Updated: Oct 29, 2022
Dr. Stephen Phinney
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. (James 1:2-3)
Seriously? How does one get joyful over an enemy who strikes you down at every turn? How about a loved-one suffering beyond human comprehension? And what is up with God testing our faith – daily? What kind of God do we serve anyway?
People generally are covert liars when walking in or after their flesh. They don't mean what they say, nor are they willing to back their stance on spoken statements when put under pressure. Worse yet, as soon as the firey trial shows up, they hide behind the skirt of fear – avoiding the cost of being steadfast.
I have been counseling folks for over forty years. I have to tell you - my experience has been that trials, hardships, and unfortunate circumstances DON'T produce steadfastness. Rather the more common ramifications I have noticed are betrayal, divorce, hatred, isolation, and a host of other actions – even murder. So, is God telling us the Truth? Are believers missing something in this formula? Yes, they certainly are.
While the lion's share of counselees I have had over the years default to revenge on others or themselves, a faithful few came out of their firey ordeals with a faith to be admired. I call them my faith heroes. There are not many of them, but those who have are my closest friends, whom I trust.
What is the problem with those who buckle under pressure?
Ironically people don't like being perfect and complete. While you would think it would be a goal, it is not. Believe it or not, they are more at home with failure.
Steadfastness is another word for endurance. The Word tells us that if we allow endurance to have its full effect, we will be made perfect and complete. Here is the clincher, when we are made complete, we lack nothing. The flesh of humanity, indwelt or not, thrives on wanting more. Secondly, the flesh yearns for habitual self-improvement. The masses would rather "fix" themselves than allow God to use the flesh to break them of the nasty habit of self-improvement. In this, we discover the "why" believers fight against God as He brings each to the end of themselves.
Trials of all kinds are the spiritual tools God uses to assist us in admitting to our lack of faith. Furthermore, fiery trials burn off the covert lies we tend to live by. We go through our days touting how much we love Jesus and our neighbors, but when faced with turning an enemy into a friend by turning the other cheek, we make up some Christianized excuse to run like a frightened rabbit. I'm sure glad Jesus didn't do that!
Facing our covert lies requires wisdom. There are two kinds of wisdom, demonic (James 3:15) and Heavenly (James 3:17), and the latter comes down from above through the indwelling Life of Jesus via the Holy Spirit. Demonic wisdom is simply an individual figuring out how to survive trials and tribulations. They might seek self-help counseling, find solitude in a friend who touts a worldly "love," or slip into their quiet time penciling in ideas to counter-react to the unfortunate events they are in. Simply put, demonic wisdom is self-help ideologies and beliefs. After the person finds temporary relief, a cloak of darkness returns with a vengeance. Putting a bandaid over a sore that is infected with gangrene is insanity. However, people who live in a private world of fixing the fix that God has fixed on them to stop fixing themselves remain trapped by the same illusion. Most of the Christan world uses this ridiculous method to "cope" with the testings of the Lord. Instead of accepting the testing of the Lord, they run to their self-help guru. What a shame. God is obligated to up the ante of testing.
What is the solution? First, if you don't have the eternal wisdom of Christ living within you, you have only one fix. Pump up your flesh and fight the demise - alone. If you DO happen to have the Mind of Christ in you and lack wisdom, ask for a healthy dose from God. He will give it to you generously without causing you to "feel" guilty. There is a warning. If you ask without the authenticity of faith, you will doubt, resulting in you wavering like the waves on the sea. You might pray and ask, but the next day you most likely will be right back to begging for something He already offered you. This is nothing short of making God a part of the covert lie you are bound by. Not good!
God is not in the habit of giving freely to people in doubt (James 1:7). He is not fond of double-minded people. He knows the double-minded are unstable in all their ways – a "yes" today, a "no" tomorrow, and indecisiveness the day after. It is likened to tossing pearls before pigs. The gift is snouted into the muck of their waste.
Why does a dog return to its vomit? Why do pigs enjoy laying in their excretion? Why do humans return to their defilements? It's simple; it is their DNA – their identity. Humans who do not have Christ's indwelling have a compulsivity to lay in their blasphemies. Indwelt believers often return to the old DNA of their previous identity because the Adamic nature left memories behind in the human mind. These memories turn into temptations that Satan is accustomed to using. Thus, the believer gets caught between the lie and the Truth of what God says.
God made a promise. He confirms a gift for all those who remain steadfast and faithful through their trials and stand strong while being tested. He will grant them the gift of the crown of life. However, there is a condition. The "those" must demonstrate their unshakeable love for the Father and His Son through their obedience to Christ (James 1:12). He warns of the temptations of being lured and enticed by the believer's desires. Going on to say that these desires conceive or give birth to sin, and sin ultimately wilts into death. Finally, He mandates the believer NOT to be deceived by the clever half-backed truths of the enemy - Satan.
There are no variations or shadows in the Father of Lights. Every gift He offers His Son's Bride is good and perfect. He made it clear that His will for the believer's life was brought to us through a labor of love. Those who are rude enough not to open these gifts will remain under the influence of the keeper of unopened Truths. We all know who that is.
During the gift-giving season, I am one of those odd recipients. I want all my gifts wrapped – preferably through the giver studying my life to pick the perfect gift. I don't get into providing givers a "list" of wants. I prefer the giver to labor to determine what is best for me. I consider this lesson today like-minded. God studies our lives. He picks the right gift and enjoys watching us open the gift with anticipation – much like a child's delight. It is a shame that God works diligently to give believers the perfect gift, knowing most refuse to open it. The mystery is, mostly, God sits back in the disappointment of seeing the recipient never open His well-earned gift offered in love that came with the ultimate price, His Son's tortious pathway to the Cross. How rude is that?
The Merry Christ-as-Life season is upon us. Every year, millions of people around the globe celebrate Christmas. But what does it all mean? Do we really understand the profound importance and authenticity of the birth of Jesus? Why the virgin Mary? Why a carpenter named Joseph? Why poor shepherds and wealthy kings clamoring to worship a Newborn King? And why are the Old Testament prophecies that predicted the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem so important to the Christmas story?
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