Sunday, February 5, 2012
Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. 4 And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
James. One of my favorite books of the New Testament. As you go through it you will notice so many practical assertions that it will not only boggle your mind, but it will also force you to think on how you are living your life. This is not an accident. James' thrust in the whole book is to answer the question, "Now that I have become a Christian, how should I live?". We all need to consider. These words in the first few verses from James tell us a stark reality; that being a Christian will really be tough.
I have heard people who are evangelizing others tell the people, "Once you become a Christian, all your problems will disappear!" I am here to tell you that this is a lie! They will not disappear...they will however be able to be given to the LORD. But they do not magically go away. Oh No! In fact, I believe that if you are following Christ the way you should, you may well increase your trials and problems. After all, I have heard it said that if you make wave, you should not expect clear sailing. These words are true.
Another thing that James says about trials is the word "when", Translated as "whenever" in some versions. Either give the same flavor to the statement...these trials are inevitable. They WILL come. You will not avoid them and you should not try. Why? because these trials serve to shape you into the kind of person God wants you to be. We should not avoid something that will make us better. Neither should we avoid something that the LORD sends our way in the first place.
These trials that come our way serve to test our faith. Let's look at it this way. Do athletes who complete have to practice at what they do? Of course they do. Some of them practice for hours and hours and hours to become better at what they do. But the practice pays off. Their cardio improves, their coordination improves, just about everything that is related to their field of endeavor improves. But it comes at a price. They need to sacrifice. But they believe in doing so is well worth the result.
How about us as Christians? Do we strive for endurance? Do we strive for the perfection of our faith? How do you do that? How successful are we at doing that? Why or why not?
I can tell you from my own experience. I work out at least 3 times a week...more if I can find the time. When I first started working out 4 years ago, I certainly could not do the things I do today. At first I got tired easily. I could not do many reps. I sucked. It was a cold slap in the face to me because when I was younger I was really into working out and lifting weights. Don't get me wrong, I was never great...but I was at least good. Then for years I neglected to work out..just too busy with raising a family and trying to make ends meet. It consumed all my energy. But I was determined to change that and went on a train schedule which should have improved my strength and flexibility...and you know what? It did! But I had to keep at it. Increments were slow and painful and I still have a ways to go, but I am much better at it today than I was 3 or 4 years ago and I strive to improve.
Being a christian and increasing your faith is exactly the same process. Paul give numerous examples where he compares being a Christian to running a race or competing in a contest. James way of telling us is much the same way. Yes, you will encounter trials, problems, setbacks. The good news is that if you persevere, you will triumph. The good news is that your faith will strengthen...the good news is that at the end, you will hear your Coach say, 'Well Done!'
Keep up the good fight my Brothers and Sisters! Keep up the good fight of faith! The end will be worth it...Jesus promises it.