Why? – Testing Your Faith (part 6)
“James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes scattered among the nations: Greetings. Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think that he will receive anything from the Lord. He is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does. The brother in humble circumstances ought to take pride in his high position. But the one who is rich should take pride in his low position, because he 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 man will fade away even while he goes about his business. Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.” – James 1:1-12
Nick Vujicic is a 25-year-old evangelist whose message about being content in all circumstances takes on new meaning when people see his physical condition. He was born without limbs—neither arms nor legs. But rather than blaming God for his unique physical condition, Nick credits his Creator for using him to share the gospel around the world. He says, “No matter who you are, no matter what you are going through, God knows it and He is going to pull you through. I believe in a God who can do all things, but if He chooses not to give me arms and legs, I know it’s for the better. And I may not understand it, but all I need to know is that He’s going to carry me through – that there is a purpose for it.”
The last few weeks we have carefully studied the above text to understand how to endure the trials of life. How is it possible for a believer to have victory in the midst of some of life’s most difficult challenges? James offers five essentials. If you desire to have victory in the midst of trials, then you need a joyful attitude, an understanding mind, a surrendered will and a trusting heart. These are the first four essentials. Now let’s consider the fifth essential: If you want to turn your trial into a victory, then you must have an eternal mindset. This is why James concludes with a great promise in verse 12. “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.” The man who perseveres under trial is the man who never stops trusting God, no matter what. He perseveres; he presses on, knowing there is a finish line, and he knows that when he crosses the finish line, he will receive his reward—the crown of life.
Randy Alcorn writes, “Our lives have two phases: one a dot, the other a line extending from that dot. Our present life on earth is the dot. It begins. It ends. It’s brief. But from that dot extends a line that goes forever. The line is eternity, which Christians will spend in heaven. Right now, we are living in the dot. But what are we living for? The shortsighted person lives for the dot. The person with [an eternal mindset] lives for the line. My beloved Bridegroom (Jesus), the coming wedding, the Great Reunion, and my eternal home in the New Heaven and New Earth—they’re all on the line.” And so, let me ask you, what is the focus of your life? Are you focused on the pleasures of this world, the trial you are presently enduring, or the life to come?
The apostle Paul was a man who had an eternal mindset. From the moment he saw Jesus on the road to Damascus, he lived for the life to come. During the reign of Nero, Paul was imprisoned; he languished away in a cold, damp dungeon, chained like a common criminal, as he penned his last letter to his trusted friend Timothy. Paul was not focused on the chains that bound him; his eyes were on Jesus. Containing some of his final words, this passage illustrates his mindset: “For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:6-8).
Paul was able to persevere through many trials because he had a joyful attitude, an understanding mind, a surrendered will, a trusting heart, and an eternal mindset. As this series comes to a close, we reflect upon contemporary heroes of the faith such as Joni Eareckson Tada, Darlene Rose, and Nick Vujicic, all of whom possessed the same five essentials as Paul, and they too were victorious despite excruciating trials. While these modern-day heroes encourage us, our Lord Jesus Christ gives us the greatest example of how to be victorious through the storms of life. Jesus was no stranger to trials and suffering, but He never lost sight of the five essentials. In Hebrews 12:2, we are reminded to “fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”