As expressed in the last post: “For those that receive Jesus and believe in His name, He gave the right to become the children of God (John 1:12). That work is finished. You are a daughter of God in Jesus Christ. That seed has been planted in the field. But there is a whole lot of growth until that seed becomes a tree.”
Prior to becoming a Christian there are hardships and struggles. Those struggles don’t just go away once we do believe in Jesus. There is a whole interim period between justification – when Christ’s righteousness is credited to us as we believe in Him (Romans 3:26; 5:1), and the glorification – when this perishable body must put on the imperishable and spiritual body (1 Corinthians 15:12-58). This interim period of growth, so to speak, is what many call sanctification. Wayne Gruden, an evangelical theologian, seminary professor and author, says in his book Bible Doctrine, that “in Acts 20:32, Paul refers to Christians as ‘all those who are sanctified’ (using a perfect participle that expresses both a completed past action [they were sanctified] and a continuing result [they continue to experience the influence of that past action]).” How can this process of sanctification sometimes look a little messy, and what’s it good for?
“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
First observation here is that James (the half-brother of Jesus) is talking to his “brothers”. He is talking to fellow Christians. Specifically, it would seem that he is talking about Jewish-Christians who were dispersed/scattered after Stephen’s persecution (James 1:1; Acts 11:19). But there is a further word for us today. Carson and Moo, authors of An Introduction to the New Testament state that “the word also had a metaphorical sense, characterizing Christians generally as those who live away from their true heavenly home (1 Peter 1:1).” As Christians, we are not yet home. We will come up against various trials.
We will experience trials of many kinds – health problems, gossip, grieving over loved ones stuck in sin, abuse, the death of loved ones, as well as our own sin and negative thoughts, emotions and actions. How we respond to the trials of life reveal areas God is continuing to make us into His likeness. This is actually a very useful guage when you think about it.
Are you “counting it all joy when you meet trials of various kinds”? If the answer is no, I don’t blame you! I don’t always count it joy in the middle of the struggles of this life. But this is a useful observation. The moment we face these trials with anger, frustration, jealousy, etc., it is an opportunity. As we are aware of our reaction, we can ask God to transform our perspective into His perspective. Fill-in-the-blank situation is an opportunity to produce steadfastness, and all the other fruit of the spirit, in the place of our negative emotions. When steadfastness has had its full effect, God’s word tells us that we will be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. Does this reality seem like a very distant reality. It certainly does to me. But it is a promise. God will complete that which He has begun in you.
Christian sister, gospel yourself. We all face trials of various kinds. We all struggle, but God has a greater promise. Look at the struggle simply for what it is – an opportunity to reveal a possible distortion in our beliefs about who God is, who He is for us, and who we are in Him. He will use every one of these situations to point to the greater reality – that He is still fashioning us into His image, and that this is not our permanent home. Ask God to make you aware of these moments when you get frustrated, angry, resentful, etc., in the midst of the trials of many kinds. Then ask Him to change your perspective to see His truth – He is God, He is in control, He is for you, He loves you because He loves you, You are His child, and He will finish the good work that He has begun in you.
Truth: “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” Philippians 1:6