You’re not aloneWhere's the Faith? Thursday, May 10th, 2012
Social Chaos: Where's the Faith?
In dealing with difficulties and trials in life, it helps to know you’re not alone. Difficulties come into everyone’s life.
“My brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance; and let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing.”
There’s that word when – not if. Whenever you face trials, remember, you’re not alone.
Second, our attitude helps determine our outcome. Our attitude is critical. In the midst of your trials – you have options. You can be miserable and angry and frustrated … or you can look for the lessons to be learned – or the way you’re being stretched and growing. You could look at your problems as a stumbling block or a stepping stone.
Third, you can be certain God has a purpose. The Scriptures say, “… knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance (patience). But let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing.”
Rev. J. Hamby says that knowing that trials have a purpose can make a big difference in how you face the hard time that you’re going through. God has not abandoned you, no matter how you may “feel.”
Peter also reflects on the purpose of suffering when he says in 1 Peter 1:6-9, “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen, you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith – the salvation of your souls.”
According to James, enduring these tests produces certain characteristics in the people being tested. First, they become “mature” – not perfect, but spiritually mature. Second, they become “entire” – meaning whole and complete, fully developed, mature. Third, they are “lacking in nothing” meaning that God will provide everything they need to remain obedient in their lives of faith. “Strength for today … and bright hope for tomorrow.”
What good is faith unless it is tested and proved? And yet, we try to avoid being tested, don’t we? We don’t like it when we are tested, not even in school. Testing is a completely negative idea in our heads. But, James says, change your thinking.
James says that we consider the facing of our trials a joy. The NRSV translates the word (hegesasthe) as “consider.” Some scholars believe that is actually a little weak and doesn’t really get at the force of the word.
I “consider” what flavor of ice cream I want, or I “consider” which shirt I’m going to wear. There really isn’t a whole lot of thought that goes into it. James isn’t just asking us to take this idea lightly, but rather he’s stretching us to allow this way of thinking to completely rule or control our minds and our actions. “Trials = joy” must transform our minds and control our perception of everything we face.
If I said, “Raise your hand into the air.” That’s something that you can actually do. You can will your hand to rise up into the air. However, if I said, “Jump up and touch the moon.” That’s something you can’t do … no matter how much you may want to. James is asking us to change the way we think about our problems – to make the effort on our own – no one else can do it for us. It has to be a conscious decision we make in our mind.
Fourth, we were not intended to go through trials alone.
We don’t go through trials alone. We have God’s wisdom at our disposal. Verse five says, “If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God, who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and it will be given you.”
This wisdom is not just philosophical insight about how to handle life, but spiritual wisdom divinely given to you … wisdom that is beyond your own understanding – who doesn’t want that?
Many of us have heard this principle that suffering comes to perfect us (trials come to only make us strong). But how do we put that knowledge into practice in a specific situation of testing? What do we do? Do we stay where we are, or do we move elsewhere, do we look for release or do we expect God to fulfill us where we are? What do we do? James says, in a situation like that, ask God!
Fifth, God ultimately intends our trials to be a blessing.
James ends this section on trials by saying in verse twelve, “Blessed is anyone who endures (trials) temptation. Such a one has stood the test and will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who believe in God.”
You endured the test – bless you. “Blessed” means happy. Better yet, it means satisfied. Better yet, it means fulfilled with inner joy.
We all experience trials, but God has something great in mind, and James is calling us to see it.
Let me close by sharing this thought from Charles Spurgeon (the great preacher and theologian of the 1800s). “I have always looked back to times of trial with a kind of longing, not to have them return, but to feel the strength of God as I felt it then, to feel the power of faith as I felt it then, to hang on to God’s powerful arm as I hung on to it then, and to see God at work as I saw it then.”
What an attitude! Let that be your attitude as you count it all joy.
Rev. Dan Koeshall is the Senior Pastor at The Metropolitan Community Church (The Met) in San Diego, California, themetchurch.org.
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