What You Need During Difficult Times

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.  And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

James 1:2-4

Basically, God is telling us to make lemonade when life hands us a lemon.  Of course, all of us have heard that saying and smile at the idea, but it’s harder to practice it, isn’t it?  Nevertheless, throughout the Old and New Testaments followers of God turned defeat into victory and trials into triumph.  James tells Christians that they can have this same experience today!  Whether it’s dealing with ordeals on the outside or temptations on the inside, saints can overcome because of their faith in God and Jesus Christ.

Notice that James didn’t say “…IF you encounter various trials…”  He said, “…WHEN you encounter various trials…”  He knew that followers of Jesus Christ must expect trying times (John 16:33; Acts 14:22; 1 Peter 4:12; 2 Timothy 3:12).  Disciples of Christ must never forget that Satan fights against them and that the world opposes them…which means that they can expect trying times.

James tells saints that their response to trials should be to “consider it all joy.”  When the apostles were jailed and flogged by the Jewish Council because they continued to preach about Jesus, they were “rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name” (Acts 5:41).  Imagine how long Christianity would have lasted if they had held any other attitude in the face of persecution!  Every Christian today owes their own standing with Christ in part to the joyful attitude of the apostles in the face of persecution which gave them the strength to continue spreading the good news of Christ to the entire world!

How in the world did they do it?  First, remembering James’ promise that “…the testing of your faith produces endurance…” helps bring about that joyful attitude.  Followers of Christ must remember that hard times test faith, and those are the times when the best they can be is brought out into the open!  Just as the athlete and soldier joyfully go through the ordeals of training because they know it will make them stronger, Christians can have joy during the tough times when they remember that the tests brought to them by tribulation can work FOR them instead of AGAINST them.  Paul said, “For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison” (2 Corinthians 4:17).  Think of the unimaginable agony Jesus went through while on the cross for six hours…and yet that suffering pales in comparison to the eternal glory He is enjoying at this very moment at the right hand of God!  His followers can and must follow His example.

Paul wrote, “And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope” (Rom. 5:3-4).  The Greek word translated “perseverance” in this passage denotes the ability to exhibit steadfastness and constancy in the face of the most formidable difficulty, something which cannot be done without patience!  It takes a special kind of patience to continue on even when times are tough, focusing more on the reward than the negative circumstances.  God expects this same perseverance from each of His children!

James says the result of having this patient, enduring joy in the midst of struggles is a “perfect result,” which is saints being “perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”  Too often, we want to get our difficulties over with quickly.  However, there are times when the best course is to patiently endure the hard times.  Instead of grumbling and complaining, God wants His children to continue to do good and obey Him in spite of the trial, all while continuing to patiently persevere.  Doing this results in the church being “perfect and complete,” yet another reason for rejoicing!  This does not mean that Christians are perfect (1 John 1:8).  The idea James is promoting is maturity, Christians who have attained spiritual adulthood, those who have reached full maturity and understanding in spiritual matters, who are no longer spiritual “infants” but have grown because they gave patience time to work.

How much joy, endurance, perseverance and patience do you have during difficult times?

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