Pastor Richard Dial, my pastor, of Cary Church of God, has been teaching a series on Faith. It has been awesome! The following is what I received from the Holy Spirit and him as he taught on Sunday, August 29, 2011.
The James 1:2-4 verses tells us to "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds...". There is more to that verse but we will get to that in a moment. First, I noticed when Pastor Dial spoke this verse (from another translation other than the NIV) in the service, the second half came first - "whenever you face trials...". That was a quick lesson unto itself for me. You will face trials. Just because anyone chooses to follow Christ does NOT exempt them from the trials and tribulations of life. In fact, you are promised persecution because Jesus too was persecuted. "In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted," - 2 Timothy 3:12 "If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also." - John 15:20. So, the real insight comes when all of us take the time to step back from any problem we are dealing with and observe how we are reacting to it and handling it.
Now, the first part of that verse - "Consider it pure joy...". What a challenge! I can count on one hand the number of times I have actually had this verse come to mind during an issue and I have stopped and said, "I'm counting it all joy!" But, there it is, in black and white ink. However, there is a second half to that. As Paul Harvey says, "And now, the rest of the story."
The rest of the story is "you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete." I desire to be mature and complete. Not only do I desire this for myself but to help others that may put their confidence in me and my relationship with the Lord. Pastor Dial pointed us to a great example of how we can have our faith tested and perseverance developed and consider it all joy whenever trials come... in the story of David and Goliath (1 Samuel 17).
In short, David did NOT pray to be out of this situation for himself, his family, or his country. David, a mere teenager, does the shocking to everybody else - he submits his resume for consideration of Giant Slayer!
"But David said to Saul, 'Your servant has been keeping his father's sheep. When a lion or bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, I went after it , struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it. Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, BECAUSE he has defied the armies of the living God."
I saw the Holy Spirit shooting a righteous indignation through this young boy and reminding him of his God-given skills and talents in this verse. David brought this to the attention of King Saul and King Saul said, "You got the job!" Trying on the armor the King provided, the outfit and it's operation did not work for David's skill-set, his training. One of God's gifts back home on "the ranch", for David, was marksmanship with a sling and projectile. So, this other way and it's gear did not work and David removed the confining protective wear and went out to meet the Giant with the amount of faith and skill supplied from God.
With God in his past experiences taking care of the problematic lions and bears, God was now with David ready to show Himself faithful to take David to the next level - Giant Slayer! David picked up five smooth stones, exchanged a few words, then charged the giant and used only one stone to take down the mammoth man.
The challenge for me is NOT to necessarily knee jerk prayer my way out of a situation, but PAUSE, seek God and His wisdom, pray for His strength and prepare to walk with God through the situation - not under it, over it, or around it. All the trusting, obedience, submitting, and other lessons that shape you into a better person are really molded by God at these times in our lives. Like I am saying, I don't always think, "Hey, this could be for my benefit." - because it hurts too much or is confusing or whatever the case may be at the time.
Another thing I need to practice is to look back at the times when God and I have tackled some "bears" and "lions" and maybe some "tigers" (lions and tigers and bears, oh my). It is in this time of reflection that I need to appreciate what God did for me and to me and use that as a confidence builder for the next time I encounter a major issue/"bear". This will only prepare me more for the Giant(s) in life.
How does your resume look? Are you experienced with life's problems? Are you in a personal relationship with God through His only Son Jesus Christ? You got to have the relationship first in order to have a resume of Him training you up in the way you should go. Once you have that relationship and you start including God in your life and it's "curve balls", you are on your way to personal and spiritual maturity. You're on your way to "perseverance". You're on your way to more confidence in who you are in the Lord. You're on your way to greater faith. You are on your way to "pure joy" in the midst of it - whatever it is.