A Masterpiece in the Making

It’s All About Perspective

James was teaching his readers to consider their trials as a joy. He was saying they needed to look at their troubles in a different way, with a different perspective – an eternal perspective, so to speak. Observe what he wrote in verse 3:

…because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.

Our faith is tested so we can develop perseverance or endurance. The word translated either “perseverance” or “endurance” means, “trusting God for a long duration.”

You see, James was not trying to make new converts through his letter, but was encouraging those who were already following Christ. He wanted them to run the whole race of faith and discipleship and not give up before crossing the finish line. Therefore, they would need to see all the truly hard circumstances they experienced throughout their lives, with God’s eternal perspective.

They would need to understand that those “tests of faith,” properly understood, would actually strengthen them so they could endure to the end.

Hebrews 12:2 gives us a similar perspective,

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

The Cross was not an enjoyable experience of our Lord. He didn’t whistle his way through it. However, he had his Father’s eternal perspective and, therefore, saw the joy to come. This enabled him to endure it. That is what James was saying too.

God’s Masterpieces

Christians ought not believe they are the center of God’s universe. God is the center of God’s universe and whatever God does is for his own glory. And yet, in an important sense, we are still God’s masterpieces and he is taking great care to turn us into magnificent works.

C.S. Lewis said we are like a painter’s living canvas, made up of countless, very sensitive, nerve-endings. Every scrape of the Painter’s blade along the canvas brings pain at the time. But because the Painter sees the big picture, he continues to work on the canvas. His goal is to produce a grand piece of art, not a collection of stick figures.

Yet, we must acknowledge that the trials and tests are real and with them comes genuine pain. They are not enjoyable, even when we know what they are producing. To see the big picture is not to trivialize the agony and suffering of the present moment.

Peter Kreeft on C.S. Lewis

What first piqued your interest in C.S. Lewis?

What first piqued your interest in Chopin? In sunsets? In astronomy? In Audrey Hepburn? The question does not need to be asked by anyone who has answered it. The thing itself, the object, Lewis’s mind and spirit, the truths and goodnesses and beauties in his writings, rather than any psychological, individual, “felt need” on my part or any sociological relevance or fashionableness on the part of the society or culture I came out of.

My college roommate credited Lewis, especially Mere Christianity, with saving his faith. When I tried it, it was like Augustine’s first reading of the Bible: “Oh, I know all that; that’s too easy for me.” Like the Bible, and like a human face, the book is deceptively simple on its surface but inexhaustible in its depths. Once we have grown some depths of maturity and overcome superficiality and superciliousness and adolescent arrogance, we love it. It’s the second book I mention, after the Gospels, when people ask me what to read to understand Christianity.

The Problem of Pain was actually the first Lewis book I read, as a college freshman. I didn’t understand it all the first time, but I did understand that the reason I didn’t understand had nothing to do with Lewis, but only with me. Here was the clearest, most direct, honest, intelligent, reasonable answer I had ever seen (and almost 50 years later it remains that!) to the most difficult problem in the world.