Likewise, the very nature of faith is that it must be tested. Nothing like a good trial (is there such a thing?) to reveal what areas in our life still need the light of the kingdom. But, it's often during these trials that we lose our footing and find ourselves reeling from the blow and wondering what we did to deserve such treatment.
James, in James 1:2, even has the gall to tell us to 'count it all joy whenever you face trials of many kinds'. This is a tall order and in fact can seem almost impossible at times. We're supposed to be encouraged when he goes on to tell us that 'the testing of your faith develops perseverance and perseverance must finish its work'. Feel like partying yet? Me neither.
But, there is something profound hidden in James 1:4, that can help us in the 'count it all joy' process. James says that perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything'.
It is our Father's desire that we be mature and complete.....not lacking anything. I don't think that Jesus is the author of all our trials or that He delights in sending hardships our way, but I do know that He is the Author and Finisher of our faith. He is a master at taking what the enemy has intended for our demise and turning it around to strengthen, mature, and complete us.
A crawling baby is urged by its parents to begin taking steps. Time and again the baby may tumble, bumping its head, or scraping its knees. The parents endure the agony of this awkward phase because they have a goal in sight. They know without a doubt that one day their child will stand strong and walk confidently. What parent would keep their child crawling on the floor to avoid the risks of walking?
Our Father longs to partner and parent us through our trials, not as an unfeeling, sinister God, but as a wise and loving Daddy who is willing to help us withstand our current pain so that one day we can exchange it for something much bigger and greater.
When we signed up for Christianity we excitedly signed up for Warriors 101, and Overcomers 201. Why are we so surprised that overcomers need something to overcome and warriors need a battle to fight? It's fortunate that we're not allowed to drop our classes, but as Graham Cooke says, "we just get to take them over, and over, and over....."
So, how will we know when we have passed a test? There is lots of mystery surrounding that question, but I will share a few things I have learned on my journey:
- God isn't looking for perfection, but did my response mostly reveal my belief in Him, or did it mostly reveal my unbelief?
- Did my response include questioning the character and goodness of God?
- Did my response cause my heart to harden and my stance to be withdrawal, or did it produce a softening of my heart and a determined advancement?
- Did I play the 'blame game', or did I allow my heart to be changed?
Passing our tests is much bigger than just getting through the trial and alleviating our current pain. God is building something within us. He has to know who He can trust and who will represent Him well. He doesn't get upset or even disappointed with us when we fail. He is so ready to meet us where we are and help us make the necessary 'anchor point' adjustments so we can try again. He is very patient.
I've always been challenged by 9 little words found in Job 13:15; "Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him". Oswald Chambers says that this is 'the most sublime utterance of faith in all of the Bible', and I think I agree. Many times our trials feel like He is 'slaying' us, but the only thing He wants to slay is our flesh. He wants the real you to live, and live maturely, completely, abundantly.....not lacking anything.