Tag Archives: Trials

Practice Makes Perfect

Dad installed a chinup bar in a doorway and used it everyday.  He challenged me to a contest when I was visiting.  I was amazed at his stamina but still beat him – hey, I was 30 years younger.  But now, at the age he was, there’s no way I could measure up to what he did then.  Unless I practiced.  The training regimen of olympic athletes is scary intense.  They punish themselves with every greater challenges til they know they can push through them.

In a similar way, we are encouraged to accept the various trials of life as opportunities to train our faith and develop our capacity to patiently push through.  

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.  (James 1:2-4)

To test a diving board, you jump on it, tentatively at first but then with greater and greater force.  If you can’t break it then you know it will hold you.  You trust it  Same thing with faith; you jump on it to know if it will hold.  You test faith with trials.  As you learn your faith will hold, you become more able to endure life’s trials with steadfastness.  You become “perfect and complete,” in the sense that you are “good to go” in the faith department.  The faith is not in your own toughness but in Jesus’ ability to hold you safe, no matter what.  Like this:

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.  (Romans 8:38-39)

The Suffering Paradox

Tough times are good times.  That’s because tough times make us tougher. That truth, known by farmers, construction workers, soldiers and athletes, has been largely ignored in a culture in which obesity is a growing threat (no pun intended).  But it’s not just about building muscles.  It’s more about building steadfastness, the willingness to keep going in the midst of suffering.  Here’s how Jesus’ brother James said it:

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:2-4)

Notice that this spiritual toughness is developed by “trials of many kinds,” as a result of the “testing of your faith.”  When everything is going smoothly, much of our faith is theoretical.  Tough times are opportunities to check out what you really believe, to put faith to the test and see if it holds.

Elmer’s glue used to run a commercial in which the ends of two planks were overlapped and glued together to form a diving board.  It took faith for the guy who first went out on the end of that thing to bounce up and down on it.  You can imagine that his first moves were rather tentative.  But as he discovered its strength, as his faith in the glue increased, he became more willing to put some weight into it.  As we face trials in life and are forced to “bounce up and down” on what we have been taught to believe about God.  As we do so, we discover for ourselves that He is faithful.  The tougher our trials, the tougher our faith.

James says this increased faith-toughness builds perseverance and maturity.  Perhaps the example of this truth that is gaining the most attention right now is the story of Louis Zamperini, in the film, “Unbroken.”  But, as inspiring as that story may be, people won’t develop perseverance from watching the movie.  They develop perseverance by testing their faith in tough times.

That’s why tough times are good times.

Quotes: The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

Keep the Faith – Summary

All followers of Jesus will experience tough challenges that will tempt them to abandon what they believe.  All of us.  All followers will wonder if following Jesus is worth it, whether they have been gullible.  All of us.  Jesus promised us that following Him would be tough, painful at times and would cost some of us our lives.  The key to enduring these trials is the same thing that connected us with Jesus in the first place: Faith.   He is the Author (the Inventor and Giver) of our faith and He is the Perfecter of it.

When – not if but when – you go through these challenging times, it will serve you well to read Hebrews 11 and 12, letting the truths contained in those chapters soak into your heart and encourage you.  That is why they are there!

A friend of mine blessed my heart the other day, when he said: “Worry is the fear that God won’t get it right.  Bitterness is the belief that God got it wrong.”  Nice.  And between worry and bitterness, in the place of peace, lies faith, the faith that knows, despite circumstances that seem to deny it, that, of course God will get it right!