(This is part two of a two-part email. To read part one, click here)
Here’s what James the brother of Jesus said in James 1:2: Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds…
When life hits the fan, it can break your faith, or it can make your faith. The “Make It Better Jesus” won’t hold up when your world is falling apart. Faith in this Jesus is always dependent on the winds of your circumstances. When life is good, Jesus is good. When life is bad, Jesus isn’t coming through, and you think you must have screwed something up. When you decide to surrender your preconceived ideas of Who Jesus is and how He works and you follow Him regardless of what He allows into and out of your life, a different kind of faith is born. You can experience pain and follow Jesus anyway. You can face uncertainty and follow Jesus anyway. You can feel the disappointment and follow Jesus anyway. You have a faith in Jesus that remembers our world is broken and Jesus never promised pain free, problem free. He promised His presence and His peace. This Jesus is above and in the midst of our circumstances.
James keeps going and says in verse 3: Because you know (but do we know?) that the testing of your faith produces perseverance…
We view hard circumstances and difficult seasons so negatively. We question ourselves and the God of the Universe and think that one of us dropped the ball. But could it be that God has a bigger plan for our circumstances? Maybe He wants to use this hard season to make something better (our families, our jobs, our finances, our characters, our ministries, our futures, ourselves). Difficult circumstances reveal who we are and what we really believe. We are stripped of everything that doesn’t matter and are left clinging to what truly does matter. Hopefully, it’s our faith in Jesus – that He has a plan and a purpose for our lives and that He will come through. If we don’t have that, then what do we have and what ultimately is the point?
This kind of faith brings freedom from:
Circumstances taking the legs out from under our faith.
Having to explain away and ignore the pain you feel.
Resentment that somehow God owes us.
Having to allow our current situations to dictate our contentment.
James continues: Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
You have all that you need to face all that is coming. You don’t have to fear the future. You don’t have to run from the past. You don’t have to be anxious in the present. Jesus is with you and for you and will give you everything you need to face what’s right in front of you. That’s freedom.
Life wasn’t easy for Jesus or His early followers either. But they had a strength and a confidence in Who Jesus is because they remembered what He promised: Life was going to be hard because we live in a broken world. But “Take Heart!” because “I have overcome the world!” and one day, “I will wipe away every tear.” But until then, “Let us run with patience the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus,” not the circumstances. We have what the Scriptures say is a “great cloud of witnesses” cheering us on. These witnesses experienced terrible circumstances but finished their races well because they remembered they were called to something greater: They were called to love and to live as Jesus did and to point people to a faith and a hope that transcends circumstances. This is strength. This is power. This is confidence. This is faith.