"My fellow believers, when it seems as though you are facing nothing but difficulties, see it as an invaluable opportunity to experience the greatest joy that you can! For you know that when your faith is tested it stirs up power within you to endure all things. And then as your endurance grows even stronger it will release perfection into every part of your being until there is nothing missing and nothing lacking." (James 1:2-4 TPT)
This morning during my quiet time with God, He gave me this Scripture for someone. It stayed on my mind all morning and the I felt that familiar pull to go digging. About two hours later - at a table surrounded by four different Bibles, a Strong's concordance, and a dictionary, I feel like I came out with more revelation on this Scripture than what I went in with.
We all know that this ‘seeing trials as an opportunity for great joy’ stuff is in the Bible, but very few of us really understand it….and even fewer of us live it.
What this is saying is that at the end of everything, on the other side of this stuff of life that we go through, at the end of this process – the end us promised to us. There is a guarantee here – at the end of this, what God wants to do is to give us is everything. At the end of all of this, we will be complete, and there is going to be absolutely nothing that we lack.
God wants to give us EVERYTHING! Everything good, everything perfect, everything beautiful. God’s intention is to bless us with everything! God’s intention is for us to be perfect. He is going to give us everything in heaven and on earth and we are going to receive it personally. In His goodness and His generosity, God wants to give it all to us.
In a very real and genuine way, we are going to have it all.
God is going to give us everything – but it’s not going to be today. There’s a waiting period. There’s a process….a process that is going to take a lifetime. This process has one primary ingredient, endurance. He’s going to give us everything, but we are going to have to wait for it.
The most important thing we need right now is endurance.
We have to understand the process. We are getting tested and tried, in various forms. Tests and trials come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. And when we fall into any kind of testing or trial, it’s an opportunity for us to learn how to endure.
We have to learn how to endure.
Endurance is not something that we just grin, bear, and get through. It’s not passive. It’s standing firm – like those pictures you see of palm trees in a hurricane. It’s not passive. It’s not just hanging on for dear life. When you look in the Key Word Study Bible, and dive into the original Greek meaning of the word, you will find that the word for endurance (or patience in some translations) is hupomone. It means steadfastness, continuance (waiting), to persevere, to bear up under, to remain constant under suffering, the bearing of evils and suffering with a tranquil mind.
But isn’t that how we usually go through things – hanging on for dear life? I know I do. We don’t have that steadfast endurance that James talks about. We may go through it, but we’re not going to like it. We’re going to hang on for dear life and maybe say some not-so-nice things as we do. We’re praying and hanging on tight, but it’s not exactly like what James means when he says to consider trials an opportunity for great joy.
I don’t think James is saying that it’s fun when we go through tests and trials. That’s not the point. I don’t think he is saying that we should feel joy. Let’s face it – there are situations and circumstances in this life where it’s next to impossible to feel joy or to feel happiness. Tests and trials can be scary and frustrating. But what James is saying here is that if we could just comprehend the bigger picture in our situation, it would all add up to joy. It’s not so much that what we are going through is joyful, but that on the other side of this is so good, that it’s all worth it. So even in the midst of the tests and trials, it changes our experience of it – because we know that whatever we have to go through, the path that we're on is led by Christ and at the end of it, He’s going to give us everything, He’s going to make us perfect, and we will not be lacking in anything.
It’s not so much the quality of the experience when we’re in the middle of it....it’s the knowledge of what is waiting for us on the other side.
We are going to go through things. We’ve got to go through things. It’s really not an option for us. We are going to face trials of every kind, shape, color, and size. We just are. It’s a fact of life, even for believers. So what James is offering us here is really the only solid, Christ-like choice we can make. We cannot choose whether or not we go through tests and trials. We can choose how we respond to them. We can choose our attitude. We can choose joy.
Of course there are other choices. We can choose to be bitter. Some of us go through things and we allow them to make us horrible people. We could choose joy, but sometimes we choose to instead, lash out at the people around us. Sometimes we do not allow trials to work out patience and endurance and joy in us, but instead we allow them to make us mean-spirited. And often, we lash out at the people close enough to us to help us and love us. Other times, we just give out. We quit. We get in the mindset that it’s too difficult, so we give up on God and on faith.
If we don’t allow ourselves to go through these tests and trials, we will never find out what God has on the other side of them.
If we give up in the middle of them, things like patience and endurance never have time to work in our hearts.
Although it doesn't specifically say the word transition in this Scripture passage above, I think it's safe to include transition in on this. And I will call myself out on this one - I struggle with transition. I struggle with change. I do not deal well with the process of transition and change. I'm good once it happens and settles, but the process is hard for me. It kills my flesh. This has definitely been a season of change and transition for me. New things, new responsibilities, lots of uncertainty, some fear creeping in....and my flesh would love to get stuck in a state of depression about it all because that is what I am bent toward. But thanks to God working through people in my life, I haven't managed to sit in any kind of negativity. But instead, I have chosen to look at this season of transition as a season of adventure. It didn't come easily. It took a sweet friend/mentor pulling me up and making me get all embarrassed by dancing in public with her at an AWA event to get me to the end of myself in this season - but my flesh got set aside....and I got to truly see how much fun transition could be. (Thank you, Candy Fothergill.)
Choosing joy births freedom in seasons of testing, trial, and transition.
I want freedom in all seasons of life - especially the tough ones. And it all comes down to a choice. In the original Greek, the word for joy is chara. It means cheerfulness, calm delight, gladness, to rejoice exceedingly, gladness of the heart. Because of the finished work of Jesus, joy is not dependent on our circumstances. It's that just beautiful? I want to learn how to better endure so I can live in greater joy and great freedom. I want that for all of us....because it's what the Father desires for all of us.
We can’t give up. We can’t lash out. We can’t get depressed. We can't become bitter. We can't get numb. We CAN, however, consider ALL things an invaluable opportunity to experience great joy. We learn to endure, and there we find true freedom.