James 1:2-4 Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
When the same writer repeats things you know they think they are important, but when two completely different writers write the same thing, it adds special emphasis. This passage is a close parallel to the more famous one by Paul: “Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” (Romans 5:3-5) It boils down to something I tell people frequently: God isn’t mean. He never allows anything in our lives that He can’t use for good. Joseph the son of Jacob in the Old Testament went through horrible trials, and his own brothers were the agents, but as he eventually told his brothers, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” (Genesis 50:20) One of the delicious things about God’s plans is how He turns the devil’s plans around to accomplish the opposite of what the devil wants. The cross of Christ is the ultimate example of that. When Christ went through all of that to accomplish the provision of salvation for all mankind, we shouldn’t hold back at the idea that our trials, and yes suffering, can produce good that we can’t see at the moment. As someone has said, God is far more interested in our character than in our comfort. He doesn’t want to spend eternity with a bunch of selfish, entitled brats! “Pie in the sky by and by” has been ridiculed by those focused entirely on the here-and-now, but it gives perspective and moral strength that shames those with less faith. That’s not at all to say that we are to ignore the world around us, failing to correct injustice and striving against sin. As this church’s verse for the year proclaims, “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:10) Thinking that our actions in this world don’t matter is spiritual blindness. However, we are also not to be blinded by forgetting that God is always greater than our circumstances, and what we experience physically is never the final answer.
As I am talking about in this morning’s message, I am going through some of this right now, with a broken wrist. It’s certainly not fun, with pain and inability, but I have already learned some things and I can see good things happening. I’ve gone through a lot in 74 years, but I’m more like Christ now than I was even a few years ago. I am to receive each lesson the Lord gives me with gratitude and look forward to the next, however easy or difficult it might be, because “Our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” (2 Corinthians 4:17)
Father, You’ve pointed this out to me many times. Help me remember it! Thank You that I have grown to the point that when I slipped and fell my first, honest response was to thank You, even though I was instantly aware I had broken my wrist. I do pray that all of Your purposes for all our trials would be fulfilled, for our blessing and the blessing of the people around us, and for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!