Testing Your Faith
“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.”
In June of 2018, I met with Lisa Haikal, an old friend, and her friend Jennifer Kromhout. Unfortunately, it was due to a very sad occurrence. Lisa’s oldest son, Alex, age 23, had taken life that past Saturday. Lisa gave me permission to share this! Lisa and Alex are believers. Lisa wants those who are suffering from depression, as Alex did, to know there’s hope. And there is. Now, I did not tell Lisa, “Count it all joy!” By the way, James does not say, “Count it all happiness!” However, I observed in Lisa, a woman who has a settled peace and hope in Christ. This is part of what I believe James means by the word joy — a settled peace, hope, and yes, even joy, no matter the circumstances.
In my office on that day, the three of us prayed, cried and laughed. Mark, her former husband, and Clark, her other son, are also believers. Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14, “Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep (die), or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.” Alex fell asleep in Christ. Lisa is assured that he is now with the Lord. He has been set free and will live with Jesus forever as he waits to be reunited with his family. This is the hope that we have in Christ. Jesus is the only HOPE for this fallen world. I hope you know Him. Only those who are in Christ have this abiding hope.
Last week, in this series entitled “Why?” we began to consider five essentials that are necessary in order for a person to turn trials into victory. Remember the first essential? You must have a joyful attitude. In addition to a joyful attitude, the second essential needed to live victoriously during periods of suffering is an understanding mind. Look at verses 2-3: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” The key word is “know.” First, we are told “to consider;” now we are admonished “to know.” What are we to know? We are to know what God’s Word says in regard to life, expectations, God’s plans and purposes, and how He works to accomplish His purposes.
We cannot possess the second essential, an understanding mind, unless we seek God’s wisdom by becoming devoted students of His Word. We, as God’s children, are to have an entirely different perspective than those who are not in Christ. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:16, “So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view.” When you begin to study and understand the Bible, your worldview changes; therefore, I would add to Paul’s observation that “we regard no one from a worldly point of view” and we regard nothing from a worldly point of view. We look at everything through the lens of Scripture, which transforms our perspective.
Over the next two weeks, we’ll explore seven truths we know from the Bible. This week, we’ll go through the first three truths. I discovered these in a book written by Joni Eareckson Tada and Steven Estes entitled When God Weeps: Why Our Sufferings Matter to the Almighty! I strongly recommend this book to everyone.
Suffering that Christians endure is part of God’s plan. 1 Peter 4:19 states, “So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.” Suffering is a part of God’s will. This may be a difficult truth to understand or accept, but it is nonetheless true. The Bible tells us God will give us complete understanding of His ways when we get to heaven. 1 Corinthians 13:12 promises, “Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” Steven Estes explains: “God’s plan is specific. He screens the trials that come to each of us — allowing only those that accomplish his good plan, because He takes no joy in human agony. Nothing happens by accident…not even tragedy.”
For the believer, pain and suffering have an eternal purpose and God can and will work them out for good. Romans 8:28 states, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him.” Here’s the deal — if you choose to follow Christ, He promises to work everything out for good for those who love Him — even quadriplegia, even the death of a child, even when the doctor’s diagnosis is cancer, even when…you fill in the blank. Our time on earth is brief. Christians will be on the other side of death very soon, and then we will understand how God used our trials and tribulations for eternal good, and we will thank Him for them. In John 16:20-23 Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. So, with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy. In that day, you will no longer ask me anything.” In this passage, Jesus compares our trials to childbirth, which I understand is quite painful, but once the baby is born, the pain is in the past, and all that remains is joy. That is a picture of the Christian life. Now is our time to suffer. Eventually, death will usher us into the presence of God. Then He will wipe away every tear from our eyes, and Heaven will last forever as the memories of earth fade into the distant past.
God uses suffering not only to refine, perfect and strengthen us but also to keep us from falling. Hebrews 2:10 states, “In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering.” If Jesus was made perfect through suffering, a concept that I do not fully understand, how much more do we need to be made perfect through suffering?
Next week, we’ll go through the last four truths outlined in Joni’s book. Until then, brothers and sisters, stand strong in the Lord during these tumultuous times. He is making all things beautiful in His perfect time.