Have a Nice Time...Suffering?
The book of James is one of the most practical books in the Bible. It has a ton of instruction on how we are supposed to live our lives as we follow Christ. But James had a funny way of beginning his letter. Let's look at it together...
1 James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,To the twelve tribes scattered among the nations: Greetings. 2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, (James 1:1-2a)
I love the way James starts this letter off. Maybe it's because I like to use sarcasm and humor in everything I do, but I feel like James is smiling when he writes this. It's like he's saying...
"Hey everybody! I have some good news for you today! You should be happy when you suffer trials"
Not exactly the friendly beginning you'd expect from a letter. But James isnt' writing for fun, he's writing to help his brothers and sisters understand how to live their lives for God in the face of extreme persecution.
James continues on to explain why in the next verse...
...because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. (James 1:3)
So there is some good news in there after all. The testing and trials you experience in your life help to produce perseverance. But what does that mean? Does it mean that we just sit and take it and are happy about it. Is perseverance that great?
Actually yes. Unlike endurance, which is simply being able to cope with trials in a godly way, perseverance is active. It's the ability to go through a trial and continue to walk in faith, bear spiritual fruit, and do what God has called you to do. And it's what James says that the trying of our faith produces.
Then he get's to the point.
What do we get for all of this perseverance? A vacation would be nice. Maybe to Hawaii, or a quiet mountain top?...ahhh.
Nope. We get something WAY more valuable, and here it is:
Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (James 1:4)
Mature and complete. When perseverance is done, we come out on the other side more complete and mature in Christ. We find that we never lacked anything during those times. It's like we are able to look back with 20/20 vision and see that God was with us the whole time.
It strengthens us in our faith for the next trial that we'll face as well. We are reminded that no matter how big or scary the trials get, we can be confident that God is there, helping us to walk through it and providing everything we need.
James also tell us several verses later...
Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him. (James 1:12)
DON'T WORRY - BE HAPPY
The message that James was trying to communicate to Christians in the 1st century is just as needed in the 21st century.
You will have trials. Your faith will be tested. You will have hard days. Terrible days even. Consider them pure joy. Because you know that God is producing in your perseverance. And that will lead to you being more complete in Him!
Father, I don't like trials. Not at all. But I need to be reminded that You are using them to help me grow in my walk with You. I pray that You will help me not to grow bitter, but better as I learn to actively walk in faith during the hard times. Thank You for never leaving me. In Jesus name, Amen.