Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.
But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.
Believers in humble circumstances ought to take pride in their high position. But the rich should take pride in their humiliation—since they will pass away like a wild flower. For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls, and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich will fade away even while they go about their business. (New International Version)
Where do you turn when unwanted circumstances leave you wondering how to cope?
The Apostle James, no stranger to adversity and stressful situations, likened our position in hard situations as faith being on the witness stand, put to the test. Faith is being examined and cross-examined. And it must stand the test.
Our attitude toward such trials, in all their varied forms, determines whether we will become upset, hard-hearted, and calloused, or, come through having our faith confirmed with newfound peace and joy.
Christians are to view their adverse situations as an opportunity for their faith in Christ to develop and grow.
Rejoice in the midst of trials
Telling someone to consider their tough situation as pure joy is a really hard pill to swallow.
James, however, was looking to fortify the believers’ faith. Whenever we get a cut or a laceration, the first thing needed is to apply peroxide to the wound so there will be no infection from the injury. It might seem insensitive because peroxide applied to an open wound, frankly, hurts like hell. Yet it must happen. It’s a necessary part of healing.
The Apostle cared enough about the people to tell them what they needed to hear, up front. Without a positive, godly, and wise perspective on their difficulties, their faith would fail. Infection would set in and destroy the fledgling church.
Suffering is a significant part of the Christian life. God never promised that life would be or should be all cupcakes and unicorns.
In fact, Christ promised just the opposite – that everyone who wants to live for Jesus in this present broken world will have a hard time of it. It’s not a matter if you will face the testing of your faith, but of whenever you face trials.
The good news is that adversity can become our teacher. We can learn patient endurance, which is necessary to the development of our faith. Spiritual growth only matures through the testing of faith through adversity.
Faith is not a neutral or static thing. Faith is active and dynamic. It’s always either developing or degenerating. Without spiritual peroxide, faith degenerates and becomes rancid. Eventually, gangrene sets in, and an amputation will happen. To avoid this, we need to learn how to experience joy in the middle of hard things.
Faith is challenging, and often hard. Yet, even within the pain, faith is incredibly invigorating and joyful.
Do not avoid trials
We need perseverance. Only through endurance is spiritual maturity realized. Let your hard situation do its necessary work. Immature people avoid hard things and instead put their energy into keeping up appearances.
Conversely, the mature person perseveres through the test and trial of faith. They understand that there must be pressure for spiritual maturity to occur.
God is looking to do something beautiful in our lives. So, if we constantly run away and do not deal with our hard situations, there will never be a pearl. It takes about ten years for a pearl to form in an oyster in the ocean. Observing an oyster every day, you never notice any movement is happening. But it’s there.
In the Christian life, the consistent daily choices over a long period of time (perseverance) form the eventual beauty.
Pray for wisdom in the trials
Ask God for wisdom to see the adverse circumstance from a different angle – of its positive good, and for what God is accomplishing in and through it. The truth is, God is developing within people a strong vibrant faith, if we allow it.
Within a hardship, it does little good to ask, “Why is this happening to me?” It is much better to ask, “Why is this trial here for me? What can I learn from it?”
With no meaningful prayers, there is no meaningful wisdom for our circumstances.
Believe God is good no matter the trial
God is not mean, but generous. The Lord gives with no questions asked, and without giving us a hard time about our situation. Yet, there is a condition….
We must believe – that God is good, answers prayer, and gives wisdom. We may doubt a lot of things. Yet we are always to be secure in the knowledge that God has our best interests at heart. This is why there can be joy and perseverance, even when everything around us is going to hell.
Christians in humble circumstances actually have a high position because their poverty enables them to be open to God; and the pressures of poverty lead them to rely on God’s enablement and provision.
Whenever you find yourself with few material possessions; work hard but struggle to keep food on the table; and find it difficult to pay the bills – then, you are stripped of the illusion of independence and are left vulnerable before God. Trust isn’t optional, but absolutely necessary for survival.
Will we pour our lives into things, or into people?
Will we look for ingenuity and technical solutions in order to make our budgets budge, or will we come to God?
Will we define success as worldly wealth, or will we define success as acting justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly with our God?
Do not trust in wealth during a trial
In the midst of hard times, those who love the Lord Jesus are realize their true position and draw strength from it. Yet, for those who do not trust God alone but trust in their wealth and resources, things will not end well.
“Watch out! Guard yourself against all kinds of greed. After all, one’s life isn’t determined by one’s possessions, even when someone is very wealthy.” Then he told them a parable: “A certain rich man’s land produced a bountiful crop. He said to himself, What will I do? I have no place to store my harvest! Then he thought, Here’s what I’ll do. I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones. That’s where I’ll store all my grain and goods. I’ll say to myself, You have stored up plenty of goods, enough for several years. Take it easy! Eat, drink, and enjoy yourself. But God said to him, ‘Fool, tonight you will die. Now who will get the things you have prepared for yourself?’ This is the way it will be for those who hoard things for themselves and aren’t rich toward God.” (Luke 12:15-21, CEB)
Such persons fade away even while they go about their business. Those who trust in things are the real underprivileged people. They may grow up and look beautiful. And yet, the next day, they’re gone – annihilated by a hot wind.
Like a cornfield in a massive hailstorm, or a flower in a severely hot sirocco wind, the rich cannot stand in the judgment, that is, if they are trusting in their wealth to provide power, control, attention, and status.
The upwardly mobile path of worldly success and financial security, never stopping to lay up treasure in heaven, will have a rude awakening with a major career change in hell.
Where are you on the spectrum of faith?
Do you need to turn from trust in stuff, and trust in Christ?
Confess to God a love of things over love of Christ.
Declare to God that you want to change.
Believe in forgiveness through the cross of Christ.
Tell a trusted person about your decision.
Grant, O God, that we may never lose our way through stubborn self-will, and never abandon the struggle but endure to the end. Help us never to choose the cheap way of avoiding or circumventing our trials but embrace the Via Dolorosa. May we never forget that sweat is the price of all things, and that without the cross, there cannot be the crown. Amen.