Faith is Seeking Jesus to Deal with Life!
James tells us that the key to dealing with our problems is to keep our faith with our eyes upon Christ, allowing Him to be not only Savior, but also Lord. We need to realize that the world-and even Christianity-is dangerous and requires a level of faith that some may not be willing to give. Most people today (as in the first century) think that becoming a Christian could bring loss and suffering. Those early people were only seeing the liberation from the Law. James is saying that our faith is not to be cheap; he gives us a warning that trials are coming so we had better be prepared for them! And, we do this best with faith in Christ!
For us to survive suffering and grow in maturity, we must have a real, authentic faith. Our eyes must be on Him as well as our trust and faith. God must have us in Him, all of us-every aspect (Phil. 3)! Why do we need to allow ourselves to surrender to Him? Because we will face problems; they are inevitable, unavoidable, and unpredictable, and no one is immune! How we deal with them is crucial for our contentment and conviction. We cannot deal with them effectively without Christ as Lord over our daily life! Allow Jesus to give you the attitude of joy and the ability to persevere! This attitude of joy is a key attribute in order for an athlete to excel on the field as well as for a Christian to grow in the Lord. What will you do? Surrender to Him or live unto yourself (Job 14:1; Psalm 34:14; John 3:30; 2 Cor. 4:7-12; Gal. 2:20-21; 1 Peter 4:12)?
· James simply tells us, we can actually profit from trials. The key is for us to look to Christ, not to our situation, and declare our circumstances as joy. We are to be content and satisfied, to face them, then learn and grow from them. This does not mean to give up and do nothing; it means to refocus our energies into productivity and faith-not questions and bitterness. It is to place our convictions and fulfillment in Christ, not in circumstances. So, when something very difficult comes upon us, we will have the great comfort that God is in control and will not allow us to carry more than we can tolerate.
· A Bondservant, in Greek times, meant the lowest form of a slave, a person who was at the master's total disposal, and was even expendable. They rowed the boats of war with a whip on their back (Rom. 9:3). This is a profound testimony for James (1 Cor. 15:3-8)! For us, it means total, surrendered devotion to the Lord; our will has been sacrificed to God's will and thus, we are totally at the disposal of our Lord(Acts 6:1-6; Rom. 12:7; Gal. 1:15; 2:20; Phil. 1:1; 1 Tim. 2:8-3:13; 4:6)!
· This kind of faith trusts in our Lord. Therefore, we can look at whatever situation we face and say this is good, this will better me, or this will help me. I may not understand it, but I can trust God; He is there and He will carry me through it! We are called to declare our situation, whatever it may be, as joy! Because, it is not a question of if we have problems but when, as we all will face them. There is no escape, living in our corporeal bodies and in a sinful world (Gal. 3:26; Col. 3:1-4)!!
· Count it joy means that we are willing and able to declare our situation as happy and fulfilling. It may not change our situation, but it will help us change our mindset and focus. It is realizing the sovereignty of God and that He is in control, even when life seems to be turned upside down and inside out! God does not always get us away from harm and stress or even suffering, but He will get us through!
· Joy will allow us to enjoy our relationship with Christ, His creation, and others, regardless of our circumstances, with an expression of delight and real, authentic happiness that comes from and with harmony with God and others. (Psalm 32:7-9; Proverbs 15:13; John 15:11; 17:13; 2 Cor. 12:9; 1 Peter 4:13- 19; Heb 10:34)Joy will help us understand God's perspective and give us the confidence and patience to endure anything!
· Joy is not happiness, because we may not be content and pleased with it; rather, joy is hope-it is our hope. It is not a meager wish, rather the unshakable confidence in our future in Christ. Our pleasure comes from knowing He is in charge and caring for us (Psalm 34:1-8; 1 Thess. 5:18)!
· The word testing refers to the circumstances that God allows so we will learn perseverance, produce our fruit, and prove and develop our faith further. This gives us our maturity, our character, and enables our fruit to benefit others. These are for our direct benefits and growth that He works out for our benefit and for His glory (Romans 5:3; chap. 8).
