Peter’s article from the Nov 2020 – Malyon Update
Annus Horribilis of Annus Mirabilis.
In a speech marking the fortieth anniversary of her accession to the Throne of England, Queen Elizabeth II declared that 1992 had been her Annus Horribilis. Exchanging this Latin phrase for more contemporary speech it roughly translates as “the worst year ever!”
As 2020 rapidly comes to a close I wonder whether that might be an apt description for many millions around the world and even thousands within our churches. Even given the relatively lower numbers of COVID-19 cases in Australia compared to so many other countries around the world, 2020 has been, by anyone’s measure, a pretty tough year.
For so many in our churches it has brought the enormous stress of job losses, financial insecurity and health concerns, not to mention the toll this pandemic seems to have placed upon people’s emotions and relationships.
All of which makes the introductory comments in the Epistle of James seem like a bit of a kick in the stomach when he writes, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds” (James 1:2). Don’t you hate it when people start talking to you like that when you are in the midst of really tough times? But James was not seeking to be insensitive. He wanted his readers to understand that, in the economy of God, even pain and hardship could be worked for their good. So, what does he want us to understand about God’s view on trials?
Frist, he wants us to understand that trials are both inevitable and varied. Notice he doesn’t say “If” you face trials, but “whenever” you face trials. There is an inevitability about trials for all of us as we make our journey through this broken world. But James also wants us to realise that, just like a scalpel in the hands of a surgeon, trials are designed for our good and God’s glory. Trials, he says in v.3, are designed to develop perseverance in us, teaching us how to press into God and become more and more like Jesus. Yet, having said that, they will either be for us our stumbling blocks or our steppingstones, depending upon how we respond in the midst of them.
Little wonder then that in v.5 James says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God.” Typically we call on this verse when there is a big decision to be made. Yet, the instruction comes in the context of trials. Why? Because it is in the midst of trials that we really need the wisdom of God to know how to properly respond.
But there is something else that emerges from this brief treatise on trials. It is simply the command to “consider it pure joy…whenever you face trials.” What James is telling us to do is to simply “look for joy in the journey”. That can be much easier said than done! There may well be little joy to be found in our circumstances. So, where do we turn to find our joy? The Apostle Paul puts it so succinctly when he says, “Rejoice in the Lord always!” (Philippians 4:4). This is where our greatest joy comes from. It comes from fixing our eyes upon Jesus, “the author and perfector of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2).
Has 2020 been your Annus Horribilis? There is a light at the end of the tunnel and that light is Jesus. As we resolve to fix our eyes on him, we may yet find that 2020 becomes our Annus Mirabilis, the most marvellous year, regardless of the trials we have faced.
Peter Francis (Principal)