‘Consider it all joy…when you encounter various trials.’ James 1:2
Trials are one of the common denominators for being human. However, my trials and yours are going to look and feel different because we are different. We all react differently to physical, financial, and relational trials. The operative word here is “when” not “if” we meet various trials. Trials can come about when we refuse to listen to counsel. Trials might result of someone we are connected with making a mistake [a spouse gossips] and we are caught up in the it. Trials can build over time [such as a disease] or crash in on us suddenly [like the unexpected death of a loved one]. Some trials will be public while others will be private. With a certainty all trials will test our faith. And all trials will bring us to a crossroads. The crossroad is the decision to resist the trial or to embrace this as an opportunity to grow more Christ-like. The most common response we start with is “Why is this happening to me?” Peter answers this age-old issue by telling us that ‘…don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you.’ (1 Peter 4:12 NLT). It is a matter of application. It is one thing to say that I believe in the sovereignty of God and quite another allowing God to be sovereign while we are experiencing a trial. Listen to the counsel of James under the inspirations of the Holy Spirit: ‘Consider it all joy…when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance…that you may be perfect and complete.’ (vv. 2-4 NAS). Trials have a way of clearing out the religious baggage we accumulate over time if we are willing to go back to the basics of our faith. Am I willing to stop whining about the trial and get quiet before God? Am I willing to cease my activity and spend some time listening to the One who wants me to mature?
Col 3:5 “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you…”
It is difficult to live as a living-dead man. The seat of my desires shows itself in the different parts of my body. I like the old English word “members.” My body is composed of different members. All of the members are subject to earthly desires. The eye is different from the hand. The brain is different from the mouth. Yet the eye, brain, mouth and hand all feed information to the seat of my desires. This is where “sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness” are fed to the seat of my desires. In the Garden, where perfection reigned, the information flow was untainted. But the proverbial “I” rebelled and garnered the wrath of God. “I” was expelled. “I” now became a creature of idolatry. Now I live, as a citizen outside of the Garden, in a body of members who tainted by earthly desires that are hostile to a holy God. And the only remedy is death, but to not the physical members, as that would harm or even kill me. It is the seat of desires that will be dominated and killed. It is a beast; a wild horse that refuses to be broken. As anyone knows who has been horseback riding. The reins are for keeping the horse from running away with the rider. By denying domination to the seat of my desires I keep the control; I keep rein over influence of my members from running away with me. My experience teaches me that not putting to death this pale horse allows it to gain power and morph into a raging bull elephant. It is warfare. In warfare, you kill the enemy bent on killing you before he succeeds.
I know a man who 45 years ago made the decision to build his career rather than listen to God calling him to work in His Kingdom. He told me that the lure of “getting ahead” was more important than being obedient to the call that God put on his life to go into ministry. “What if God wanted me do something that I hated or that would be outside of my ability to be successful accomplishing?” He described this as a paralyzing fear. He looks back on his life and sees missed divine opportunities on several occasions.
The more I got to know him, the more he revealed how he made a series of choices that took him down paths of rebellion. The consequences were felt emotionally, mentally, financially and physically. He related to me how this pig-headedness caused undue stress in not only his own life but those closest to him. As he moved further away from God he sought to expel any remnants that God had been part of his life.
He told me that all of his best efforts to build the career that he desired failed. “There is not one company I have worked for that is still in existence under original ownership or name” he claimed. “During this frenzy of trying to build my career I was twice fired; three different companies I worked for changed owners and the new owners laid me off; four times the companies downsized due to economic conditions with a subsequent layoff. During the 30 odd years of frustration, he told me that his stubbornness prevented him from turning from his rebellion. He never did obtain the career he sought after. He became in his mind a ‘victim’ with no sense of contentment or security. He emphasized that those early choices to go his own way … to walk away from God’s plan for him … put him and his family into needless hardships.
“But you know what? God does not give up on us! As Jesus told Peter after he boasted about what he would do for Jesus, ‘after you have turned, strengthen your brothers.’” This man is walking now where God is directing him.
Getting “saved” is not about getting the right information to live by. It is about gaining the right identity. It is not about theology [although that is important]. It is about getting to know the Lord Jesus. 1CO 9:22 Helping people in getting “saved” is all about, to use the words of Paul: “…I became…” He was not one of the frozen chosen. He bent over backwards to accommodate and be culturally sensitive and relevant without compromising the Gospel. Lord, help me to “become” as one of them. The blessing [v.23] is seeing people snatched from a journey into Hell to enjoy an eternity working for Jesus.