As I sit and reflect over the events of the past few days and months I was drawn to the first chapter of James. In the first 13 verses we are given some understanding of the purpose of trials that come our way: (a) The good that comes from trials. (b) The comfort we can have in trials. I believe these passages speak to us to help us in our time of trial when we need understanding and comfort. So for a few minutes, think with me as we look into God's Word. (Read verses 2-4) The Lord would first of all have us know that there is purpose in trials.
1. When difficult times come into our lives and we find ourselves unable to comprehend/to understand; the enemy is quick to throw doubts/questions into our minds.
2. We find ourselves questioning God's goodness/God's wisdom in allowing these things to happen.
3. We may even be bitter and angry with God for allowing this to happen to us and wonder if He really understands.
4. But God's word confidently reminds us that God does understand: Things do not haphazardly happen to Christians and with no meaning or purpose.
5. God is in control and as Paul reminds us in Romans 8 that no one or nothing can separate us from God's love; even the most difficult of circumstances.
6. James reminds us that God wants us to trust Him in the trials of life. For as we trust Him in the trials God can use the difficult trial to mold us and mature us so we will be more like Jesus Christ.
7. Isaiah 55:8-9 the prophet said in trying to comprehend God's ways: "For my thoughts are not your thoughts. Neither are your ways my ways, saith Jehovah. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts."
8. Trust Him! Keep your eyes on Him! And God will use even this trial for His glory.
9. James goes on to tell us that not only does Gold have purpose in trials--but also that God gives wisdom in trials. James recognizes that we may not always be able to see the purpose in trials or see the good that can come from trials. Keep on asking Him for wisdom in faith and our God who loves to give will respond so that we can see the good and the purpose in trials. Listen, to have peace in any crisis you must focus on God instead of your situation. I know, that's easier said than done, but that's what Paul means when he says in Philippians 4:4, "Rejoice in the Lord always. Again, I will say rejoice." He's not saying that we're happy about what we're going through; he's not even saying to rejoice in our difficulties. He's saying rejoice in the Lord, and that's something altogether different. Biblical joy is the knowledge that God is in control of your circumstances and allows only that which is good for you into your life. That's why James says to consider it joy when a trial comes your way. It's not that the trial brings joy; it's what God is doing for us through the trial; His good work is coming into our lives. Because we know that, we consider the trial joy; we rest in the Lord. In essence, we worship Him. Let me share a quick story: The morning my mama died was sad; it was New Year’s Day 1979. Not only had we grown very close, but it pained me because it was totally unexpected. At the same time, (even though I didn’t fully surrender my life to Christ until 2 months later), I knew that God was involved in every detail and was doing a good thing in our lives through our hurt. As we focused on that, we were able to worship, find joy, and tell others about the goodness of God and the good times we had with my mama. A couple of her friends from the church arrived within an hour of her passing. As they came into the room, we were laughing about some story as we'd been reminiscing, and one of them made the comment, "Somehow I knew there would be joy in this house today." Again, it's not that we were happy about my mama’s death. But we forced ourselves to focus on God and in so doing we found joy. But that’s only the beginning; we can’t stop there because Satan and the flesh has a way of coming back to bite us. From our focus on God, we have to literally engage in serving others. Paul says in Philippians 4:5, "Let your gentleness be known to all men; the Lord is at hand.” As you rejoice in God, that should move you to then focus on others. Let your gentleness, kindness, patience, and heart be known to others. How can you do that? Paul says the Lord is at hand; God is near and will help you. And it's not just that God wants you to serve others in the midst of your trouble. It's that He knows our weakness. Our tendency will be to focus on ourselves and spiral down into despair. But if we focus on others, we'll be distracted and not have time to spiral down. More than that, we'll derive a certain joy in serving others before the Lord. Now that’s well and good. But what happens when we’re all alone or when it’s time to go to bed? We have to give our troubles to God through prayer. I remember tossing and turning one night I couldn't get any peace. I did remember God's Word though: "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God." Well, that's what I was doing; I was praying over and over again but I still couldn't get any peace or sleep! And then I realized; I was praying like the pagans do in Matthew 6:7-8. I was worried if I didn't say just the right thing, mention every possible problem, or pray with just the right attitude, that God wouldn't hear my prayers. When I realized what I was doing, I simply gave it to the Lord. That's why He says to pray; He means for us to tell Him what's burdening our hearts and give it to Him so we can rest. He gives us permission (and commands us even) to stop thinking about our problems and let Him deal with them. When we do that, He gives us the peace. When I did that, I went right to sleep. You might say certain thoughts plague you because you're in a long-term dilemma that seems never ending. Yes, but you don't have to dwell on the difficulties. Reorient the focus of your thoughts. Take it one step further. The more you meditate on the things of God, as Paul says, the more you'll know God and His ways. You'll know that He is indeed working these things for good in your life. You know that "the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord will give grace and glory; no good thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly."
Let’s pray: “Heavenly Father, Renew me spiritually and emotionally. Give me new strength, hope, and confidence. Prepare me to meet the constant struggles of daily life with a deeper faith and trust in You. In Jesus Name, Amen!”
One Simple Nugget: “Hardship often prepares ordinary people for extra-ordinary destiny!”
Please remember: Don’t shrink your dreams super-size your courage and abilities!