Steadfast

“What’ll ya have what’ll ya have!!??”

If you’ve never been to the Varsity in downtown Atlanta, it’s likely you won’t appreciate the words above.  The Varsity was established in 1928 and is now said to be the largest drive-in fast food restaurant in the world and continues to serve more coca cola product than any single location in the world.  In Atlanta, even if you don’t eat at the Varsity you know where it is.  It takes up two city blocks and has seen nearly a century of history pass through and in front of its doors.  It is an institution.

While reading the first chapter of the Book of James, I noticed the word ‘steadfast’ used 3X in close proximity and in context with some serious stuff.  Realizing that I did not have a clear definition in my mind of the word, I looked it up..

stead•fast

1    a : firmly fixed in place : immovable

b : not subject to change

2    : firm in belief, determination, or adherence

Dictionary.com uses these words “firmly established, as an institution”.  The context in which James uses this word deals with trials:

Jas 1:2–4Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (ESV, emphasis added)

Jas 1:12 “ Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial…”

It is not uncommon in Atlanta to receive directions that include some type of reference to going past the Varsity, or Go down North Avenue and the Varsity will be on your left.  In Marrietta, we have “The Big Chicken”, yet another landmark that has stood the test of time.  It is said that Pilots flying into Dobbins air force base use the Big Chicken as reference when coming into the area.  The Big Chicken has been in Atlanta since 1956, and in that time has faced near destruction.  In 1993 this landmark was severely damaged by a storm and nearly taken down due to the extensive damage, however the public persistently demanded that the Icon be repaired.  The Big Chicken stands today, in its original location as another one of Atlanta’s institutions.

What if the Big Chicken were built of straw and sticks, would people be saying “when you pass the Big Chicken turn right…”  Would pilots be using it as a reference point?  No, more than likely it wouldn’t be there, and if it were it would be a dilapidated sign of what once was.  You’re probably thinking “man, this guy really has a thing for fast food”.  The food is not the point, the landmarks are.  These landmarks have stood the test of time, they are firmly established.  Our faith, unlike these locations, is fixed upon a direction, or purpose.

James doesn’t leave the how up to us, he spells it out.  If you are wondering “how do I establish steadfastness of faith?” Fear not!  “…the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.”  The temptation is to focus on the trial, but aren’t we told to focus on the prize?  I know that I am not in the practice of counting my trials as ‘joy’.  Perhaps that is why as I read through the verses speaking of joy, I feel as though I come up short.  Could it be that I focus on the trial, I get down, pessimistic, ho hum?  When I get to the other side of the trial I count it as perseverance, but was anything gained?  Or, are trials like blocks in the game of “Jenga” where pieces are removed one at a time until the whole stack crashes down.

“God Forbid!”  Instead of losing something through trials we should be gaining something.  “…the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.”   

Imagine for a minute your faith as a landmark.  What if our faith were at an intersection on another’s journey?  “When you see the man/woman of Great Faith, follow him/her until you see glory…”  NEWS FLASH:  No matter if we have little faith, no faith, or the faith to move mountains we are an intersection on the journeys of all those who cross our path.

“Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.”   -James 1:2 (ESV emphasis added)

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