• Samuel at Gilgal

    This year I will be sharing brief excerpts from the articles, sermons, and books I am currently reading. My posts will not follow a regular schedule but will be published as I find well-written thoughts that should be of interest to maturing Christian readers. Whenever possible, I encourage you to go to the source and read the complete work of the author.

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  • January 2013
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Joy in the Midst of Trials

Chinese Symbol for CrisisCount it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. (James 1:2-8 ESV)

Perhaps you have heard the following quote, “The Chinese use two brush strokes to write the word ‘crisis.’ One brush stroke stands for danger; the other for opportunity. In a crisis, be aware of the danger – but recognize the opportunity.” (John F. Kennedy) Of course, it is easier to agree with the quote than practice it. However, the basic attitude of the statement is sound.

James tells us that we will have trials, but these trials will perfect and complete us. They will even help us to become more steadfast. What is the Christian’s appropriate response to this? James says, “Count it all joy. . . .”

We see examples of this throughout the New Testament: “Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name [Jesus].” (Acts 5:41 ESV) “Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance. . . .” (Romans 5:3 ESV) Paul writes, “Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me.” (Philippians 2:17-18 ESV) Also, Peter writes, “In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory. . . .” (1 Peter 1:6-8 ESV)

How can we have joy in the midst of trials? We can still have joy because we know that trials of various kinds produce steadfastness, perfection, and work to complete our faith. A steadfast person is steadfast“unchanging; steady; firmly loyal or constant; and unswerving.” (Wiktionary) Such a person perseveres through suffering. Steadfastness is closely associated with patience.

If you are like me, you want trials and suffering to end quickly. Yet, when we endure with patience the trials that are set before us, we are perfected through them. This text does not mean that you become a perfect Christian who is sinless; it means that you mature in Christ and understanding in spiritual matters. This only occurs through learning steadfastness and patience.

Being steadfast and patient is certainly not easy. It requires that we also have wisdom. When we are suffering through life’s trials, we should ask God for wisdom. Wisdom is the ability to use the circumstances or facts of a situation in the best possible way. Wisdom may be received by asking God through prayer. However, you must ask in faith!

When we understand the Christian’s proper response to trials and suffering, we also learn that God is in absolute control of every outcome. Can you trust God enough to stay steadfast and allow adversity to carry out its work in you? Once we do, we can “count it all joy” (James 1:2 ESV) when facing the harshest trials, knowing “that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28 ESV) Grasp hold of what James teaches in the above verses and you too can have joy in the midst of trials.

Samuel at Gilgal

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