The Joyful Storm

“Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:2-4)

The Memorial Day just past had me thinking about my father’s generation. It wasn’t just that his generation had the fortitude and steadfastness to meet the challenges of World War Two, the battlefields were horror and the personal sacrifices of the population were far reaching into every aspect of life, but it was that in the darkest of hours they held the light of liberty in the forefront. Listening to the stories of the elders of my family of the trials they faced in those troubled years was reminiscent of an afternoon I spent in Elko Georgia in the late sixties. It was there that I sat on a cabin porch listening to a 110 year old man telling the story of General Sherman’s march through Georgia to the sea. It was an amazing afternoon hearing how the civilian people of that time stood strong and united in repelling the efforts of the union army’s determination to scorch the land and loot the property of the southern folk. In spite of certain defeat they stood in the path of their march and fought at every opportunity at great cost and unfailing determination. The point that the elders of my family and this old soldier of the South made was strikingly the same. That their trial gave them the wherewithal to survive the aftermath, which was worse. All of these elders smiled at their conclusion with a deep seated joy that they had overcome.

I went away from those conversations of long ago with a joyful sense of pride in the courage of their character. As I look at the present generation that I am sharing my time with I find it wanting. It seems to be a generation of characters but not of character. Rather than stand upon the principle of their moral fortitude against the flow of pop opinion we are bending in the wind of a raging storm of opposing views. Views that are not founded upon truth but founded upon what seems right for the day. I grew up in a time when there was one true God who spoke one true Word. His Word is the way to life everlasting, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life.” (John 6:68) Where it may have seemed easier to bend with the wind the result is a broken society. Those who now want to lead us have no vision that reaches far enough, for the word of truth is found in the Word from the ancient of days. The question in my mind is, was it easier to bend and break than to stand straight and strong? Is it easier to fall for anything than to stand on the rock of God’s Word? Will mankind ever learn and walk back to the Garden?

Worldly wisdom says sacrifice is foolishness. Why should we sacrifice when the fools who will shall pay are way? Why should I struggle for the things I need when others do not have to struggle to get through the day? Why should I be joyful and have contentment in the meager level of my life while others live in luxury without the stress of stretching a paycheck? I find myself in a bitter battle of envy of those who have and a selfish ambition to get what I want now. Where is the joy in my trials to live for this world? No, this is not true, the truth is not in this world, and it comes down from the world to come that we might find the path to its shore. To live for the things of this world is to live in the lie and to live for the world to come is to live in the truth. “But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth.” (James 3:14) The wisdom of the world is only caught in the moment and has no value in being steadfast. While our forefathers patiently build this nation through their sacrifice of blood, sweat and tears we have become a microwave society and what we want we want now without sacrifice. There is no value without sacrifice, there is no sacrifice without vision, and there is no joy without value.

Whatever are stage in society is, wherever we find ourselves we will face trials in our life. The Bond-Servant James tells us to consider our trials a great joy. To consider our trials is to develop a proper mentality, a right perspective of the trials that come into our life. It may be the old saying that when the going gets tough the tough get going. When times get hard we must think harder. We need to make a plan in our mind, a course of action. God has given us a mind to reason with and we must use it. If we get stumped, which I often do, there is the correct way to devise the path to go. “Trust in the LORD with all your heart And do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)

We are to consider our trials with joy. Joy is an independent emotion and is separate from the pain or grief of our trials. It is a way to consider our perspective towards the trial as the Apostle Paul. “As sorrowful yet always rejoicing, as poor yet making many rich, as having nothing yet possessing all things.” (2 Corinthians 6:10) Is it easier to face your difficulties in a funk or to approach them joyfully? We should not allow trials to destroy our joy. John Calvin said it this way. “There is nothing in afflictions that ought to disturb our joy.” A former Pastor once told me long ago that we are either coming out of a storm or going into a storm. Trials are a part of life in this world. They come in all sizes and shapes and their length may have as much to do with our attitude as the circumstance. There is profit in trials, trials give us the strength and fortitude that our forefathers had to reach the great accomplishments that we enjoy today.

If I do not get up and walk each day soon I will not be able to walk. The only way muscles are strengthened is by using them. It is the same with faith. If I never walk in faith then my faith will be weak or I may not have faith at all. If I have no faith at all then it would be impossible to please my Father in heaven. “And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.” (Hebrews 11:6) Trials cause me to use my faith as I walk trusting in the promises of God’s Word. The harder the trials the greater the trust in my Lord, the greater my trust the stronger my faith. I do not lean on my own understanding as His is far superior, I follow His lead in faith in His Word. As the hard trial causes me to think harder, stretches my faith further, it gives me the endurance to overcome. “And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance.” (Romans 5:3)

Endurance bears its fruit in our lives. If we allow God to direct our path, then we are releasing the shackles of the world and receiving the grace that comes from heaven. It is the process of putting off the old man and putting on the new man. It is not that God brings these trials into our life, it is that God uses our trials to grow us spiritually into the image we were created in. Our increasing endurance is part of the sanctification process of working out our salvation. “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2) It is a necessary benefit from the trials that are always before us. Our faith allows us to see that no matter how bleak it may seem we know that God will make it all come to the good. In the process of our endurance will become sanctified and one great day glorified. “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.” (Romans 8:28-20)

In the time of our trial we submit ourselves to the will of the Lord and allow Him to shape our minds though His teaching process. Our desire, thoughts, and perspective will take on a more spiritual awareness leading us to accept God’s grace through faith. Once we can grasp a purpose for our trials we will have obtained a higher level of maturity in our walk of faith with the Lord Jesus Christ. As we grow closer to the Lord of our life He gains more of the center stage of our life, His rightful place. We find ourselves in compliance with the greatest commandment. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27)

Whether we are flowing Jesus or not there will be trials and tribulation in our life. As for me, being that I am only a finite man would much rather follow an infinite Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Jesus who is the example of a life perfectly lived. Jesus who has the eternal wisdom to guide my every footstep along the narrow path to share in His glory. Jesus who has been in every trial that I will face and overcame. This is the example that I chose to follow. And Jesus will leave no one who is His own behind. “Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1-2)

Thomas N Kirkpatrick

Durant Bible College June 4, 2015

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