Welcome to mile-marker 14 of our 26-day encourage marathon.
Someone out there is suffering. It might even be you.
Have you ever cried out to God, “Why, Lord? Why is this happening to me?”
The question is a common one, and I’d be a liar if I said that I myself had never asked it. There is nothing wrong with asking God, “why,” but it’s a bit arrogant to think that we should be exempted from suffering. Yes, we are children of God, but that does not mean that we should skate through life while “lesser mortals” do all the suffering.
In our passage today, James says we should “consider it joy” to encounter trials. On the surface, it almost sounds masochistic. Yet, the passage doesn’t encourage us to seeksuffering, but to find joy in them when they rise up before us.
Why on earth should we be joyful in our suffering??
#1: We get the opportunity to show the power of Christ
Jesus’ disciples once asked why a certain man was born blind (John 9). They asked, “Was it because of his sin or his parents’ sin?” There was a mistaken perception that physical trials were the direct result of a person’s unrighteousness. People may suffer the consequences of poor choices, but not all suffering is borne from one’s personal errors. Jesus replied to his disciples, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.”
Think about that statement for a moment. Did you ever consider that your trial might be an opportunity to show the mighty power of the Lord? How is this accomplished?
The answer is simple: faith.
When we turn to the Lord in our pain, expressing confidence in His power and displaying that cheerful expectation for good (aka hope) we show that the power of God is at work in us. To know and to make known the Lord ought to be the desire of every Christian. We find joy in knowing that our trial is an opportunity to reveal His great glory.
#2: To become steadfast, patient and enduring.
One big reason to count it joy when we suffer is the opportunity to shine forth Jesus. Another reason is the beautiful quality it produces within us.Three different words are used in the various versions of this passage to describe what trials ought to produce in us: Steadfastness, patience, and endurance. The Greek word used in the passage is hupemono, which—per Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance—contains all three words and connotes a “cheerful (hopeful) endurance.”
Let’s define these words:
Steadfastness: “fixed in direction, steadily directed; firm in purpose, resolution, faith; unwavering.”
Patience: “quiet, steady perseverance; even-tempered care, diligence; thequalityofbeing patient, asthebearingof provocation,annoyance,misfortune,orpain, withoutcomplaint,lossoftemper,irritation, or the like; an abilityorwillingnesstosuppressrestlessness orannoyancewhenconfrontedwithdelay.”
Endurance: “the ability or strength to continue or last, especially despite fatigue, stress, or other adverse conditions; stamina.”
(Definitions taken from dictionary.com)
I want those qualities. Do you? If God is allowing us to go through something awful, it is an opportunity to become more like Jesus. He magnified all the above qualities.
I want to note before closing that the passage says “various trials” meaning the trials are not limited to persecution for the gospel. Any suffering is a training ground.
Are you suffering from a debilitating or chronic illness? Are you allowing God to shine in your suffering, or are you becoming bitter?
Have you been betrayed by a friend or loved one? Are you going hither and thither telling everyone how awful they are or do you forgive as Christ forgave you?
Are you in one of those painful waiting periods? Do you sit around wringing your hands or do you wait on the Lord in faith?
In this race, we are free to run with joy or with bitterness; to shine forth Christ or extinguish the light; to move forward or lay down in defeat. Which will you choose?
Elisabeth Elliot used to say, “Everything, if given to God, can become your gateway to joy.”
Choose to be transformed into the image of Christ. Choose to do so with joy.
I hope you’ll continue to join me on Facebook, Twitter and here at Elihu’s Corner for this marathon. Share the image or verse reference on your Twitter feed or Facebook page with the hash tag (#encourage). Take time today to copy down this verse for yourself. Send an email or text to someone you know who would benefit from this encouragement.
Make a little time each day to write down these verses. Studies have shown that the physical act of writing increases retention far more than typing or reading. When I was in college, I used to recopy my notes—cleaning them up, adding things I remembered, and placing emphasis on important facts. Because of this effort, I rarely had to cram for midterms or finals. I encourage you to make a practice of copying Bible verses, it really does help in the effort of committing the word to memory.
[If you click on the link in the passage at the top of the post, it will take you to BibleGateway.com. From here, you can click a link which allows you to share directly to Twitter, Facebook or send an email.]
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