Meanderings of a Minister

Comfort or Character?
March 27, 2014, 3:01 pm
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“Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.  And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”  (James 1:2-4)

As I have read this scripture over the years, and talked with many people about it, I have often been puzzled about just what James is telling his readers, and us today.  As you think about this, the dawning of understanding arrives.  James is saying that God uses trials to prove us as believers.  He uses trials to teach us to lean on Him, trust in Him, follow Him, and show that this is really the life we have chosen and our faith is genuine.  He says the only way we can REALLY know we have surrendered our lives to Christ is when we face situations that tempt us to want to take matters into our own hands.

As this reality sets in, we are left with a series of questions. First, if God is so interested in developing our character, why are we so focused on Him delivering our comfort?  Second, if it is the trials that develop our faith, what are we doing to ourselves when we are praying for God to take away that development?  Third, do we eschew trials because we are afraid that our faith might not be genuine?  Fourth, do we have such a worldly list of values that we don’t want to submit to heavenly ones?

By trials God develops our character.  The verses plainly state this.  How did we get to the point that we became so focused on our comfort that we would consider trials as a reason to question God’s goodness instead of a reason to glorify Him?  What hold has this world on us that we would value a lack of development of our character simply because it is easier?  Is this what God has called us to?  Comfort?  Ease?  How does that interface with Jesus’ life and instructions?

We pray that God would grow our faith, but in the same prayer, we pray that He would take away the means whereby he would answer that very prayer.  Don’t get me wrong.  I don’t think anyone should be praying for more difficulty, but maybe our prayer should be for God to help us see His purpose in trials instead of just praying that they go away without us learning the lessons for which they were allowed.

We go to church and present a façade of having great faith.  We tell people we are blessed when asked.  We never allow anyone to see us sweat, struggle, or fail.  When a trials comes our way, do we attempt to avoid it because we are not sure that our faith is as rock solid as we would like for others, and maybe even ourselves, to think.  We get really nervous when trials come because we are not really sure we can hang on.  We think of death as the ultimate threat and are afraid that this might lead us to separation from God instead of eternity with Him.  Could this be a reason we so want trials to go away quickly?

Perhaps the reason that we prefer not to have trials is because we only value what we can touch, taste, see, smell, and hear.  Although we would deny being existentialists, maybe we show ourselves to be in that we do not value anything we cannot see.  Trials tend to take away, damage, or shrink the things we tend to lean on, so we do not want to have to deal with them because that is truly what we value and God, heaven, holiness, just don’t measure up.

While I cannot answer these questions for anyone other than myself, I am afraid that I stand accused by these scriptures way too often.  God, help me to value what you value and to love you so intensely that anything you allow into my life is seen as an opportunity to worship and glorify you.  When I fail, help me to follow.  When I endure, let me give you the glory.  Continue to make me more like You.


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