PRINCIPLE 35 | ADVANCE THROUGH ADVERSITY
Throughout scripture we read about godly men and women who are not overcome by their problems but who overcome their obstacles with the help of the Lord. Advancing “through” our adversities is possible in the strength of the Lord. James was the pioneering leader of the first Church and in some 20 years of leadership he faced excruciating trouble. Famine, extreme poverty, and intense persecution rocked his world. And according to the Early Church Fathers, He was brutally murdered as a martyr for his faith. But in the end he led with courage and wisdom and he offers this wisdom to us in the book of James. It was from this context of great challenge that James writes us. I find that significant.
In James 1:1-12, James gives us 6 things to remember as we go through trials and troubles:
1. Remember WHO you are.
In verse 1, James says “I am a servant of God and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Of all the things he could have called himself, I find it inspiring that he would choose “servant.” Servants are soldiers. They embody the teaching of Philippians 2:1-11, where Jesus made himself a servant and fulfilled His mission to die and redeem the world. Servants of Christ abound everywhere in scripture, and in life today. And what they all have in common is that they advance through adversity. They fix their eyes on Jesus and press on toward the goal. As we navigate through life we will face problems — everyone does. But our orientation as a servant is to persevere and press on to the prize of living for Him and glorifying Him. It’s not about us. It’s about Him. We (are to) live for Him. We are (to be) His servants. [See Galatians 2:20; see also Romans 8:18, 35, 37-38]
2. Remember WHOSE you are.
In verse 2, James says “consider it pure joy when you face trials of many kinds.” Most of us would say joy and trials are two words that do not go together. But as we go deeper in our walk with Christ, we know that God does not waste pain or problems. He uses them to refine and build us. And so as followers of Jesus, we know that while troubles are tough and painful, they can become the raw building materials that God uses to build our faith and make us more like Jesus. And as Christians, our greatest desire in life is to become more like Him.
3. Remember what’s IN PLAY.
And that’s what’s in play here – adversity. Adversities are a part of life, but when we exercise our faith and turn to Jesus, He will build our faith muscle. And so we need to remember and ask as we go through hard times, “Lord what is it I need to learn?” “Jesus, how and where do I need to grow?” In James 1:3-4, James says “…because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” God is at work in you. He is for you. And he is always with you. Remember what’s in play — God is at work in His children.
4. Remember your SOURCE.
James 1:5 says that if we lack “wisdom” we can ask and He will give it to us. If we ever needed God’s wisdom, we need it today. We are in a global pandemic, there is civil unrest, political tension, we are concerned about our kids and their schooling, our jobs and finances, and so much more. We need God’s wisdom. Where do you turn for wisdom? The evening news? Social media? Politicians? The Stock Market? Or God and His Word? James says turn to God, remember your source. You can trust Him.
5. Remember your FAITH.
In verse 6, James says to “believe and not doubt.” Faith is believing and trusting. Romans 4:21 may be my favorite definition for faith in the bible. It says, “being fully persuaded that God has the power to do what He has promised…” Study the promises of God. Believe in God and His Word and His Promises. Remember that “faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17). Hold on to your faith in God and believe. Trust Him. Tell Him your problems. Turn to Him often.
6. Remember your REWARD.
We can know that this life is not the finish line. There is a reward ahead for all who believe. James 1:12 says, “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.” Job, Peter and Paul also talked about the promise and hope. [See Job 23:10; I Peter 1:6,7; 2 Corinthians 4:16-18]. Remember your reward. It is going to be greater than you can imagine. Think of it often, especially during hard times. It will inspire you to advance through adversity.