"Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." James 1:2-4
Trials = suffering = pure joy? What? That does not make sense! How can I consider it pure joy when I am suffering through trials?When I keep my eyes on Jesus, and fill my mind with scripture and sing praises to Him, that's how my focus is shifted from suffering to joy. Joyfully pressing on and persevering is the only way to become more mature and complete (Christ-like).
2 Corinthians 4:17-18 "For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." (emphasis mine)This Scripture teaches me that everything I'm seeing and experiencing now is only temporary. The unseen is eternal (rewards in Heaven). Keeping my focus on eternity rather than the temporal world I live in now, also helps me stay focused on serving my Savior joyfully.
I know in the past when I was going through a "testing of my faith," it seemed as if it would never end. Even now, as I feel up to my neck and about to drown in trials and tribulations, I find myself crying out and asking "when will this end, Lord?" I like what John Piper said in his book, "Let the Nations Be Glad!" about 2 Cor. 4:17-18. 'The reward promised seems to be in response to the suffering and a specific recompense for it. Thus, one of the aims of God in the suffering of the saints is to enlarge their capacity to enjoy His glory both here and in the age to come." (emphasis mine)
My husband and I have been tried and tested through our journey through seminary. We've been tested in the area of our finances, family-size and family members, and challenged to stand firm for the convictions we have. Yet, even though this has been one of the most trying times in our ministry, we have been incredibly blessed, grown, stretched, and seen God glorify himself and advance His Kingdom more than ever! I think that's what John Piper was referring to when he wrote, "...one of the aims of God in the suffering of saints is to enlarge their capacity to enjoy His glory both here and in the age to come." We're going to suffer. God's word tells us to prepare for it and not be surprised by it (1 Pt. 4:12 and 5:9).
One of my consistent prayers has been, "God I know what I believe, but help me to study and know why I believe what I believe (convictions). I want to be able to stand firm against the devil's schemes (Eph. 6:11). I want to always be prepared to give an answer to the hope which I am called to (1 Pt. 3:15). May the things that break your heart dear God, break mine as well."
Perhaps this is why at this time in our lives, God has placed us here. In a place to serve where we are constantly defending God's Word and our convictions. So I can come out more mature, complete, not lacking anything. (Js. 1:4)