On our journey to Heaven it’s clear in Scripture that we’ll encounter trouble along the way. We may not always understand why God allows it or makes use of it, but He does. Could it be that He’s more concerned with the inside of us rather than the outside circumstances?
While on our journey here on this earth, one of the best tests of Christian growth and maturity is difficulties. This July, what issues are you facing? If you’re like most of us – something is probably going on in your life where you need a miracle. Sometimes celebrating a holiday like July 4th becomes a day of drudgery rather than celebration. Bringing our problems to God provides Him with opportunities to do a work of grace and healing in our lives and families.
When a Christian goes through personal trials, they discover the kind of courage and faith they really possess. James wrote to his audience to show that God wants to produce in us the kind of faith that overcomes – even when it seems impossible (James 1:12). Peter agreed with James that trials not only reveal our faith, but they also help develop our character – by fire (1 Pet 4:12-13).
“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….” James 1:2-8.
James was ultimately stoned to death around 62 AD. He was well acquainted with trials, yet despite them, he had an abiding joy and encouraged his readers to live a godly life by faith. Not saving faith, or even justifying faith, but rather a “practical faith” – that is fully persuaded that God’s loving intervention was not just for our past trials, but present and future as well. Paradoxically, James believed faith is more than mere words and knowledge, it is demonstrated by obedience and overtly responds to the promises of God thriving on all the obstacles one may face (1 Thess. 3:3). Let’s dig ‘deeper’ below the surface and see what spiritual nuggets we can unearth from James, the half-brother of our Lord Jesus.
Golden Nuggets from the Book of James
July 4th Nugget #1 – We must have a positive attitude towards trials! By ‘welcoming’ trials we look beyond the immediate experience of discomfort to, by faith, foresee a positive result (James 1:12).
Like James, we must understand that God allows tests to show the validity, not the weakness of our faith. God is NOT out to harm us. When we look beyond the present and see the product God intends to produce through trials, we will experience His joy. But in order to embrace the process willingly, we must embrace these two principles: 1). Seek character above pleasure, and 2). Place eternity’s rewards above our present moment of difficulties.
July 4th Nugget #2 – We are always assured of God’s help when we need Him the most!
Like Moses and Daniel, we see trials doing several things depending upon how we respond to them: 1). we can panic (what will I do, this is too difficult for me), 2). We may fear to make decisions to trust God, or 3). This is an opportunity for me to grow. But James reminds us that God will provide “wisdom” (direction, guidance) during the storm (James 1:5). Remember, wisdom is the capacity to apply spiritual truths to daily decisions.
July 4th Nugget #3 – Testing carries the idea of producing endurance!
Marathon runners sometimes torture their bodies to teach themselves to endure a long distance marathon. They teach themselves to handle the pain, the mental challenge, the distance, the pace, the length of time, overcoming the fear of not finishing believing they can not only endure, but win. God wants us to become strong “long distance” Christians who can endure to the end (James 1: 12).
We cannot be a mature and complete Christian until we learn to endure trials with joy (without complaining). Faith brings the believer a new sense of responsibility. We can no longer blame others for our failures or weaknesses. Remember, it is not the ‘external’ thing itself that tempts us; it is our reaction to it. An alcoholic smells the aroma from a brewery and likes it, while a teetotaler is repelled by the same odor. The odor is the same in each case, but what differs is the reaction to it. James shows us that God has a purpose for the experiences He brings into our lives. Remember Child of God: 1). Trials serve as a discipline to purge our faith of dross, stripping away what is false, 2). Patience is not passive resignation to adverse circumstances, but a positive steadfastness that bravely endures the test of time, and 3). When we view trials as a means of moral and spiritual growth, our faith will increase as we see God grant us help in time of trial (Heb. 12:12-13). Like the Hebrews, we can often find ourselves surrounded by the impossible with a temptation to freeze in a paralysis of doubt, but God loves and cares for us, and his Divine resources are stronger than any human circumstance we can ever face. If you are facing a severe test or trial right now, keep your eyes on God, stand fast in faith, and the Lord will come to your rescue. And, as you do, you’ll have cause to celebrate July 4th in new and exciting ways. Let this great holiday be a ‘Declaration of Independence’ for America, and a ‘Declaration of Dependence’ – on God – for you spiritually, as well.
Meet the Author
Alan Bullock has a BA in Biblical Studies, a Master’s Degree in Biblical Counseling, and an earned Doctor of Theology. In addition, Alan is a Certified Pastor Counselor, a member of The International Association of Christian Counseling Professionals (IACCP), and also a member of the American Association of Christian Counselors (AACC).