are revealed - these are often hidden or need something else to be removed in order for them to show through. Pressure is simply a burden of physical or mental stress. It can be a constraint that comes into our lives that demands our attention at this very moment, no delays. There is usually an urgency about what we face - we are not able to sweep it under the rug - it just keeps exerting that pressure until we pay attention to it. James is pointing toward the process where both our growth of character and spirit is in unison - the type of unified growth that produces unity between our 'faith-life' and our 'real life'. He is giving us the simple truth that the pressures we face in life have an impact of producing what God desires - the image of his Son deep in our lives.
If you don't know what you're doing, pray to the Father. He loves to help. You'll get his help, and won't be condescended to when you ask for it. Ask boldly, believingly, without a second thought. People who "worry their prayers" are like wind-whipped waves. Don't think you're going to get anything from the Master that way, adrift at sea, keeping all your options open. (James 1:5-8 MSG)
Ask boldly - this is the attitude of heart that we are to have when faced with challenges that we don't understand - challenges that exert pressure and oftentimes don't let up until long after we are thinking we are sort of "done" or "over" dealing with them. To be bold is to be fearless, assured, and confident. A bold person stands out - they are conspicuous - there is no hiding their boldness. God never expects us to either keep our needs hidden, or to feel like we have to just barely let out a "squeak" in his presence while laying our burdens down before him. He tells us to come boldly - totally assured he will be listening, absolutely confident that he will be responsive, unwavering and fearless to lay it all down (even the ugly stuff that may not come easily for us to actually admit or deal with). It amazes me how many times I come to God as the "worrier" and not the "warrior"! That 'boldness' isn't always evident in my life and I bet I am not alone on this one.
Anyone who meets a testing challenge head-on and manages to stick it out is mighty fortunate. For such persons loyally in love with God, the reward is life and more life. (James 1:12 MSG)
Meeting challenges head on can only be done under the anointing of Christ. Lots of times we have all the passion, but we need him to give us the ability to actually fulfill what needs to be done in that moment. A challenge is something that calls us out - invites us into competition - it opens us up to the possibilities of something being different from what it is right now. It stimulates us - exciting our passion. It also serves to call us into account - or into question! What calls us into combat at this moment? Are we facing those "giants" or running from them? What invites us into competition - in our thoughts, our actions, or simply our interests? What is it that stimulates us - what do we get excited about? Those things that stimulate us act as a "goad" to draw us out of our present complacency and to move us into places where we can often feel a little exposed - but our 'faith-life' and 'real life' actually get very intertwined when this happens. A challenge that will produce right character, or that will reveal an opportunity for change in our lives isn't always embraced eagerly, but when the pressure is allowed to expose something new in our character, what an awesome sight to behold! Hold onto this truth - that pressure is revealing your true colors! I want mine to be the colors I don't mind "flying high"! How about you? Just askin!