On Halloween day I was reading in James 1 and wrote this note from verses 2-4, Tests and challenges reveal what my faith life is really like...
Consider that for a minute. When you face trials in your life, setbacks, cars that won't start, overdue bills, relationship struggles, problems with your children or parents, temptations and maybe even sin, how you respond to each of these challenges reveals what your faith life is really like.
I remember having a discussion in an Elder's meeting years ago. There was a gentleman who disagreed with a stance that I took in regards to a biblical issue. This particular issue had been longstanding in the independent Christian Church so I knew I was on solid ground in my interpretation and the stance I took. I was not dogmatic or a push-over just firm in my position. It took only a few minutes into the meeting where this gentleman presented lots of seemingly strong arguments for his case but none of them held water. Less than 10 minutes into the discussion he pounded the table and yelled at me and everyone else at the table who would allow me to continue to preach there as though we were ignorant and even sinful. He loudly shouted his resignation and stormed out of the meeting. Not one other person there - about 10 of us - ever even raised our voice.
Now let me get personal. A few weeks ago I was in a spiritual black-hole. It seemed like every car my family owns was broken down and we were really struggling to get everyone where they needed to be when they needed to be there. And in between those times I was frantically working on one vehicle after another. Our newest car would not start. My daughters first car she'd driven about 3 or 4 weeks sat with major engine trouble. And the one vehicle left drive-able got the worst gas mileage and would not always start. I was mad at God for putting me in this place and not taking care of me and my family like I thought He should.
Then I read James 1 - Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.
Under pressure your faith-life is forced into the open and shows it's true colors.
Wow. I have to say that my faith life was not any better than the man who yelled at me. We each were lacking in our spiritual connection and how we faced and dealt with challenges in our lives. What I saw in me was a bit of a whiner who had to have his way. I spent considerable time seeking forgiveness from my Father.
What I began to see was that these challenges come into our lives to reveal and strengthen. Like tearing down a muscle so it will rebuild stronger. When we try to avoid these difficult situations or as James put it, "get out of [them] prematurely" we loose the opportunity for growth. We must let these challenges do their work. Their work is not to harm us or tear us down or destroy us but instead to benefit us spiritually, to build us up in the Spirit and make us strong.
Difficulties, challenges and struggles reveal where we're at spiritually so that we can recognize where we need to grow. Job's trials revealed that he was faithful and mature in many areas, but that He had begun to see himself as better than he actually was. God used the trials to reveal those last few areas in his life that might prove to be his downfall later. And because Job didn't try to get out of it he was blessed beyond measure for it. In my reading today from 1 Peter 4:13 I read that when things get difficult we should be glad because we are in the thick of this life with Jesus and what we face "is a spiritual refining process, with glory just around the corner."
Let the Holy Spirit reveal what is lacking in you through challenges because that is the only way you and I will grow and no matter how difficult things get glory is just around the corner.