The book of James, Chapter 1:2-4 says “My brothers, count it all joy when you fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith works patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that you may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.
What in the world is James talking about? This doesn’t sound like something human nature is even capable of. No one enjoys going through adversity. It is not an idea that makes sense. Even Jesus, on the night He was betrayed, prayed that the coming adversity would pass from Him.
But He eventually submitted His own desire to the plan of God. How did He do this? Some of you will say, well He was God. That is true, but He laid down His position in Heaven and came to earth as a baby, just like us. He was tempted in all thing like we are. How could He represent the human race if He did not experience our sufferings and temptations? He had to be made like us and experience what we experience.
Let’s start with the premise that God does not tell us to do something that we can’t do. He is not unjust. If you read the Old Testament, you will come across His instructions to “Be holy as I am holy.” Leviticus 19:2. I have lately been re-reading parts of the Old Testament and I am struck by the similar instructions given to Old Testament saints who did not have the benefit of the indwelling Holy Spirit as we have in the New Covenant. I see God saying the same thing time after time to them as He does to us who live on this side of the cross. How can one say, “Be holy as I am holy” to those without the Spirit of God?
Because everything is BY FAITH. Abraham was justified BY FAITH. Hebrews 11:33-38 talks about a group of people “Who through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, from weakness were made strong, waxed mighty in war, turned to flight armies of aliens. Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection. And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yes, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented;…”
God is not unjust nor unfair. We can do as He has asked us to do. We can’t do it without Him, though. In ourselves, we cannot “Be holy, as I am holy.” We must have Him. But we can do what He wants us to do.
God’s divine power “has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that has called us to glory and virtue: Whereby are given to us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these you might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.2 Peter 1:3-4
Stories of the Old Testament saints who did great things for God are cause for encouragement. Look at Noah. By faith, he built the ark. For 100 years, he was building while the rest of the population most likely mocked him as the earth had not seen rain before. Abraham left his homeland by faith and did not know where he was going. Sarah by faith conceived a child according to God’s promise even though she was very old. Look at Moses, challenging the ruling powers of the day to set his people free. Look at Joseph, unfairly cast out by his brothers and then taken into slavery and eventually prison in a strange country. In the end, he was made a ruler and saved his people from starvation. Look at Jeremiah, a prophet obedient to God, but disliked by his own people who tried to kill him. Do we experience adversity like this? Yes, some do.
There is great persecution of saints in other countries, persecution we have not experienced here in America. But what will we do if it comes to our shores? Some are already experiencing great trials from the court system. Bakers are being sued and fined large sums of money because they won’t participate in ungodly ceremonies. Parents are seeing their children ripped away from them because they will not bow to the LGBTQ agenda. There are more.
I believe we must change our perspective on trials and difficulties. Joy is not a normal reaction to adversity. It must be a supernatural one with an eye to the future. Sometimes I whine during trials. Sometimes I get mad. Perhaps instead of calling them trials, we should call them opportunities. Do we WANT to let the trying of our faith work patience? Will we let patience have her perfect work, that we may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing? Do we want these things? Do we really TRUST the infinite God who knows all things and who loves us? Do we trust that He really loves us? Are we interested in advancing the Kingdom of God in this world?
The bible says in Hebrews 12:1-2 “Therefore seeing we also are surrounded with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which does so easily ensnare us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and perfecter of our faith; WHO FOR THE JOY THAT WAS SET BEFORE HIM endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (emphasis mine)
What was the joy set before Him? I believe the Holy Spirit reminded Him of the promises and showed Him the future…all the people throughout the coming ages who would be saved, who would escape the hell that the devil had unleashed upon the whole world. If your family was at risk, wouldn’t you die to save them? Your children?
That is where our attention must lie when we are faced with trials. We must see the future. Even if the future is “that I may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.” Even if the promise is “that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in me.” Romans 8:18. The Scriptures give me great hope when I go through things. My trials are small compared to what some people experience. I find that my mind is being renewed to think like God thinks and I am learning discipline, endurance, patience, perseverance. Am I committed to God’s purposes in my life no matter where it may lead me? That is a question I believe we must all ask ourselves.
Hebrews 12:3 says “Consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.…”
Yes, Friends, God is good. He is very, very good.
Prayer: Thank You, Jesus, for Your great sacrifice and promise that we can obtain Your nature. Help us to submit and to know You better during the trials of life. I surrender to Your design for my life today.