I remember it as if it was yesterday, I was 23 years old, newly married and my husband and I were serving on junior high staff at our church. We were studying the book of James in our junior high department. I was so excited to be serving, learning and sharing with these young ladies. We'd meet Tuesday nights to go over the lesson that was being taught and preached on Sunday. As leaders we'd use that week to dig deeper into God's Word to prepare to lead our small groups on Sunday.
In that first Sunday's message I was struck with a truth that I still carry with me today.
James 1: 1-4
"James, a bond-servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes
who are dispersed abroad: Greetings.
Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials,
knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.
And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete,
lacking in nothing."
It's one word "when". Our junior high pastor said, "it doesn't say "if you encounter various trials", it says, "when you encounter various trials." Which means there is no question about it, trials are coming!
But yet when they come we act so surprised and shocked. James gives us the warning siren that the tornado is coming and be prepared but when the tornado comes we are shocked as if we never received the warning at all. We don't understand why God would allow it. We question God love, grace and mercy and want to know why. Trials are all around us. You can't say that you don't know anyone who isn't hurting in some way or another whether its financial loss, relationships on the brink of divorce, loved ones struggling or even dying of cancer. It's all around us but we are still shocked and don't understand why. I know in my own depths of my soul and my heart I've had the thought and said, "I didn't sign up for this. Why are you doing this to me Lord?" We knew what Christ was offering. He made it very clear.
"And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me.
He who has found his life will lost it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it."
Luke 9: 23
"And He was saying to them all, 'If anyone wishes to come after Me,
he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me."
We weren't ever promised a lap of luxury in the Christian life but in the recesses of our minds we must think that. The apostle James tells us why! Why are we destined to have trials? It's the "testing of our faith." God wants to conform us to His image (Romans 8:29). How can we be conformed to His image if we are so tied to the things of this world? How can we be conformed to Christ's image if we have earthly wants and desires that still entangle us? (2 Tim 2:3-4)
I love, love, love, Elyse Fitzpatrick's book, A Steadfast Heart. I want to share with you some of the encouraging words Elyse shares from the outcome of her trials.
"He's used our suffering as the means to reveal to us a new understanding about Himself,
His great goodness, and our considerable need for a Saviour."
'Our trials was fashioned for us by a wise god who knew exactly what kind of suffering
we needed. The trials we endure are meant to get at the idolatry, self-love,
and independent unbelief that God desires to purge from our life.
They're also meant to cause us to love Jesus Christ more and more, and sometimes
they're not discipline at all but rather part of God's mysterious plan to glorify Himself."
"Peaceful fruit of righteousness" that is the result of God's perfect plan for us
is luscious, and there's only one way to genuinely savor this fruit: through suffering."
"We each have a road marked out for us by the Lord. Suffering isn't one-size-fits-all.
No. He's woven the exact robe that He wants you to wear, and it will fit you perfectly,
pinching where it should pinch and comforting where you need it most."
I have a robe that was designed just for me by my Saviour, the lover of my soul. Who wants to refine me into His image and not my own. Who loves me with a love that will not let me go. I pray that as I currently hear the storm sirens warning me a storm is coming that I am assured and know there is nothing that comes my way that isn't from my Lord's sovereign hands. I want to be confident in His love and grace for me, like Daniel, not to be afraid of what's ordained for me but know that God is in it with me.