Today's quote focuses on faith. The book of James opens with a few of my favorite verses in the Bible having to do with suffering. Everyone suffers; suffering trials in life is inevitable. But what's the purpose? Listen to what God wrote to us in James:
"Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." James 1:2-4
There is nothing joyful about trials in and of themselves. The key to finding joy in adversity is where we place our focus. If we concentrate on our circumstances, we will become disheartened and discouraged. But when we fix our eyes on Jesus, we learn to rejoice in our difficulties, because God has promised to work through them to strengthen our faith, bring us into closer fellowship with Himself, and teach us endurance.
So how does one focus on Jesus? James tells us in verses 5-8: "If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But, let his ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways." James 1:5-8
God intends that trials will drive believers to greater dependency on Him, by showing them their own inadequacy. You've heard how men, when traveling somewhere, never want to ask for directions when lost (well at least before GPS). It's like some weird phenomenon where all of the sudden our manhood is at stake if we cannot find where we're going on our own. Sometimes God causes us to get so extremely lost that we HAVE to ask Him for directions. That's verses 5-8. But notice, it's not a hedging prayer, where we essentially are hedging our bets - saying, "Well God if you're there, please heal my sick child." It's praying without a shadow of a doubt God is listening, cares, and will answer your prayer.
You see all throughout the ministry of Jesus where people were literally throwing themselves at him for deliverance of something. Check this out in Luke 8:43-48:
"And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years, and though she had spent all her living on physicians, she could not be healed by anyone. She came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment, and immediately her discharge of blood ceased. And Jesus said, “Who was it that touched me?” When all denied it, Peter said, “Master, the crowds surround you and are pressing in on you!” But Jesus said, “Someone touched me, for I perceive that power has gone out from me.” And when the woman saw that she was not hidden, she came trembling, and falling down before him declared in the presence of all the people why she had touched him, and how she had been immediately healed. And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.”
This woman knew that all she needed to do was simply touch Jesus' clothing and she would be healed. Talk about faith. Compare that to the one doubting in James who is "like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind."
If you're facing a trial today, understand that there is a purpose in your trial. Sometimes that purpose is unknown, and even more frustrating, is something we don't want (like death, infidelity, murder, etc.). But God calls us in these times to fully rely on Him; to reach out to him in faith and ask for what we desire as a second priority to his greater desire and purpose. That sounds like this: "Lord, please take away this (fill in the blank); but if another way is your will that I cannot understand, or worst don't want, I will trust in your will as I know you love me and will care for me and your plan is best. In the meantime, give me the peace and joy that surpasses understanding that you talk about in your Word so I can endure this and glorify you in the process."
My wife lost her mom in 1993. She was one of the most amazing persons I have ever met. She suffered with cancer for (I think) 7 years before the illness finally took her life. This woman, despite her many struggles and intense suffering, continued relying on God and doing what he asked. Sure she asked for healing, but first and foremost, she asked that her suffering (1) grow her in her faith and (2) glorify Him in how she endured. To this day, her life and her witness is one of the leading reasons why my faith is central to my life. She touched the lives of so many by her care and love for them, despite her immense suffering, that when we had the visitation before her funeral there was a line out the door and around the building for 6 hours! And here's the kicker. Throughout my entire time of knowing her, even as she lay there literally on her death bed, she never ONCE complained. She was fully committed to God's plan, even if it meant her life.