Sunday, February 8, 2015

Triumph Over Adversity

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.  And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.
James 1:2-8

In this passage, James presents us with four steps to winning triumph over adversity: count, know, let, and ask.  The Epistle of James is framed within an overall theme of patient perseverance during trials and temptations, and it begins with one of the most inspiring verses of the Bible.  In James 1:2, we are told to "Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds."  James does not say "if" we experience adversity, but says "when" we experience adversity, because James knows that Christians, and really all humans, will experience trials and tribulations.  In John 16:33, Jesus said, "In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world."  We will experience various trials, some of these adversities come because we are human, such as sickness, accidents, disappointments, and death, but other trials come because we are Christians.  Those adversities come as temptations and battles with Satan and the evil he presents to us.  As LGBT Christians, we face our own trials.  Many claim that because we are gay, we cannot also be Christians.  In an attempt to find a church that will accept us, we often find it disheartening when people who claim to be Christians turn their backs on us, but God welcomes all into Christianity.  What should our response be to these adversities, James says to "Count it all joy!"  So the first step in overcoming adversity is to count our joys and adopt a joyful attitude.

"But how," we may ask, "is it possible to rejoice in the midst of trials?"  The second imperative in verse three explains how knowing that the testing of our faith produces patience.  The right knowledge concerning the value of trials makes it possible to have a joyful attitude.  We are to understand that: trials test our faith, and faith that is tested can bring out the best in us.  With this understanding, we can have joy in trials because we know from 2 Corinthians 4:17, "For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison."  The testing of our faith works for us, not against us, and when we use adversity to our advantage, it helps us to mature in our faith.  Patience is not a passive acceptance of circumstances. It denotes the ability to exhibit steadfastness and dependability in the face of the most formidable difficulty. As LGBT Christians, we may be disheartened when a church rejects us, but we must rest assure in the knowledge that Fod does love us.  Not all of those who call themselves Christians really are Christians, some are merely doing the devil's work in disguise.  We must have patience with our knowledge. Patience is a courageous perseverance in the face of suffering and the persistence to carry on, even when it is rough, despite the circumstances. Such a quality of stedfastness can come only through experiencing trials.

Having this understanding about what trials can accomplish enables us to have a joyful attitude toward such trials.  But to really benefit from our trials, we must also obey the third imperative found in verse four that we must let patience "have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing."  To truly turn trials into triumph. We must let patience do it's work.   Too often, we want to get our trials or difficulties over with quickly, but there are times when the best course is to bear up under the trial patiently. Instead of grumbling and complaining patiently endure the trial, doing good despite the trial.  When we experience rejection from those who claim to be Christians, we must show them patience and let our own good work and righteousness speak for us. When patience has the opportunity to work, it produces maturity.  In verse four, the word "perfect" does not mean that we must be sinless; Romans 3:23 states that "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God," instead perfect means  "completeness, wholeness, and maturity."

Letting patience have its perfect work is not easy.  It certainly requires wisdom which enables us to see the value of our trials.  This brings us to the fourth imperative necessary to turn trials into triumph, found in verses five to eight that if we lack wisdom, we must ask for it from God.  He has promised to give wisdom liberally, and He will not reproach us for making such a request.  We should be careful to distinguish "wisdom" from "knowledge." Knowledge involves information, facts, etc., whereas, wisdom is the ability or insight to properly use those facts in the most effective way. Failure to understand this distinction has led many into error. Many believe that this passage (James 1:5-8) teaches that God will give knowledge concerning His Will in answer to prayer, but knowledge comes only through His Word; we must carefully study it if we would know the Will of God.   However, the wisdom to properly use His Word can be received through prayer. Proper prayer is that which is asked in faith and with no doubt.  Prayer is the most important tool we have to combat the false Christians who teach hate toward the LGBT community.  We must pray that not only will God give us the patience to persevere and the wisdom to follow His Word, but also that God will grant wisdom to those who profess hate in his name and let them understand that God's wisdom comes not from hatred but from love.

So here is the key to turning trials into triumph:  we must have the knowledge and perspective that adversity can accomplish much good, we must let the patient endurance of adversity accomplish it's work, and we must do this all the while using the wisdom God gives in answer to prayer to help put it all together.  When this is done, even trials can be a source of joy for the Christian.  Remember, we must have faith and trust in God.  Faith and trust in God should always bring us joy, even in times of adversity.


Michael Dodd said...

May your faith and trust bring you joy in tribulation. May the God you love bring you the freedom he desires you to enjoy and someone to incarnate his love for you on earth.
May all who cause us pain be healed of the pain within themselves that prevents them from being full of love for all. May they be free from the fears that imprison them and keep them from seeing the beauty around them.

EthanJM said...

Hindsight is 20/20 but we can learn from past trials and see how those times shaped us into better people, better followers of Christ. Life's not fair. It's not easy. It never turns out according to our plans or our desires but it turns out. Patience is a difficult thing especially when trials are painful and desperate. But it def something I need to work on