Trials: A Training Ground for Transformation
Posted on October 15, 2013
Recently I tweeted a thought about growth and maturity in the journey of faith including trials. I received some immediate responses of gratitude through social media and text messages and it got me thinking more deeply about the topic. At times we glibly quote a scripture when we are facing a difficulty and are not always aware of the power latent within these God inspired words. I want to look at two verses that contain this power related to facing difficulties in this life.
James 1:2-4 says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James reveals trials as an opportunity to experience pure joy. Wow! That’s a different perspective than most of humanity’s experience with difficulty. And notice what work perseverance is finishing. Maturity. Perseverance doesn’t make us closer with God or more acceptable to Him. Perseverance grows all the components of the seed of Christ into a full mature expression of Jesus and His Kingdom. Isn’t this what we all desire? Isn’t it funny that we desire to be mature, fruit-bearing people who never have our faith tested?! And notice, trials aren’t geared to test your character, but your faith, which is ultimately in His character.
When we are rooted in the person of Jesus, we can walk through any season of difficulty without being swayed from our source of life, which is Jesus. What’s the result of coming through life challenging trials? A trust in the character of God and His empowering presence that allows us to bring solutions to a world that is worn out. Because the affections of our hearts are rooted in a world that is unseen we can be undaunted by the enormity of the task and take great delight in God’s power to accelerate change and cause growth through His people, the church.
There is another funny phrase Paul penned in 2 Corinthians 12:10 which says, “That is why for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” Let’s be honest, that’s a weird perspective, right? Who do you know that runs around, boldly declaring their love for…problems? Again, the Kingdom of God is not like the world. It doesn’t work the same way, and honestly it’s not even close. So what’s Paul really saying here? It’s my belief that Paul is trying to say the same thing James articulates in James 1. I wonder if Paul discovered a greater experience of joy recognizing what he cannot do and what God must do through him, versus trying to do something for God based primarily on human effort?
I wonder if this revelation so reoriented Paul that now he enjoyed relying on God’s sustaining power and laughed at the trials he faced knowing God would win the day? What if this is God’s desire? Not that we walk around moping in insecurity, but that we joyfully expect God to do something great in the most trying of circumstances? What if we began to truly rejoice and get encouraged when a trial showed up in our lives? What if trials are the training ground for transformation in cities? It’s my hope that by God’s grace we begin to enjoy trials as we see God teaching us how to trust him above our gifting and circumstances. Let’s trust God together to reveal to us and upgrade in us His perspective of trials and realize the joy He has promised to include in the process. It’s still good news!