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Developing Perseverance And Wisdom In The Face Of Trials
The book of James in the New Testament describes trials as trials that come from suffering which Christians must endure and overcome. James 1:2-4 sees enduring trials as a cause for joy because they produce maturity and develop perseverance.
Perseverance is steadfastness in faith or the assurance of eternal security in Jesus Christ that the believer possesses after overcoming trials. RH Johnson, in his article “Bridging Under Trial” (p1) describes trials as “the old way of testing new bridges”. He further explained that previous bridges were loaded long before they were used for public service, not to break them or cause them to fail, but to remain strong with normal use. R. Jonathan, an early rabbi quoted in works of Jewish literature such as the Talmud; also once said: “The potter does not examine flawed vessels. What then does he examine? Only sound vessels. Similarly, the Holy One, blessed be He, does not test the wicked but the righteous.” These two quotes help the Christian to know that trials or sufferings are inevitable for us and if endured, will lead to heavenly reward and thus there is every reason to rejoice in anticipation of the reward if we stand firm in our faith.
According to Peter H. Davids in ‘James – A Good News commentary’, 1983, (p3), the trials to which James refers are situations of trial and refinement in life, difficult situations in which faith is severely tested, such as persecution, a difficult moral choice, or a tragic experience. Although these may be sad or bitter experiences, James does not dwell on them, but transforms his perspective of such trials into results. In fact, a judgment is not an end in itself; it is only a means to an end. For the believer, the end result is the development of godly perseverance and wisdom in facing or dealing with these trials.
The wisdom of the world seeks to avoid issues in a trying circumstance through accommodation and/or compromise. However, wisdom from God helps the Christian to overcome trials through faith.
The story of Job in the Old Testament is a perfect illustration of a true believer in God who developed perseverance and wisdom in the face of trials. Job was a righteous and blameless man who feared God and turned away from evil. However, the time came for him to go through trials and sufferings fell upon him in all forms. His wealth, which was measured in thousands of animals, was all lost in one day. He also lost all ten of his children and if all that wasn’t enough, he was also in physical pain. This very righteous man was now suffering both psychologically and physically, but his reverence for God did not waver. His wife also lost her faith in God and told Job to hasten his death, which seemed imminent, by cursing God. Job’s response to her was that we should not only be ready to accept ‘good’ from God, but also trouble. He refused to turn his back on God even though conditions worsened with the arrival of his three friends who accused him of suffering from some secret sin. However, Job sought God’s face. He cried out to God for an explanation of his suffering, which he knew he did not deserve. He went through life and endured these trials with the wisdom he received from God, which surpassed all the human wisdom displayed by his friends. This story portrays the fact that true godly wisdom is to love God with reverence above all the gifts we receive from Him and to believe in His goodness even though we cannot always understand His ways. It is worth noting that God gives us a special grace for every trial if we ask for it. This is why, according to BW Woods, 1974 (p72), John Milton could write poetry while blind and Beethoven could compose music even though he lived in the silent world of deafness. God’s grace is sufficient for any situation or condition. The apostle Paul wrote in his second letter to the Corinthians that after he prayed to God three times to remove his “thorn in the flesh,” God told him that His grace was sufficient for him, for this power is made perfect in weakness. (2 Cor 12:8-9). God’s grace produces wisdom in man, in faith and perseverance.
God uses tests or trials to strengthen our faith in Him. As Davids says, “The testing process is like tempering steel: the heat, instead of destroying the steel, makes it stronger.” (page 3). The result of trials in our lives will be the ability to persevere to the end, hoping for our reward in heaven. This ability is a virtue that only trials and tribulations will produce. It also gives a lasting character and a strong display of our faith. The story of Abraham in Genesis 22 is an example of a man developing perseverance from his trial.
God had promised Abraham that He would make him the father of many nations and that He would establish His covenant with Abraham’s descendants, giving them the land of Canaan as an eternal possession. God also gave Abraham and his wife Sarah a son in their old age and they were happy. Suddenly, God tested Abraham by telling him to take his son Isaac and sacrifice him as a burnt offering to Him. Abraham had promised to obey God and had even sanctified his son to God by circumcision. However, his hopes of becoming the father of a great nation were fading as he would now kill the covenant son. This did not deter Abraham’s loyalty to God, but he obediently took the boy to sacrifice. He was sure that God would do something to fulfill His promise to him. When Isaac asked his father about the animal for the holocaust, the answer was that God himself would provide it. Abraham endured this ordeal by climbing the mountain with his son, building the altar for the sacrifice, arranging the wood for the fire, binding his son and laying him on top of the wood to kill him. It is almost unthinkable that a father could do this to his son, but Abraham endured this trial, trusting God to do something for him later, as He had done before. God proved Himself to Abraham by providing a ram for the sacrifice and renewing His covenant to bless and multiply his descendants. Abraham persevered through suffering and was rewarded accordingly.
Perseverance is a development that forms the character of a Christian believer around his commitment to Christ. It shows the assurance given to those who follow Christ, reminding them that the power of God will sustain them as Christians until they die and that they will surely live with Christ in heaven forever. It involves perseverance and determination in prayer, seeking God’s wisdom to help him overcome his trials.
Divine wisdom is a communication from God, showing man the way to life. This communication is through persistent and consistent prayer and comes directly from God to man. It is only God who gives man a heart capable of distinguishing good from evil. Prov 1:7 and 14:27 tell us that the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom and the source of life; and that only fools hate discipline and wisdom. Solomon, when he became king of Israel, asked God for wisdom to rule his people and to distinguish good from evil. It is this divine wisdom that helps Christians make the right decisions about the right actions to take in specific circumstances, with the Holy Spirit as their guide. This wisdom is what we are reminded of in James 1:5 as a free gift from God to believers, which leads to a practically wise life, manifesting in good, godly character and conduct. James says that God is very willing to give us this wisdom and will not rebuke us for asking, but that we should ask in faith, believing that God will give us the best solution to our problems.
As Christians, we must understand that trials are inevitable and necessary for us to develop perseverance. We also need God’s wisdom to overcome them. James tells us that it is wisdom that enables us to face trials with “pure joy” (James 1:2), but we must have abiding faith to receive and act upon it. The Bible says that as Christians, God wants us to think like Christ, love like him, care like him, obey like him, and sacrifice like him. (Rom. 8:29). This should remind us that although we cannot be Christ, we must be ready and willing to suffer like him.
NIV Study Bible.
Davids, Peter H, James. A good news comment. Leicester: Inter Varsity Press, 1983
Woods, BW Christians in Pain – Perspectives on Suffering. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1974
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