Consider It Joy

From Kevin Funk…

I would like to begin my blog this month with a couple of verses out of the book of James.  Let’s read James 1:2-4 together. 2Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

Here’s a little background on James. James was Jesus’ younger brother. He grew up in the same household as Jesus and his parents were Joseph and Mary. He did carpentry with Jesus, went to the same school, and went to the same synagogue. Growing up, there was no indication that James knew that Jesus was the Son of God. There is no evidence that points to James believing in Him that way. But then something happened. His big brother died. He died a horrific death on a cross. Then He rose from the dead. And James saw him. James must have felt a thousand different feelings all at once. James’ life was never the same. Jesus was no longer just his brother, but his Lord and Savior.  I’m sure all of our hearts are heavy due to the recent tornados that shredded Illinois. I would like to parallel James’ trial that he went through to the tornados that have touched many lives here in central Illinois. I want you to receive encouragement from Scripture and know that God is in complete control.

How big does your trial seem right now? Impossible? Overwhelming? James says in verse one to consider it a good thing. Consider it a joy. Before you shut down, let me tell you there is an irony here. There is an unexpected gift that comes through trials. I know those are hard words to hear when your smack dab right in the middle of a season like we are facing now. You might be wondering, where IS God? What is He trying to prove by destroying everything I’ve worked so hard to get?

James is articulating something from our own life experiences and that is the impossibility for us to escape hardship at some point in our life. We are either getting ready to enter a trial, are in the midst of a trial, or just now coming out of a trial. John 16:33 Jesus said “in this world, you will have trouble.” James also indicated that you never know when these trials will come. He says whenever you face or fall into something. You never see a flat tire coming. You don’t see an economic collapse after you purchase a 30 year mortgage. You can’t predict your teenage daughter coming up to you someday and saying, “I’m pregnant”.

James says in these few short verses that your point of view matters. You can consider trials as an enemy or a friend. It’s hard to see that when a storm of this magnitude hits that anything positive can come out of this. James says consider it. Step back and take a look at this trial.  We shouldn’t consider the trial a joy. We need to consider that what comes FROM the trial a joy. We don’t thank God for a trial. But we thank God and consider it a joy in the midst of the trial.

Trials reveal what’s inside of us. I heard a saying once that people are like tea bags. You don’t know what’s inside of them them until they are in hot water. Don’t we try to avoid pain?  We take medicine for headaches, muscle rub for our sore muscles, and cough syrup for sore throats. We never want to experience pain but we always want the benefits from them. I’d like bigger muscles without lifting weights. I’d like to know more about certain topics without reading or studying. I’d like to become management without working as janitor first. We all want to go to heaven, without dying.  There is no gain in your life physically, spiritually, mentally, without some pain. That was even true for Jesus. There would not be a celebration on Easter Sunday without the pain of a bloodstained cross on Good Friday.

I’ll be the first one to admit that I don’t always change my ways when trials hit home. Sometimes it takes a double whammy for me to change my ways. Spiritual maturity doesn’t just come naturally or easily. It usually takes a push or a little pain.

My wife and I were attacked in our hotel room while we were sleeping on our wedding night as we both about lost our lives. Losing my father 2 years ago unexpectedly to a stroke was and still is a “push” into spiritual maturity. There are others but what I want you to know is that your point of view matters. How do you view the trial?

Expect the unexpected gifts from these trials! Kevin what are you talking about? How can I find joy in the midst of this chaos here in Washington? Let’s look back at verse 3. The testing of your faith produces perseverance. The easiest thing to do when tough times come is to give up. Look back in your life and ask yourself what do you wish you wouldn’t have given up on. Music lessons, marriage, gym membership, a tornado that ravaged my home, or even God? Was the pain too much? For those who are struggling right now, I believe God wants you to hear one word right now…..persevere. One of the unexpected gifts of a trial is that it teaches us how to hang on. When it feels like it would be so easy to give up, you keep pressing on. This sounds cliché but one day at a time is what’s required. Jesus said not to worry about tomorrow because each day has enough trouble of its own. You don’t have to persevere for the rest of your life…..just persevere today. And then the next, and the next, and so on if it’s required. I don’t look years down the road and worry about my daughter’s obedience to The Lord or her financial situation she will find herself in. I take parenting one day at a time and enjoy the season I’m in.

The cleanup looks like an impossibility from this tornado. The task is daunting. What should we do? Give up and walk away? No! We persevere. We pick ourselves up by our bootstraps and fight. One piece of our homes at a time. I don’t want to call it garbage because the debris is made up of thousands of memories. Most we will never see again.

Trials have a way of slapping us in the face. They get our attention like nothing else can. C.S. Lewis said that God speaks to us in our pleasure and shouts to us in our pain. When we are torn to shreds, we become whole. If I ask you that when you started your spiritual journey and humbled yourself, was it because of a trial or a tough time you had to go through? Who can say that they found God because they got the promotion of all promotions at work, or because your marriage is smooth a silk, or your kids are the model citizens. Not saying that can’t happen but we rarely grow until a trial prods us. It prompts us as a catalyst to move forward.

I believe more people will draw nearer to God because of this disaster, than those who pull away. God allows us to go through fire to purify us. How do we become more loving, patient, caring, faithful, self-controlled? Anybody can love when everybody is loving around us. Patience is easy when there is no traffic. I believe God will do great things through this massive trial set before us.

Verse 4 says to let perseverance finish its work so that you can be mature and complete. You can’t rush perseverance. God is our rock. Cling to Him during this time of sorrow. Let yourselves be refined by the fire of this trial so eventually your faith will be lacking in nothing. May God keep you under His wing until He has finished sculpting your faith.