January 19, 2020
Years ago, when the earth’s crust was first hardening, I was a football player. One day, for the first time in my life, I had the ball and broke loose with no one between me and the goal line. This was my big day. I ran hard as I could, but I was running out of steam. I saw the goal line and said, “One thing’s sure—that guy behind me isn’t going to catch me before I score.”
I dived over the goal line. I’d made it! But you know what? It wasn’t the goal line—it was the five-yard line! How humiliating. I never reached the goal because I quit too soon. Some of us will quit too soon if we don’t learn to endure.
Many of you are going through a trial right now. If not now, just wait. We are always either coming out of a trial, going into a trial, or in the midst of a trial. None of us will experience a lifetime of sunny skies.
God is a strange teacher. He gives the test first and then gives the lesson. I’ve been through many tests in life, but in a recent surgery and long recovery, I learned some things I want you to know. One of the most important was learning to endure hardship.
James, the half-brother of the Lord Jesus, explains in James 1:2-5:
My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.
You want strength, victory, prosperity, and contentment—we all do. How many want tribulation? We don’t. But tribulation is the very thing that produces in us what we need.
This passage says “patience,” but the actual Greek word, hupomono, means “to abide under,” “to endure”—endurance. God allows trials in our lives, and we must “abide under” those burdens or we’re not going to develop strength, win victory or know contentment. You won’t play the piano if you don’t learn to endure and practice. If you don’t spend time in the training room, you’re not going to play football. If you don’t learn to endure, you’re not going to build character.
When James says “count it all joy,” He doesn’t mean “Praise God, I’m being tempted to sin.” The accurate word here is “tested,” or “tried,” not tempted. A few verses later James says God will test us and try us, but He never tempts us to sin. The devil tempts you to make you stumble. God tests you so you can develop endurance under trials. Romans 5:3 confirms the purpose of testing: "And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance [endurance]."
If you pray, “Lord, give me endurance,” you must have something to endure to learn anything about endurance.
Don’t be afraid of God’s testing. He’s helping you to stand. A wise man said, “The bumps are what you climb on.” Never think the Christian life is all sunlight and roses. Jesus said, “…In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). If you’re going through tribulation, it doesn’t mean something’s gone wrong. It means the Word of God is true.
If your trial is from God, praise Him in it, because these tests let us know God is real in the darkest night. Would you fly on an airplane that had never been tested? Faith that can’t be tested can’t be trusted,
In your faith journey, God never flunks you out; He just re-enrolls you.
Here are 5 things I learned through tribulation.
“My brethren, count it all joy…” (v. 2).
Not grin and bear it, but rejoice in the Lord, because an overcoming Christian is a joyful Christian. Andre Crouch wrote, “If I never had a problem, I wouldn’t know that He could solve them.” Pull some groans out of your prayers; shove in a few hallelujahs.
Author Barbara Johnson titled one of her books Pain Is Inevitable but Misery Is Optional. You can be miserable if you want to, but in the midst of your trial, you can have joy. Paul and Silas in that Philippian jail at midnight sang praises. The first fruit of tribulation should be joy. Paul said, “I am exceedingly joyful in all our tribulation” (2 Corinthians 7:4).
“But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing” (v. 4).
James uses the word teleos here, which means “mature.” An oak tree is the teleos of an acorn, grown to maturity. When have you grown the most? When you had no problems? Or when under stress you learned to endure? Psalm 4:1 says, “…You have relieved me in my distress....”
“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways” (vs. 5-8).
When trials come, you need wisdom. Through trials we develop wisdom, learning things we couldn’t learn any other way.
You’ve heard of the book of Job and the tremendous trials he went through. He asked God “Why?” But in the end, Job stopped asking “why” and started remembering Who—the omniscient, omnipotent God. That’s what we must do.
Don’t be like the wave of the sea in James 1:6. God won’t trust a Christian who’s like a wave. With rock-like faith, ask God for wisdom, and He will give it.
“Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him” (v. 12).
I learned that in difficulty and sorrow, pain and perplexity, I could actually learn to live as a king in my trial, like James says in verse 12.
You will be crowned—not in the future when you get to heaven. James means right now. Paul said we are to “reign in life” (Romans 5:17). But you’ll never learn to be “over” until you learn to be under; until you endure. If you don’t bear the cross, you can’t wear the crown. When trials come, get under and stay under until God is finished, and He will give you the crown of life.
“Whoever has no rule over his own spirit Is like a city broken down, without walls” (Proverbs 25:28).
If you don’t learn to rule over your own spirit, you’re like a city without walls. Enemies can come and go. But God wants you to rule in this life.
“…that you may be perfect and complete [teleos], lacking nothing” (v. 4).
If you learn to endure, God will bring you to where you will need nothing. I’m not talking about being wealthy. If you’ll learn to trust God, He will be there to meet your need. God says, “Endure! Endure! I will give you the true riches of life.”
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