'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. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.'
James 1:2-8 (NIV)
Conferences are often high points in our Christian life, when we give our all to God and expect everything to change. Then we wake up the next morning and nothing has changed: it’s the same old life.
But maybe we are looking for the wrong kind of different - we want a new life instead of a new me.
Most people, if asked to list what brings them joy, would not put trials on the list. But James says we are to consider it joy when they come along. It isn’t about acting happy when things fall apart but the ability to find joy. God tests our faith not because He’s angry, mean or wants to remind us what we aren’t. God tests our faith to show us what we are and how much faith we have inside.
Erwin shared that recently he tried acupuncture upon discovering he had several damaged bones and ligaments. There was one needle that caused great pain. This was because it awoke a muscle that had been dormant for some time. A muscle that’s asleep causes some other part of you to be injured. Trials awaken our dormant faith muscles and move us towards wholeness.
A life without trials is small - why would you need God’s help if you thought you could handle everything?
A trial means that your life is bigger than you and there’s room for God to step in. Pay close attention in your trials to what God is saying to you; the wisdom He is giving you.
Consider what Jesus says in Matthew 4:3-4 about bread and the word of God. Jesus isn’t saying He isn’t hungry, He’s saying that the rocks would only become bread if God told Him to do it. God’s word is life. If God did not speak life into the situation, He would just be eating rocks. Jesus is quoting Deuteronomy 8:3 when the people of Israel were wandering in the wilderness. God provided them with manna but at the end of the day, any leftovers would rot. God was teaching them [and us] that 'My voice is life and you need to eat what I speak into your soul each day’.
Erwin shared when he was a new Christian and travelled interstate for Bible college. He had no car and no job but he trusted that God would provide. He expected miracles but he received trials instead because there is no need for a miracle without a trial.
He struggled to get enough money for food. One day a neighbour anonymously started delivering groceries to Erwin’s door. These items were perishable and so he had to share them with his fellow students because he had no refrigerator to preserve them. Each day, more groceries. Each day, he had to trust that God would provide. It was a powerful example of why we pray “Give us this day our daily bread”.
Anger and frustration at being kept in the wilderness means we are not ready to leave. Until we understand that God loves us and is trying to bring out perseverance so that we lack nothing, we will continue to resist the change in ourselves (and stay in the wilderness).
In Nehemiah 8:5-9 it says that when the people heard the voice of God they wept and mourned. Confronted by our own brokenness and inadequacies, we can experience great sorrow. But Nehemiah says to the people in verse 10, hearing the voice of God, which is life, is sacred and should be celebrated. Consider it joy when you face trials and God is close, speaking to you.
Some consider joy to be supplementary but it is fundamental. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength. Don’t let anxiety and worry drown you, let God’s joy give you the strength to face the trials. Jesus came to give us life and the strength that only He can give you.