Let’s have a show of hands. How many of us, when we go through tough trials, immediately count it all joy? How many of us delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, and in difficulties? How many of us, when people hate us, when they exclude us and insult us and reject our names as evil, because of Jesus Christ, rejoice in that day and leap for joy?
And, yet, this is what we are told in scripture that we must do, and it is modeled for us, too, in the Bible (See: Jas. 1:2; 2 Co. 12:10; Lu. 6:22-24; Job 1:21).
“Count 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.” Jas. 1:2-4 ESV
But, this doesn’t mean that we will feel no pain, or that we won’t suffer, or grieve, or that we won’t struggle before God with what has just happened to us. We may have to cry it all out to God first, in our pain, and with tears streaming down our faces, before we are able to undertake what has just been handed to us, and before we are able to consider it a joy to share in the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings, becoming like him in his death.
Examples for Us
Job had just lost pretty much everything, his possessions, his livelihood, his servants and his children. His first response was to grieve this loss and to call on God and to worship the Lord. Then, and then only was he able to take this attitude:
“The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”
Paul, to keep him from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations God had given to him, was given a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass him. This, he said, was “to keep me from becoming conceited.”
Then, he said, “Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’”
And, then only was Paul able to state that he delighted (took pleasure in or was content in) insults, persecutions and difficulties.
So, it isn’t that we must immediately respond to our trials with “Yay!” “Yippee!” We may have to grieve them first, call on God, and/or plead for deliverance from them. But, then we must resolve to accept the sovereignty of God over our lives, and that God works all things for good for those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
During these difficult times, we must learn to rejoice in the Lord and to be thankful that we are considered worthy to suffer for the sake of the name of Jesus, because God truly does have our best interest at heart, and he has allowed these things to come into our lives for a purpose.
Thus, we need to commit our ways to him, sing praises to him, give thanks to him, and ask him to teach us what he wants us to learn through our hardships. This is so that we might mature in him, learn patience and compassion, be forgiving, be conformed to Christ’s likeness, and learn to put our dependency in God alone.
“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.” Jas. 1:5-8 ESV
When we are going through these troubled times in our lives, we must call on God for wisdom to know what to do, how to respond, what to think, and how to act, i.e. concerning what actions we must now take. And, then, when he answers us, we must follow his counsel.
I believe it is perfectly ok to make certain first that we have heard him correctly, and that we didn’t misunderstand his counsel to us, and also to make certain that it was indeed God speaking to us, and not our own emotions. But, when he assures us of his counsel, and that this was indeed him speaking, then we need to take it to the bank.
We can’t keep going back and forth like on a teeter-totter questioning God and his instructions to us. We can’t let other people’s opinions cause us to waver in unbelief, too. If we have been assured of God’s counsel, then we need to stay the course, and do what he says to do, and believe him and trust him with the results, even if we can’t immediately see the fruit of what we believe he has said to do.
God works behind the scenes, and we are not always going to see what he is doing, but we must not let lack of evidence of him working to doubt that he is working.
Tempted with Evil
“Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.” Jas. 1:13-15 ESV
Although God is completely sovereign over all that he has made, and Jesus Christ is the head over every power and authority, and all angels, authorities and powers are in submission to him, God is NOT the author of evil.
Before God created anything or anyone he knew what the result would be, and he allowed for it, but it was for his purposes. He created the being who then became Satan, who was an angel in heaven, but who rebelled against God, along with a third of all the angels. And, God knew this rebellion would take place, but he created this angel anyway.
And, even after this angel rebelled against God, and was thrown out of heaven, God allowed him to still exist, knowing full well that he would tempt humans, and they would sin against God, and that God would then curse them all, and that, as a result, all humans would be born into sin.
In fact, he created humans, knowing full well that they would disobey him, and that he would have to toss them out of the garden in which he had placed them.
So, God made us, knowing that all this would take place, but he had a plan in place, even from the very beginning, for how he was going to save us and deliver us from slavery to sin. God always existed in three persons – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – and God had planned that his Son, Jesus Christ, would be our sacrificial Lamb to die on a cross for our sins.
So, although God is not the author of evil, he allowed evil to exist, and he still allows it, and he uses it for his purposes in our lives. He never said we would have carefree lives full of eternal bliss and that we would never experience heartache, trials, persecutions, and abuse, etc. In fact, he said we would. But, he has a plan in place to use these situations in our lives for our good, if we will but yield our lives over to him, and follow his lead, and do what he says.
Steadfast under Trial
“Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.” Jas. 1:12 ESV
So, instead of trying to escape or run from or resist God in what he is allowing in our lives, we must take our pain and our suffering to him in prayer, lay it down at his feet, and then submit our hearts and lives to him.
We must pray for wisdom and guidance, too, and then do what he says to do. We must forgive our persecutors, and do good to those who do evil to us. We must not get even, for it is God’s to avenge, not ours. But, “good” is not soft on sin. “Good” has to do with what is in the best interest of others, i.e. regarding what they truly “need,” not what they want.
So, remaining steadfast under trial does not mean we merely grit our teeth and endure what has been laid in our laps and that we say and do nothing. No! What it means is that we trust our lives into God’s hands, and then we do what God shows us we must do. We speak the truth in love, and we put on that armor of God with which to fight off Satan’s evil schemes against us, and we securely fasten into place that belt of truth with which to fight off Satan’s lies.
God may even use us to be a voice for the abused or to speak out against all these injustices. We just need to ask him what his plan is for our lives through it all, and then do what he says.
An Original Work / July 15, 2013
My heart cries: Lord, won’t You hear me
Seeking You for the answers
To my heartache and questions
I have concerning my life?
Speak, Lord, to me right now.
“Oh, dear one, why don’t you trust Me
With your life’s circumstances?
Give your all on the altar
In submission of your will
To My purpose for you.
“Surrender your life completely
To your Lord and your Savior.
He has all things planned for you
For His glory and honor.
He’ll work all things for good.
“Believe Him. He will fulfill all
Of His promises to you
For your life and your future.
Trust Him. Rest in His love.
He’ll give you peace from above.”
Saturday, January 20, 2018, 9:01 a.m. – Thank you, Jesus, for how much you love us, and for dying for us, that we might be free from slavery to sin, and that by your stripes we might be healed of our wounded hearts, too.