For Every Action There’s A Reaction
Pastor Steve Wellman, New Hope Church, 200 E. New Hope Road, Goldsboro, James 1:3-4, Hebrews 12:15
Isaac Newton’s famous observation was one of the principles we learned in science during high school. “For every action, there’s an equal and opposite reaction.” Long before Newton recognized this principle at work in physics, it was presented in Scripture as foundational for spiritual maturity and growth. Many believers are blindsided and frustrated when unexpected challenges arise. The unavoidable question emerges, if Christianity brings difference, then why do believers have the same problems as unbelievers? Jesus promised that as believers, we have access to His “Counselor” Spirit and are “Sanctified in Truth.” Our identity isn’t shaped or determined by what happens to us. Instead, we are shaped by our reactions to what happens to us. Hebrews cautions us to allow no bitterness to overtake us. When the letter of James promises wisdom, there is no false advertising. It is assumed from the beginning rains will fall on the just and the unjust. In a fallen world, difficulties and hardships will occur. However, we don’t have to become bitter; we can become better. Hearts can become deeper. Love can become sweeter. Devotion can become purer. We are commanded to let “perseverance finish its work so that you be complete, not lacking anything.”
In my life, I prefer maturity and growth without challenge. I want the deeper heart, the sweeter love, and the purer devotion, but without anything which would stretch or strain me to new heights. James reminds us the testing place is the resting place. The alternative is a life tossed about like the waves of the sea. We are riddled with anxiety, wondering what difficulty we might face next. To receive anything from the Lord means we approach God with the confidence that He desires to provide every good and perfect gift. Our focus isn’t on the possible trauma but on the guaranteed treasure. “Do not let bitterness overtake you” isn’t proclaimed as an option. This is a command. How we respond to the things that happen to us is the source of our identity. We wouldn’t have a command if it weren’t a crucial priority and one that we must cautiously heed. The person who avoids double-mindedness is the person who enjoys the fruits of stability. In this instance, stability is a blessing that comes with conditions. How we pray and seek God before, during, and after a challenge arises makes all the difference. To be “sanctified in the truth” is to pray wisely for the insight and ability to “let perseverance do its work.” Entrusting our lives to God and believing His mighty hand is at work enables us to live confidently that coincidental forces and blind whim do not drive us.
We are assured He who began a good work within us will see us through to completion. If we are going to possess a life that gives honor to God, then we are to embrace through faithfulness those things which make us more like Jesus. For the one who “endured for the joy set before Him,” we can draw from His wisdom. How we view our challenges is the same way Jesus viewed His challenges. He was not thrown off course, nor did He function under the weight of despair. His Spirit enables us to overcome with a perspective that sees beyond the present moment. There is a larger, ultimate joy moving us to the higher and the greater. With each step, those sanctified in truth are aware moment by moment of how our reactions matter. The emotions we allow into our daily thoughts have significant implications. Nothing is underestimated. The bitterness which threatens to overtake us never starts large but begins with the easily excused and overlooked. May the Lord inspire within us a watchful wisdom that remains aware of the seeds which are getting planted. There is joy passing all understanding reserved for those united with His Spirit and ready to endure all for His glory.