Winning and losing, successes and failures, raises, promotions, houses and cars it’s how we keep account of how we are doing in life. Are we getting ahead are we falling behind? James writes, ” My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to you him.” (James 1:2-5)
No, it doesn’t mean we are supposed to be happy when trials happen to us. What James is telling us is to consider the trials as a means by which the Lord can work in our lives to help us grow and become the people He created us to be. I know that the thought of considering the hardest times in our lives as blessings, is difficult. I have lost a child, she was 13 when I lost her, and I did not consider it joy. I did not praise God for that trial, I did not see how anything good could come from that single event. In my wounded heart I felt only my pain. It took me many years…many years, before I was able to look at that trial as something God used to make me more like Him. God not only used that experience to do His perfect work in me, he also fulfilled one of His many promises to, “work all things for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28)
What I have found is that in times of trial, disappointment, confusion, or anxiety we need to praise God, not for the circumstances but because He is God! It is in and through those moments that God shows us what He can and will do in our lives. He will provide; a way out, triumph, clarity and calm if we ask it of him. “But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let no that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord.” (James 1:6-7)
Recently I was driving to the office and i received a phone call. One I had been very anxious to receive. I had been working on a project for months, and this call was going to either let me know that my team and I had been successful or unsuccessful. I will let you know that there was a lot riding on this project, so my anxiety level was a bit high. The phone call unfortunately did not turn out the way I’d hoped, we were not awarded the project. It was in that moment I felt compelled to praise God. No, I did not jump for joy, no I did not skip or dance or throw my hands up in the air. I simply thanked God for what He was doing. I know that He has greater plans for me, plans far greater than I could imagine. I praised and continue to praise Him for what He is doing with my life. Yes, that contract would have been remarkable, something never done by my division. I would have received many kudos and much recognition. Even knowing that, I know that what is in store is better.
I love movies and there is one from which I frequently show clips for team building and motivation. There is a scene in ‘Facing the Giants‘ where Coach Taylor explains his new team philosophy. In this scene he is explaining to his team of high school football players that life is all about God, not us. He stated toward the end that “if we win, we’ll praise Him, if we lose, we’ll praise Him.” Coach is resolved to give it all to God and by doing so accept everything God has for him.
Back in that moment in my car, it would have been easy to feel discouraged, disappointed, be angry, yell out ‘why not, we worked hard, we deserve it’. Instead, I chose to pray and to praise. God is always God, not just when times are good, and everything is going our way. In fact, often times it’s when things seem the darkest, the most unbearable that God’s love, light and blessings flow out in ways we could have never expected.
I choose to praise Him when it’s good and when it seems bad, because I know that He is sovereign. There is nothing that escapes His notice or care. I know He wants only what is best for me and loves me too much to do less. Laura Story’s song ‘Blessings‘ says “We pray for blessings, we pray for peace, Comfort for family, protection while we sleep, We pray for healing, for prosperity, We pray for Your mighty hand to ease our suffering, And all the while, You hear each spoken need, Yet love us way too much to give us lesser things.”
Once we can start to see past the immediate pain, fear, anxiety and discomfort of our situations and begin to recognize that God is at work in those moments, we will be able to consider it joy that He is active and working in our lives.
Speaking for myself, I wouldn’t want it any other way.
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What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? Romans 8:31
If God is for us, who can be against us…Powerful words, words full of promise and commitment. Words to encourage and assure us, words that fully express God’s passion for His children. Just a few verses later it states, Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril or sword? – Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. Romans 8:35-37
So, if God is for us and nothing can separate His children from Him, then why are we so fearful? Why do we doubt His love and His care? Why do we think and act if things are either out of His reach, to big for Him to handle or too small for Him to care?
Is it a lack of faith? I believe that, at least in my life, it’s a lack of understanding. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:9
I don’t understand why I had to struggle so much in life; death, loss, more death, trials and tribulations…why? I asked that a lot. What I have experienced recently however, is a growing sense of who God is, through my relationship with Jesus Christ, and through that, a better knowledge of how little I know, or as Socrates put it, “True knowledge exists in knowing that you know nothing.”
Isaiah 41:10 – “Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.”
I can’t comprehend the passion and fullness of God’s love, or of Jesus’s sacrifice for me. I can only understand through the lenses of my life’s experiences, without the Holy Spirit. And there it is…with the power and presence of the Holy Spirit in my life I can begin to experience and understand God’s ways, who Jesus is, and through that the unthinkable grace that’s been given to me.
Cory Asbury expresses this so well in his song Reckless Love. “Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God. Oh, it chases me down, fights ’til I’m found, leaves the ninety-nine. I couldn’t earn it, and I don’t deserve it, still, You give Yourself away Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God.”
God is sovereign. Nothing gets by Him, nothing is beyond Him, nothing surprises Him, and He can and will work ALL things for His Glory and our good. More than that, there is nothing that will surprise Him, shock Him or rock Him.
Jeremiah 32:27 – “Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh. Is there anything too hard for Me?
So, back to my point, if God is with us who can be against us? Knowing that there is nothing God can’t do, nothing is too big or too small for His attention and that He will always provide for our needs, then why do we still doubt and fear? I believe it is because we have a very hard time, without the help of the Holy Spirit, fully comprehending who He is.
The remedy is easy, get to know Him better. Ask the Holy Spirit for wisdom to discern His ways, pray for understanding, read His words. None of us would attempt to write a biography on a famous individual without spending considerable time with that person, reading about them, studying their actions and decisions. Why then do we throw our hands up in the air and yell, “why Lord”, when we haven’t been intentional in our efforts to know him better?
The key is being intentional, you can’t read a scripture, pray Sunday morning then throw your hands up that it’s not working. It takes time, effort and commitment…the fruits of which however, will be immeasurable; thirty, fifty and a hundred-fold more than you could ever imagine.
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