Why do we face hardships? Why do we face trials? Why, if Jesus is so good, is life so hard sometimes even if we are doing all that we can to follow Jesus? Let's dig into James 1 and see what we can find.
2 Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. 3 For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. 4 So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.
In these verses, James answers the following questions: (1) What’s the right perspective toward hardships and trials? (2) Why should we endure through them? (3) What does it mean to have mature faith? The underlying answer to all these questions is that we are on a journey of refinement into a masterpiece. Let's take a look at verse two.
2 Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.
To help us understand this a little better, Paul, in the book of Romans, outlines the right perspective and charts out our path through trials and problems:
3 We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. 4 And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. 5 And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.
In verse three, Paul tells us the right attitude toward problems and trials. What does he say? Rejoice! Rejoice in suffering. One of the key components on our journey toward Godly character is suffering. It's one of the scariest words in our dictionary, a word with so many troubling connotations. Paul says to rejoice in it! What a paradox to rejoice in something can be frustrating and uncomfortable, it almost doesn’t make sense. But, we are to rejoice and see suffering as an opportunity for great joy.
A missionary in Africa illustrates what we’re talking about really well through a story of a sculptor and his stone:
Before the sculptor lies a shapeless piece of rock. The sculptor looks at the rock and envisions the beautiful work of art he is about to create. Reaching over to his box of steel instruments, he grabs the hammer, lifts it over the rock, and slams it across the rock face, smashing the first of many rough and jagged edges into what will be his creation. The sculptor sees each blow as a necessary refinement to his creation. The rock, however, only feels the cold, hard steel smashing into its form and destroying it. We often feel like that confused and tormented rock on the Lord’s anvil. But take heart: it is our Master’s grand vision to make you into a masterpiece.
Through trials and suffering God is chiseling our character, that's why we can consider it an opportunity for great joy and rejoice in it. Through chiseling we are being made to be more like Jesus. Our trails and suffering, our troubles, they have purpose. God wants us to be refined and chiseled into His character.
Once we have the right perspective toward suffering a trials our actions can then follow. Let's take a look at our next verse in James.
3 For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.
No matter the trial before you, your response will determine your growth. So, how will you respond to your trial? The Biblical model is to endure—to persevere. We can look at Job, Jesus, the apostles, these were men of endurance. Endurance isn’t an easy process but it’s necessary to grow in character. God know’s what He is doing. Through trials and hardships God disciplines us because He disciplines those He loves.
Through real-life trials, through hardships and suffering, we are to submit to God with an enduring trust. I love how Hebrews 10:35-36 lays this principle out.
35 So do not throw away this confident trust in the Lord. Remember the great reward it brings you! 36 Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God’s will. Then you will receive all that he has promised.
Patient Endurance comes from the root word “hupomone” (hoop-om-on-ay) It can be defined as: consistency, perseverance, continuance, bearing up, steadfastness, holding out. Together it describes the capacity to continue to bear up under difficult circumstances and to actively resist weariness and defeat.
Hardship come, rejoice in them! Trials and suffering come, consider them an opportunity for great joy! God wants to chisel you into His great masterpiece. So, willingly submit to Him as you patiently endure the refinement of your character. Through all of this you will develop mature faith.
4 ...for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.
When he says “perfect” it doesn’t mean sinless. It caries the idea of being fully developed or mature. And to be “complete” means to be whole or full. We are made mature in our faith when we are refined in our character. Through refinement we are made holy as God is holy.
Everlasting glory is the product of our short and small troubles on this earth. Our current struggles don’t compare to the forever found in Jesus. That is why we don’t give up. That is why we adjust our grip and hold tightly to the faith we proclaim and affirm. That is why we…
2 Corinthians 4:18
18...don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.
Jesus wants to refine our hearts. When we are refined we become more and more cleansed and clean. We show more love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. These kinds of thing mark a life that is maturing in Jesus. What kinds of things are marking your life? What character flaws do you have? What is Jesus trying to do in your heart?
We see that suffering, trials, hardships, troubles, they are all necessary tools that God uses to refine us into His character. We need to keep the right perspective in their purpose. We need to respond with rejoicing and see them as an opportunity for great joy. As we see them this way we willingly submit with an enduring trust because we know we have a Father who loves us and knows what's best for us. Through all of that, the end result is mature faith and more unity with Jesus.
Here are a few closing thoughts and questions for you:
1.) How is Jesus trying to chisel you into His masterpiece?
2.) How are you responding to the Lord’s discipline?
3.) What is holding you back from submitting to God’s hammer and chisel?
4.) How would things look different in your life if you fully trusted Jesus?
Use #JourneyOfRefinement to share your thoughts on social media.