“For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror.” (James 1:23)
I heard a story about a congregation’s search for a new pastor. Having made it to the final cut, the candidate was brought in for a meet-and-greet. The get together involved a picnic and softball game. The pastor stepped up to the plate and hit the ball into the outfield. Rounding first, he slid safely into second base where he was promptly called “out.” The pastor protested and became indignant. The congregation got a first-hand view of how the pastor handled injustices.
That's what trials can do. They bring out the real us, the us hidden to others and even to ourselves. They can expose our idols, accent our unbelief, and showcase what is important to us. Trials are like MRIs to the soul – and that’s a good thing so that God can humble us and grow us.
Another way the Spirit gives us insight into ourselves is through the ministry of His Word. The Spirit who revealed the Scriptures uses them to expose our hearts. To emphasize this function of the Word James uses the metaphor of a mirror, but with an edge. “For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like” (James 1:23–24).
Like a regular mirror reflects our natural state, the mirror of God’s word reflects the state of our inner being. It certainly shows us our desperate and absolute need for the Savior. We cannot look at ourselves and see blamelessness.
God’s word also shows the imperfections of sin that stand out like a horrendous case of acne. These are areas where we also need the Savior to grant us grace to die more and more unto sin and live increasingly unto righteousness.
“Father, form Christ in me.”