Reflections From the Middle

James 1:1-4
1 James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,
To the twelve tribes in the Dispersion:
 2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

As we draw closer to the end of the year, I thought it would be good to reflect on the journey we’ve been on in 2020. In doing so, I was struck that while we’re at the end of the year, we are not at the end of the pandemic. Nor are we at the end of racial conflict. We’re not at the end of governmental restrictions. We’re not even at the end of determining who will be our President! We are still in the middle of it… all of it. Reflections are so much easier when you’ve passed through the darkest caverns and can look back through the glimmering light that’s at the end of our tunnels. But in the shroud of the middle, there’s still the mystery of how God will come through, yet with full faith that He will come through!

James wrote the inspiring words above to people who were in the middle, namely, Jewish believers who had been scattered abroad because staying put wasn’t wise or safe. Their lives were uprooted as they fled from the terror of the Romans and the ostracism of their own countrymen. These people didn’t need religious platitudes, they needed the bedrock of hope that they could rebuild their lives upon. They needed to know that God was at work, because life in the middle can be disorienting.

While James would go on to speak of other things, I wonder how these opening words were first received. I wonder because for people who are in the middle, their foremost desire is for their circumstances to change. We want to hear news that God has deposed the Emperor, instilled a righteous ruler, and returned peace to the land. We want to know when we can return home and resume our normal lives. We don’t want to hear that God is doing something in us because our hopes are pinned on Him doing something for us.

What has God been doing in you? Or maybe a better way to phrase it, ‘have you allowed God to shape you in 2020?’ Are you more steadfast in your faith than ever before? Usually, before there is growth there is the revelation that growth is needed. Patient people don’t become patient until they realize that they aren’t. Selfishness needs to be exposed before servanthood can develop. Humility comes after the fall of pride. Did COVID-19 strike you or a family member? Did you lose a job or couldn’t be on your school campus? Did you experience any form of racism? What was it like living in tight quarters with very little places to escape or needing to quarantine? How did the teacher hat fit while still wearing all of your other ones?

For many, they’ve found that their marriages were stronger than they realized. Spending time with their parents or kids was actually better than expected. Some discovered they could develop a new hobby. Still others felt the satisfaction of facing their challenges head on, and still remain standing with faith intact and hope abounding.  

Other wonderful glimmers of God’s transformative work include:
  • Dozens of people gave the gift of their blood during the blood drive hosted at our ministry center.
  • Many provided groceries for people struggling to make ends meet through our partnership with Jubilee Reach.
  • Through a combination of a grant, fund raising event, and matching funds, we were able to help raise almost 15K to support Jimani Collections, a ministry dedicated to providing a living wage to impoverished women in Kenya.
  • We gave sacrificially to raise over $25K and with matching funds of $15K we contributed over $40K to fight human trafficking in partnership with Rescue Freedom.
  • Many provided countless meals to others in our church family who were ill or who recently had a new baby.
  • We also continued to learn how to build bridges to people from different backgrounds and cultures through our Ethnic Identity Conference.
  • People have also reached out across traditional lines that separate us to dialogue and listen to others because they understand that we’re all part of the human race.
What this showed is that when we keep our eyes on the Lord, no matter what is happening around us, we can experience His transformational work and celebrate it, even in the middle of it all. Thank you for allowing the Lord to use you to make 2020 so special!


Anton - December 10th, 2020 at 5:27pm

Amen, PJ. This brings a New Hope for 2021!

Rob Unoki - December 11th, 2020 at 4:28am

Amen - thrive in the middle!

Lori Lau - December 20th, 2020 at 11:35pm

Thanks PJ! Amen to keeping our eyes on God in the middle of a storm. I appreciate your blog —- it is so true ! Amen