Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. (James 1:2)

Blessed are you when people insult you… (Matthew 5:11)

James and Jesus grew up in the same household, both mothered by Mary. James, we assume, was the son of Joseph, the righteous man, the carpenter of Nazareth. Jesus, his older and his half brother, was the son of Mary born of a miracle of the Holy Spirit. Joseph had the sinful human nature we all have. Jesus did not, but had only the nature of the pure and holy mind that Adam and Eve had before sin entered into their lives. Jesus is our Lord, and James is our older brother and fellow believer in the faith.

But apart from these differences – as significant as they are – the two men grew up side by side. It is interesting that when they both began their ministries – Jesus in His Sermon on the Mount and James in his epistle – with emphasis on perseverance¬† through trials. Can we not see the attitude of their mother Mary in this matter? Though Christ’s source of inspiration was surely the Spirit and not His mother Mary as a primary source, still can we not see her in even His words – if not the source then certainly a living example of their truth?

What an influence she must have been for God. When the angel came and announced her miraculous pregnancy, he said, “You are highly favored. The Lord is with you… Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God” (Luke 1:28-30). She humbly accepted the role that God had given her to play in the redemption of the world from sin: “I am the Lord’s servant,” she answered. “May it be to me as you have said” (Luke 1:38).

Could she have seen, in those moments, the future respect and admiration that believers would pay to her in the centuries to come? It seems unlikely that she could absorb all of this. She claimed it by faith, however, that what the Lord gives to any one of us to do – no matter how humble, how difficult, or how humiliating – will turn into blessings for others.

There lay before her years of insinuations about the birth of Jesus – rumors, judging, criticisms, and insults. We cannot forget that these same people of Nazareth rejected Christ when He came as an adult and as a Teacher. It was of Nazareth that Christ repeated the proverb, “Only in his home town and in his own house is a prophet without honor” (Matt. 13:37). And the record of scripture is that Christ “did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith” (Matt. 13:38). So the witness of scripture is that these people of Jesus’ home town were in general petty, critical, and faithless people.

And there it was that God put Mary and Joseph. We should not forget Joseph in this matter. An angel had appeared to him also, only in a dream, but it was enough for him to also know that he had been visited by God’s special messenger. But who else would have understood this matter of Mary’s pregnancy and of Jesus’s birth? Did not his friends say unkind things to him and about him? It would seem only reasonable that they had both endured and persevered in this difficulty of insinuation and rumor.

The lesson of these passages is that what we endure is not nearly as significant as how we endure it. Hardships make some people better and make other people bitter. It depends on the attitude we take on as we endure them. If we have no hope then we will respond in the same angry and ungracious manner in which we perceive that we have been treated. If we have the faith and hope of God, however, then we can say that these things can in God’s hands lead on to blessings, in us and through us to others.

The attitude that should be our response to all things that God has entrusted to us is the one of both Mary and Joseph – I am the Lord’s servant. Do in me and through me whatever You wish for Your glory, O God. Of Paul, Christ said, in the days leading to his conversion, that he had been like a stubborn farm animal, kicking against the goads of his herder. Rather than kicking, we should say, So be it unto me as You wish, O God. That is the faith and the hope that can turn insults into benedictions, and difficulties into opportunities for spiritual growth.

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