I, and I’m sure everyone else, love when times are good, when everything seems to be going right, and it feels like everything is in our favor. I believe that God gives us these times when we need them. He knows that we need moments when we get the chance to enjoy ease, blessing, and rest.
But to enjoy coasting downhill, there must be a climb.
James 1:2 tells us to “consider it a great joy…whenever [we] experience various trials, because [we] know that the testing of [our] faith produces endurance.” When things start to become more difficult or when it seems that there is adversity and hardship over the horizon, it is an opportunity for our faith to grow.
The purpose of trials is to test our faith, as James told us, so that our faith can grow bigger. I believe that there are 2 responses to these trials: seeking wisdom from God (James 1:5-8) or the sin of turning to ourselves (James 1:13-15). These trials should produce joy, because God is giving us an opportunity to learn how to trust in Him more, to believe in Him more, and to learn further what it is to love Him with all of our heart, strength, and might.
But I understand that sometimes the trials and the uphill battle can seem daunting and bleak. Sometimes the trial is forced upon us and sometimes it is the product of our own actions. Our own mind, heart, and emotions can start to weigh us down. It is easy to lose sight of the joy and the faith and the belief that God is the ultimate provider and that He has the power to see us through the trial.
I recently read the book Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson, a fantasy novel, and there is a moment where it seems that the main character’s plan to overcome darkness and oppression has failed. There was betrayal and opposition on so many fronts, but there is one character that inspires others to action and to perseverance. He believes even when it seems all is lost.
“Belief isn’t simply a thing for fair times and bright days, I think. What is belief — what is faith — if you don’t continue in it after failure?… Anyone can believe in someone, or something, that always succeeds… But failure…ah, now, that is hard to believe in, certainly and truly. Difficult enough to have value, I think.”
Sometimes failure is even our trial. We can do good things, and we can do godly things, and still face trials of failure, but even in those times, God is still good. He is still worth worshipping. He is still worth following.
I am reminded of Moses. God sent Moses to Pharaoh time and time again to tell Pharaoh to release the Israelites, and time after time Pharoah not only remained firm in keeping the Israelites, but he also made life harder for them. Moses had a hard time with this. He pleaded to God with his emotions and questions, but still Moses believed (Exodus 5 and 6).
I also speculate that the disciples saw Jesus’s death a failure as well (Luke 24). He was supposed to be this king who would begin ruling and saving the world from darkness and enemies. The disciples and those who believed did not understand when Jesus would predict his death, so Jesus dying could seem like the plan failed. But still, they believed.
Church family, I know how good it is to enjoy the green pastures that God sends our way, and I certainly hope you all are in those pastures now. But for those that are not, I offer encouragement. Sometimes life can be hard. But in those moments, we must turn to God, and ask Him for wisdom. Let us fight the principalities of darkness that try to squander the growing of our faith, let us lean on God and each other for encouragement and true community, and let us spur one another to love and to good works (Hebrews 10:24)! We can be weak in so many different ways, but those weaknesses must turn us to Him and His power so that he can vanquish every foe that raises its head against us (II Corinthians 12:9).
“Be strengthened by the Lord and by his vast strength.” – Ephesians 6:10.
We serve a great and mighty God!