Dwight Fletcher | Real radical - No pain, no gain
Today, we begin a new series - 'Real Radical: Guidance from the book of James'. James was written to Jewish Christians who were undergoing severe hardships, but rather than consoling them, James challenged them. You see, the Christian does not have to be a victim of his circumstance, but rather he needs to get real radical to experience God's best.
We live in an era where people would do almost anything to avoid trouble and trials. But God has a plan for us even as we go through these hardships. In order to discover God's best for our lives, we therefore have to accept some basic truths about trials and temptations.
For one, they are inevitable - trouble comes to all people everywhere and as James also noted it will come in all forms
Times of difficulty can set us up to walk away from what we know is right; and if we yield, we lose fellowship with God. But approaching our troubles from God's perspective will reward us with His best for us.
There are four essentials for experiencing God's best in trials:
1. wareness- GOD USES TRIALS TO BUILD OUR SPIRITUAL MUSCLES.
We can count our trials as pure joy "because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." James 1:3-4 NIV. Trials and temptations are God's tools to build us up. Any area in which we need to grow requires some resistance, otherwise known as 'God's spiritual weights'. When we approach the experiences the right way by enduring them, then according to James, this will produce in us certain outcomes:perseverance, maturity, completeness and lacking in nothing. A Christian is not a Christian unless his faith is tested and proven.
2. ATTITUDE - CONSIDER IT ALL JOY
James 1:2 AMP tells us that the attitude we should have to trouble is to "Consider it wholly joyful, my brethren, whenever you are enveloped in or encounter trials of any sort or fall into various temptations." This means making a determined personal choice about how we face our life situations. Trials should not be seen as punishment or a curse, but something that prompts rejoicing because we know that God is at work in our lives.
James did not say however, that Christians should be joyous about their trials, but be joyous in our trials. Believers are not called to passively endure a time of testing, but are to learn from the experience. James is charging us to allow this way of thinking to completely rule or control our minds and our actions.
3. APPROPRIATING GODS HELP
"If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you." James 1:5 NIV. Wisdom is using knowledge rightly and we will need it, so that we do not waste the opportunities God gives us to mature. Wisdom helps us to use these circumstances for our good and for God's glory. And when God gives wisdom, He "...gives generously to all without finding fault..." James goes on to give a caveat to this promise. "But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt..." James 1:6a NIV.
4. AGREEMENT WITH GOD
God cannot and will not build our character without our cooperation. So it requires agreeing with the plan and will of God. And James warns that "...the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind." James 1:6b NIV. This 'double-minded' person may be either unstable or self-sufficient. The unstable person in one breath says "I believe" while in the next he says "I don't". Indecisiveness makes him ineffective in every aspect of his life. While the self-sufficient person's doubt is of a different kind. For instance, the wealthy think that because of their wealth they can use money to solve their problems. But God is not only interested in the solution, He wants to refine our character. This is why Jesus said: "...it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God!" Matthew 19:24 NLT.
Still, there is hope if we submit to God. A little further down in Matthew 19:26, Jesus goes on to say about the rich entering God's kingdom that, "..."With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible."
We have to understand that God is training lions not kittens - "The wicked run away when no one is chasing them, but the godly are as bold as lions." Proverb 28:1 NLT - and God will reward us for passing the test! "Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him." James 1:12 NIV.
God's approval is on those who love Him enough to stand the test. Satan wants to use these trials to tear us down, but God uses them to build us up. Jesus constantly spoke of the ultimate prize as a new quality of life. Let us be people who get 'real radical' and stand up to the test. That person and only that person will receive "the crown of life".