Too often, I hear myself whine about something I am facing in my life. Usually, it has to do with tensions or differences with people and their opinions. Yet, it seems as if my first response is to whine about it to God or to others. We all know that nothing is beyond mentioning in prayer … even whiny prayers of complaints are not off the table as we pray. God knows that life can be hard at times, and our frail faith is often attacked by the ideas from the culture or even from loved ones in our family. Yet, facing trials does have a purpose and a cause. James tells us clearly that it isn’t the source of the trial that is important, it is the trial itself. The trial is to bring about endurance, the kind of endurance that makes you mature and complete in your walk with God.
James 1 2Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. 3For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. 4So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.
Too often, we are quick to ask God for understanding in the trial we face, but it might be wise to ask Him for clarity rather than removal. I know this is easy to say when the trial isn’t mine, but if trials are to bring about endurance then the trial becomes like the coach who says, “This is the area you need to work on to be your best.”
To be my best at anything, there is an endurance that needs to be faced and the trial is to test us to see if we will endure or we will quit. The great men and women of history all were faced with trials but what gets them into the history books is their ability not to quit but to endure the trial to its conclusion.
Today in the church, the great trial is being faced. Are we as the Bride of Christ getting ready for Him? Are we faithful to the call of picking up our cross and following Him daily? The Prophet Hosea reminded me lately of how far off course the people of God were in following their God:
Hosea 4 1Hear the word of the Lord, O people of Israel! The Lord has brought charges against you, saying “There is no faithfulness, no kindness, no knowledge of God in your land. 2You make vows and break them; you kill and steal and commit adultery. There is violence everywhere one murder after another. 3That is why your land is in mourning, and everyone is wasting away. Even the wild animals, the birds of the sky, and the fish of the sea are disappearing.
Remember, God is speaking to His people … not the culture at hand. His Word is saying that His people have not been faithful to Him, and the results are the witnesses against them:
No knowledge of God in the land
The Prophet blames the leadership because they were responsible to remind the people of God’s standards that govern behavior and faithfulness … the things that matter to God:
Hosea 4 4Don’t point your finger at someone else and try to pass the blame! My complaint, you priests, is with you. 5So you will stumble in broad daylight, and your false prophets will fall with you in the night. And I will destroy Israel, your mother 6My people are being destroyed because they don’t know me. Since you priests refuse to know me, I refuse to recognize you as my priests. Since you have forgotten the laws of your God, I will forget to bless your children.
The great trial in the church is the testing of our faithfulness to God. We are being tested to stand our ground in living out the truth of the Gospel. Truth is not a passive word … it is a word that requires endurance to understand. That is why James says that endurance will bring you into maturity and the truth will complete you.
The trial we face in the church today is the description of Hosea’s words to Israel … My people are being destroyed because they don’t know Me. They may know about Me, but they don’t know Me. That is the same admonition Jesus said to those who were doing miracles in His name … you don’t know Me, because I don’t know you. You can do a lot under the banner of Christianity, but the one thing God wants from you is you … not your performance.
We have a lot of people performing Christianity today in our churches, but they are not known by God. That is quite an accusation, isn’t it? I’m even surprised that I said it, but that is our great trial. We have performers and not pursuers. Pursuing God will bring the trials of faith, and the testing of that faith will make you mature and complete.
Are you a performer or a pursuer? Do you go through the actions and motions of righteousness, or is it the driving force in your life? Do you pursue God more than any other activity in your life? Remember, pursuers will face trials, it is your boot camp.
Great questions for all of us. It will be the pursuers of God who will survive in the world that is to come here on earth.
Challenging the Culture with Truth … Larry Kutzler