Leslie James has been married to Ryan James for 11 years. They have three sons, Reed, Ross, & Tyler. She currently resides in Winnsboro, Texas and is “privileged” to serve as the Ladies Minister at Grace Fellowship Ministries in Winnsboro. You can follow her on Twitter @lesliejamesgang.
There is a decorative sign by my computer that reads, “Faith is not knowing what the future holds but knowing who holds the future.” Reading those words gives you the warm fuzzies, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t want to be that person? Someone who is so full of faith there is no questioning, no doubting, no fearing, no people pleasing problems, no worrying about what tomorrow holds because they trust the person holding their future that much. As disciples of Jesus Christ, that is the way we are to live. We are to trust in him and have that much faith so as to live our lives not afraid, but free in Christ to do the work he’s already prepared in advance for us to do. This sounds easy enough until trials and temptations and the demands of this world press down on us and we realize some things are easier to read than to actually live out. Take for example, James 1:2-4: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
Let’s be honest, the last thing you want to hear when your faith is being tested is “consider it pure joy.” Unlike the warm fuzzy feeling we get reading the chalkboard sign propped up on my desk, there is no such feeling present when trials of life darken our doorstep. When we are pressed, whether through sickness, death, a rebellious child, problems at work, or God calling us out to do things we can’t possibly do without having great faith, we find out what is truly on the inside. What we turn to during that time reveals where our true worship is. We tend to revert to what is comfortable instead of what is commanded in the scriptures. We were all into this “great faith” thing until something came along much bigger, much harder, and much deeper than we could possibly fathom.
What do you revert to when pressed? Is it frustration and anger or the need for the approval of man? Do you withdraw from everything and everyone? Is it alcohol, food, or drugs? If you will pay attention the next time you are faced with a trial you will realize your flesh is normally drawn first to something other than faith in God to see you through this. And though we may not want to hear the words “consider it pure joy,” James is trying to encourage us on. He’s trying to tell us to hang in there, don’t give in, let the work that has begun in you finish. Don’t try and stop the test. We normally are looking for the first exit out of trials that come our way and James is saying don’t. He’s telling us there is a greater you ahead if you will allow the perseverance process to refine your faith producing a stronger, more mature, unshakable believer.
I’m reminded of my son Tyler who was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at 18 months. He has been introduced to the perseverance process at a very early age. It is twice as hard for Tyler to walk, run, climb, jump, etc. compared to his brothers who don’t have the condition. Tyler also falls down twice as much and through the years he’s learned how to fall well. He’s come to understand that falling is a part of his life and though sometimes the fall hurts, it doesn’t mean he’s not going to get up and try again. He’s been tested with this every day of his life and I can only imagine how frustrating it must be at times. I wonder how he must feel when he can’t keep up with all the boys running around or when his little legs tire out and can’t carry him any further. If Tyler is angry, or bitter, or sad we wouldn’t know it because it seems he’s accepted this trial in a much more mature way than most adults without physical challenges accept the trials that come their way. When he falls, he gets back up and tries again most of the time with a smile on his face not begrudging the fall. He knows that staying on the floor is neither his destination or destiny. It’s not yours either!
So, I encourage you to get up and to keep getting back up. There’s a greater you in the future. Let perseverance finish its work so that you will lack nothing and be able to live out your life with great faith, unafraid of what the future holds because you know and trust who holds your future.