No Pain, No Gain

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials. 
(James 1:2)

Most people dream of a world of ease. We long for a life of perfect comfort with minimal trials. What is really dangerous for Christians are those momentary exemptions - our intermittent relief from trials can make us think that maybe it will always be that way. However, nothing could be further from the truth.

It reminds me of Psalm 30 verse 6, where the psalmist says, "In my prosperity I said I shall never be moved." What was he saying? Essentially, "when I was in the midst of my prosperity, I imagined that it would always be that way and nothing could shake me." How often we are deceived! The fact is, that is not how God, the academic dean, designs the curriculum. 

One man illustrated life so well this way: While visiting an inlet of the sea that reached deep into land, leaving a sheltered bay, I noticed that the pebbles on that protected beach were rough and jagged-not smooth and polished. But out on the open shore, where fierce waves break over the rocks, the pebbles were sleek and round.

The same is true of our Christian character. Just as the harsh treatment of the ocean waves makes the rough stones smooth, our trials, difficulties, and testings can produce in us the luster of Christian maturity. When circumstances become difficult, we can rest assured that God has only one design in view - the perfection of our character. That's why the psalmist could testify, "It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I may learn Your statutes".

So why do bad things happen to good Christians? It is so  that God may bring us to mature faith...and mature character....they go hand-in-hand. James (1:2) is all about helping us to see the big picture so that we might welcome God's dealings in our lives. James begins by reminding us that sooner or later (probably sooner), we will all face trials of various sorts. The Greek word for "various" (Greek--poikilos) means manifold, variegated. In fact, it is the word from which we get the word polka-dot. 

Please notice. He did not say, "IF" but when. This is a required course - not an elective! That statement alone tells me that I must allow the Spirit Of God to change my view of trials and difficulties instead of thinking - Why me? Why is this happening to me? Why is God punishing me? Or I must have done something wrong......

The word "consider" (Greek-hegeomai) means to lead your thinking through a process whereby you look at the biblical facts as to the benefit of suffering and trials, and you, at that point, rest in the fact that God is sovereign and He knows best. James is calling the readers to see it as a process of thinking, a Divine View Point, giving us the means by which we think it through.

He states that we are to consider it joy. But what is joy in the bible? In contemporary parlance, it is often thought to be synonymous with a party or a New Year's Eve bash; however, joy is so much more. In fact, joy is not happiness. (Happiness is always based on circumstance.) Joy, on the other hand, is a deep satisfaction which comes from knowing that God is in control even when our circumstances seem to be out of control. 

Joy is releasing our life and circumstance to a Sovereign God who knows what He is doing. It is recognizing that I have no right to lecture God and tell him whether He is good or bad. I have to release myself to His sovereign wisdom recognizing that His wisdom is infinite and my wisdom is finite! Now, do I have questions for God when I get there? Absolutely, but here, in my earthly life, I must trust His character, His nature and His Heart.

The next time Satan tempts you to be discouraged or to doubt, remember that suffering is not a sign that God has abandoned you but rather a sign that He is working in your life to shape you and mold you into His masterpiece. Thus, we can trust His heart!