· We can be confident that our Lord will comfort us with the assurance that when we go through tough stuff, even testing and trials, we will be better for it! Our setbacks and sufferings will produce greater faith, character, and maturity in us; we will gain patience and our faith will grow and be strengthened. We will also be better used by Him in others' lives as well when they go though hardships and stress and learn from it. When we see Christ, we have confidence that we will be complete.
· The word patience means "staying power." It is like perseverance and the endurance to not give up; it is about actively overcoming our situation-not just sitting, accepting, and doing nothing (Hosea 2:19-23; Psalm 33:20; Matt. 27:14; Rom. 5:3; 12:12; Gal. 5:1; 6:9; Col. 1:11; James 1:3-4,12; 5:10-11)!
· Our faith and learning leads to our growth and development that further leads to helping others in their situations (Romans 5:3-5; 8:28; James 1:14-15; 1 Peter 1:5-7).
We need to realize that we have no control over what happens to us at times, whether it be trials, suffering, setbacks, injury, sickness, or death of a loved one. BUT, we do have control of our attitude and response! We are called to choose to declare our situation as joy! We cannot change our circumstances; however, we can accept them by learning and growing from them (Isa. 26:3). It does no good to complain, to fret, or to be angry or bitter, as these things do not do others or us any good. All that complaining just escalates the situation and blinds us to our ability to be better and not bitter! Real, authentic, Christian maturity will grow as a result of problems. They will strengthen us and make us better, stronger, and able to get over things faster and get on with our lives. Then, we will be of better use to God and to others.
There are two ways most people deal with trials; the first is to ignore them, and the second is to panic. The first group can think all they want that, well, that will never happen to me, but it will. The others can panic all they want, but panic never solved anything. We have to literally change our mindset and consider the trials as joy. We are to take our lead from biblical considerations and the leading of the Spirit-not the leading of ignorance or panic. This means we will see trials from God's perspective and not ours or the worlds. Trials do not mean despair; they mean opportunity and growth. They have a purpose. They are not God's original plan, but are, however, the one we have now because of sin. Do not despair; we have the assurance of God's providential care. We have the assurance of God's love, and that He is indeed in control!
Why do we struggle? To produce and enhance our faith, character and excellence! If not that, we will produce despair from our callousness, carelessness, and laziness. Just like in building muscles, it takes work. A bodybuilder or an Olympian needs to work out several hours a day several days a week to compete and succeed. A Christian needs to do the same in God's Word; so, we can choose to grow deeper in Him or not. Just be aware. If we do not, we will just sit on the sidelines as the game of life passes us by and the carnal life takes us over (Rom. 8:1-11)! Our working out in our faith through struggle and trials means our triumph and growth (Rom. 8:31-39). No, we do not like trials; we never need seek them because they will always seek us. However, for our benefit and others' encouragement and mentoring, we may as well let them teach and train us for our Lord's Glory. Otherwise, our impulsiveness and self-interests will distract us from our Lord and His plan. We may just keep repeating the problem until we learn what we need to learn! If not, we gain nothing but despair, and how sad that would be! We do not need material things and/or our ways fulfilled to make us complete. Jesus makes us complete. He is perfect and His perfection covers us and makes us whole!
1. What do you tend to do when problems come knocking at your door? What should you do?
2. How can you learn patience? What would your life and relationships look like with more patience?
3. What does trusting in God mean to you? What should it mean?
4. Do you depend on yourself, others, or God to solve your problems?
5. What is the balance between the effort you are to put in and your reliance on Christ to see you through a trial?
6. How can your problems work for your good?
7. What has happened when you have just looked at your situation and not Christ?
8. How can declaring your situation as joy be of benefit to you? How does your faith play a role in this?
9. Read 1 John 3:1-3. How does hope play a significant factor in your trust in Christ and faith development? How can hope and joy help you more?
10. What is a problem you are going through now? How can you learn? How can you handle it better? How can you grow from it? What role will your faith take, and what will you learn from this?
God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Psalm 46:1
The Serenity Prayer
GOD, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. Living ONE DAY AT A TIME; Enjoying one moment at a time; Accepting hardship as the pathway to peace. Taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it. Trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His Will; That I may be reasonably happy in this life, and supremely happy with Him forever in the next. Amen (Reinhold Neibuhr-1926)