This weekend, Pastor Mark said something that really resonated with me: faith that isn’t tested can’t be trusted. The Scripture quoted was James 1:2-4.
James wrote his epistle to encourage persecuted Jewish followers to remain uncompromisingly obedient to God during their trials and tribulations. Further, he tells them to “consider it pure joy” when facing such trials. As an aside, I would not say that when I experience trials, the first emotion I feel is “joy.” It should be, but it isn’t. I’m not even sure that the joy comes immediately after the initial crying jag. I tend to freak out first, then consult God second, when the order of these two should be reversed (with the “freaking out” part never coming).
Is’ it normal to be thrilled when experiencing tribulation? James is teaching us that, no, it is not natural to be delighted when suffering trials. He uses the word “consider,” which means we need to think about it; we need to make a conscious effort to be joyful about them. And we can succeed, because our joy is not related to the circumstances of life, but to our absolute, incontrovertible relationship with our sovereign God.
And, while God does not cause or bring the trials up on us, He allows them to happen. That is the source of our “pure joy.” God does this as a test, designed to strengthen our faith. We ought to be happy, knowing that because we belong to Him, He considers us worthy of refinement. Through trials, we learn steadfast, unwavering perseverance, because we have faith that He will remove the tribulation at His appointed time. And because the test is proof of our faith, an argument could be made that God may remove it quicker when we pass the test immediately; i.e., endure with heartfelt joy right from the beginning.
We, who are born again, know with certainty that God’s promises are true, and that ultimately, we will live forever. So, isn’t everything we experience in this life – good or bad – temporary? Can we not then endure trials and rejoice in our salvation through Jesus Christ?
Scripture references from NIV unless otherwise noted.
Based on God is in Control of Our Lives on December 1st, 2018 - Watch Sermon