The Bible says that, “The LORD tests the righteous. . . .” (Psalm 11:5) and clearly explains that those trials have a divine purpose. God isn’t trying to flunk me, but to make me stronger.
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:2–4)Steadfast is not a stoic pressing on with lips clenched and a determination to get through life, come hell or high water. Instead, this wonderful Christian virtue means having a cheerful (or hopeful) endurance, a constancy with patience and the ability to wait on God, to be joyful and carefree under His care.
God taught me early in my Christian walk that all events are under His control and that He uses them for my good (Romans 8:28-29). That promise and my mother’s philosophy about most things (“We must need it or we wouldn’t be getting it”) continually remind me that no matter what happens, God has a lesson in it. He is trying to teach me something about this “cheerful endurance” that should be part of my character and in the process, show me that my life with Jesus can be lived with carefree abandon.
In vivid imagery, Spurgeon describes trials as an army marching out of the golden gate of God’s ordinance, clad in iron armor and armed with weapons of war. These warriors march on all roads, lurk in every corner and pay no attention to clocks or our well-laid plans. Not only that, they can come to us in any situation because “even mercies, like roses, have their thorns” and prosperity as well as rivers of affliction can drown us.
Most people spend much of their life trying to avoid difficulties, yet this army of trials is relentless. What most do not realize is that none of them can assault God’s people without permission from God. He isn’t flinging hardship willy-nilly but allowing these things that come my way to prove and strengthen my faith. He demonstrates the power of His grace as He tests the genuineness of all that Christ is in me. The trials have a way of moving me from trust in myself to trust in Him. When I do that, I find Him totally able to deal with it all.
Job is the ultimate example. God proved that no matter what happens, the faith that He gives His people will withstand all tests and even grow during them. Like a tree’s roots grow deeper and stronger in the wind, so God will root me more deeply in Christ by using the storms of life.
Spurgeon reminds me also that worldly ease is a great foe to my faith. I need this reminder. Sometimes I want to go on permanent vacation. Others might think my life is easy and privileged, but how tempted I am to complain of its difficulties. Yet griping is the opposite of “cheerful endurance” and not at all the attitude the Holy Spirit offers me. No, being a Christian is not pie in the sky, but more like eating at a great banquet in the presence of my enemies, continually aware of danger yet also aware that I am protected. God has another army, scores of heavenly host that protect me from whatever God does NOT want me to experience. I can be in the midst of a war zone and still know His deep joy.
***********Lord, today I feel like running away from my perplexities and trials. Those enemy warriors aim their arrows of doubt, discouragement and self-pity and I feel bombarded. However, You give me these verses. You remind me that Your purpose is not to plow me under but give me steadfast endurance, a cheerful and hopeful attitude. Steadfastness is the mark of those who trust You. May the trials of these days fulfill Your purpose and make that mark on me.