by Steven Chan
The Bible reveals to us how we ought to respond to various trials that we face in our lives:-
“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. 4 But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” (James 1:2)
- What are the “various trials” that we face?
They include temptations that may lead us to sin (James 1:14) as well as circumstances that “test” our faith in God and our character as children of God.
- With regards to all these trials, we are exhorted to maintain a positive attitude (“count it all joy”) as we view these circumstances as opportunities that will make us stronger in our faith and character (“perfect and complete”) if we allow them to produce in us the attribute of being “patient” or “persevering in our faith” in the face of such challenges as we triumph over them by trusting in/relying on the grace of God (Phil 4:13).
- Towards the end of his epistle, James exhorted: “My brethren, take the prophets, who spoke in the name of the Lord, as an example of suffering and patience. 11 Indeed we count them blessed who endure. You have heard of the perseverance of Job and seen the end intended bythe Lord—that the Lord is very compassionate and merciful.” (James 5:10-11).
- Endurance in our faith and character – that’s what we need to aim at. Too many disciples have fallen by the wayside when they face the “various trials” of life – these may comprise difficulties and disappointments in “relationships”, bodily afflictions, emotional/mental anxieties, financial distress, persecutions such as were also experienced by Paul as listed by him in 2 Cor 11:23-30. But Paul testified: “what persecutions I endured. And out of themall the Lord delivered me. 12 Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” (2 Tim 3:10-11)
- When we face these “various trials” do we look to God for deliverance? Or, do we look for help in other places? Or, do we cope with it with our own strength and wisdom without any reference to God – and then we wonder why our faith is irrelevant in our lives?
Have you experienced the Lord’s deliverance when enduring the “various trials” in your life? If you have not, then no wonder God is not relevant in your life! Brethren, let’s get real and truly live by faith and trust in God (2 Cor 5:7; Gal 2:20). For without faith or daily reliance on God for His blessings, wisdom and strength, it is impossible to please Him (Heb 11:6).
- While facing “various trials”, we need to learn to be “swift to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger” (James 1:19)
- It is important to hear promptly/accurately or listen carefully to what is being said to us – by God, by our spouses/brethren/ family members/friends and colleagues. In Matt 13:13-16, Jesus expressed concern that the Jews were not hearing what was being said to them. In Heb 5:11, the Bible said that some disciples had become “dull of hearing” and had not progressed in their faith to becoming mature or full-grown. The tragedy is that one could well be attending worship services and bible classes for “ages” and may not have “heard” what was said in those many classes.
The problem often is with us not being prepared to listen to what others are saying (i.e. clarifying with them what they actually meant or whether what you have heard or understood is accurate); we are only waiting for the earliest opportunity to reply to whatever portions/words that we may have heard. Or, waiting for them to shut up. This often leads to “misunderstandings” and unnecessary conflicts.
When facing “various trials”, we must learn to “listen” swiftly or quickly and carefully. We will have difficulty overcoming “various trials” if we do not learn to listen or to hear swiftly.
- The Bible says that when facing “various trials” one must also learn to be slow to “speak” or to respond.
We often live to regret what we have said in a moment of anger or when we were not careful with what was said. People are hurt and emotions are stirred.
Really, there is no need to hurry to reply or to say anything. Exercise restraint in what we say. As the saying goes: “loose lips sink ships” – meaning that one ought to be careful with unguarded talk.
Buy yourself time to respond so that you may be able to answer appropriately, i.e. with grace or seasoned with salt (Col 4:6). Avoid unedifying speech (Eph 4:29). In other words, avoid words that do not benefit the faith of those who hear us. Use our God-given ability to speak to build up or encourage those with whom we converse.
- Finally, when faced with “various trials”, let’s learn to be slow to anger. Early in the history of man, anger was already flagged as a problem when Cain became angry with his brother when God rejected his sacrifice but accepted the sacrifice offered by his brother. His anger against his brother resulted in the murder of his innocent brother, Abel.
Jesus warned in Matt 5:22: “that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be in danger of the judgment” (ASV). The Bible reiterated it in 1 John 3:15: “Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.
The devil uses anger to cause us to sin. Listen to God’s caution to the angry Cain: “So the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? 7 If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it.” (Gen 4:6-7)
God warned Cain of the danger posed by his anger – “sin lies at the door”!
Whenever we are angry, remember that “sin lies at the door” and it desires to overcome you if you fail to rule over it or gain control of yourself and your anger. When we become angry we are likely to lose self-control and lose our fruit of the spirit (Gal 5:22-23). The Bible says that we are to “put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth.” (Col 3:8).
If we wish to be transformed as living sacrifices for God (Rom 12:1-2) then we must RESOLVE to make every effort to put away “anger and wrath”.
Let’s listen to what God’s word says as to why we should be “slow to anger”: “for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” (James 1:20). There is no upside or benefit in being angry.
Let’s adopt the God-given approach to facing the “various trials” of life that we come across daily. Let’s approach them with the strength, wisdom and grace that comes from God (Eph 6:10; Heb 4:16; 13:5-6).