Why me? Why do I have to endure this great difficulty?
God's people have been asking these questions from the dawn of time. No doubt, Adam and Eve did not fully understand why God drove them from the garden to suffer in a harsh world. Joseph didn't know why God allowed his brothers to cast him to the bottom of the pit and sell him into slavery. Moses couldn't have understood why God sent him to Midian for 40 years. King David could not have seen the fullness of God's plan as he suffered under Saul's hand.
Indeed, I could give many more examples of God using trials and suffering in the lives of His people. In every case, we can look back and see God's work amid the difficulties. For example, God used Joseph to preserve many people alive in Egypt (Gen 50:20). He used Moses to lead His people out of Egypt and into the Promised Land. God eventually made David King of Israel, who would lead his people to great victories!
James gives us great insight into this truth when he says, "Consider it all joy, my brothers, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith brings about perseverance. And let perseverance have its perfect work, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing" (James 1:2-4 LSB). The men and women of the bible endured great hardship by faith in God's promises. We must acknowledge that He hasn't changed; He still uses trials to grow His people to be more like His Son.
We don't have to look very far to see suffering and pain in this world. Grace Bible Church is relatively small, yet a day doesn't seem to pass without hearing of a trial among God's people. These difficulties multiply as we consider brothers and sisters we know from other churches. So, how should we respond when we encounter hardships in the Christian life?
James says we should "consider it all joy when encountering various trials." I don't know about you, but I have difficulty understanding joy as part of the equation. Yet James says that we are to consider it all joy! In other words, we are to sit down, think it through, and regard our difficult situations as all joy! This attitude can only come from the Holy Spirit dwelling in us!
James's readers had encountered great trials beyond what most have experienced. They had to endure wrong judgments (Jas 2:2-4), harsh treatment at the hands of the rich, even resulting in death (Jas 5:4-6), and abandonment by their so-called brothers (Jas 2:15-16, 4:13-17). Yet, James wanted them to regard these situations with gladness of heart! Thankfully, he gives them a reason to have great hope.
He says that the testing of their faith brings about perseverance. If those facing trials genuinely believe in the Lord, they will persevere through the difficulty. They can have true joy knowing God will help them endure the pain. When trials test our faith, we can be sure that the result will be a greater capacity to hold out as we suffer more significant difficulties. According to James, increased perseverance will cause us to grow to be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. In other words, we will grow to be more like Christ (Gal 2:20; 1 Cor 11:1).
Indeed, there can be no greater reward than becoming more like our Lord in this lifetime! But wait, there is more! Later in James 1:12, he says, "Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him." So, when we persevere, we become more Christlike, which is a great encouragement to others, and we can have confidence that one day, we will stand before the Lord with the victor's wreath, having overcome! I can't think of anything more extraordinary in this life or the next!
If you are enduring some trial, I encourage you to consider the joy of having the Holy Spirit dwelling in you! I pray that you will not bitterly complain but will be thankful for the growth in your walk with Christ. I hope you will encourage other believers as they witness your godly response to suffering. I also hope that after you have suffered for a little while (1 Pet 5:10), you will hear the Savior say, "Well done, good and faithful servant!" (Matt 25:23).
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