When problems and trials come your way, its important to remember that God can and will use those difficulties for your benefit and His glory. Here are three ways God uses your problems.
“Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. 3 For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. 4 So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing” (NLT).
Think About It
James tells us in verse 2 that problems are inescapable, unpredictable, and diverse (see devotional, We All Got Problems on James 1:2). However, these problems also have a purpose. From verses 3-4, we see three important reasons why God allows troubles and how He uses these trials in your life.
God utilizes problems to prove your faith
“Your faith is tested” every time you go through problems and troubles. The word “tested” (dokimion) has the basic idea of testing something in order to prove its genuineness. You have knowledge, but when your knowledge is tested at school you find out how much knowledge you have. You have physical strength, but when your physical strength is tested by the coach you discover how much strength you have. You have faith, but when your faith is tested by problems, you realize how much faith you have. God utilizes problems to prove or test your faith so you can find out where you are in your walk of faith. This testing is not about verifying how little faith you have, but verifying how much faith you have.
This testing of your faith is also similar to when gold is refined by fire; it is not only being proved, but improved. The gold already exist, the fire helps to determine the quality of that gold while at the same time improving the gold’s quality. When you are going through a problem… when you are going through a personal fire, . . . God is using that trial to prove your faith and to improve your faith at the same time. In the fire, you will be challenged to trust God in some areas and you will be stretched by God in other areas. That problem you are facing is an opportunity to demonstrate how genuine your faith is, while God is making your faith even stronger.
God utilizes problems to increase your endurance
“Your endurance has a chance to grow” every time you face a trial. The word “endurance” (hupomone)…
- Refers to the ability to stay under pressure. It’s that part of you that continues to carry a heavy load even though you want to drop it. It’s that part of you that continues running when you would prefer to quit. It’s seen when you persistently keep saying no to sin and yes to righteousness. It’s experienced when you faithfully sacrifice for others when you would prefer to be selfish.
- Refers to the ability to focus on a hopeful future. It has in it a forward look, the ability to focus on what is beyond the current pressures. Endurance is not consumed with the present, but consumed with the future. When Jesus faced the cross He was placed under great pressure. However, He didn’t focus on the pressure, He focused beyond the current pressure. “Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame” (emphasis added, Hebrews 12:2, NLT). Jesus knew there would be joy on the other side of the cross. The same is true for you. There are joy and rewards on the other side of whatever is placing pressure and weight upon your life. Let your endurance help you see where you are headed, not where you are.
- Refers to the ability to triumphant over evil. This is turning grim into glory and hard times into hallelujahs. This endurance is more than a “grin and bear it” mind-set. It is courageous obedience during difficult times, knowing that God can bring good out of evil. Joseph understood this when he said after years of imprisonment and abandonment by his family, “You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good” (Genesis 50:20, ESV). This endurance not only causes people to be able to suffer things, but to vanquish them. Endurance causes good to triumphant over evil.
You see this endurance when Jesus faced the cross. You see this endurance when the first Christians were severally persecuted. You see this endurance when Noah built the ark. You see this endurance when a follower of Jesus is ridiculed for their faith at work, at school, or at home day after day, week after week, year after year. You see this endurance when a parent loves, trains, and prays through the rebellious years of their child. It’s an endurance that sees past the pain to the horizon of God’s promises. It’s an endurance that does not give up until victory is won. It’s an endurance that’s able to handle whatever the world and the devil throw on its back. You cannot and will not grow in this kind of endurance without problems, troubles, and trials. But when they come, see them as opportunity to develop this divine endurance that can only come from God.
God utilizes problems to help you grow spiritually
“You will be perfect and complete, needing nothing” when “your endurance is fully developed.” God’s goal for your problems is to use them to help you be mature, to reach spiritual adulthood. That does not happen without some discomfort, sweat, and tears. Imagine a young person announcing, “I want to be a surgeon, but I don’t want to spend all those years in medical school!” That’s not how it works in life and that’s not how it works in your spiritual life.
We do something similar when all we can think about is how to avoid all problems in life and try to become a spiritual giant without ever going through any valleys. We must understand that God is more concerned about our character, than He is our comfort. When a butterfly is ready to leave the cocoon, it has to fight its way out. If you open the cocoon to help the butterfly get out, you have doomed that butterfly because it needs that struggle to strengthen its wings so it can fly. In the same way, you need those spiritual struggles in life so that your spiritual wings can be strengthened. For you to reach the maturity God wants you to reach you will need to go through a cocoon of struggles – some minor and some major. Let God use your problems to help you experience His power.
The last time your faith was tested, what did it reveal about you? Did your faith grow as a result of that test? How? Throughout your past, as you have walked with God, how has your spiritual endurance increased? Why is it important that God be more concerned about your character than your comfort?
Heavenly Father, I don’t understand everything about the problem I’m going through and that’s ok. I do know that you will use this trial to prove that I have real faith, to increase my spiritual endurance for when other troubles come my way, and to help me be mature and complete. Thank you for helping me grow and using the problems in my life for your glory and my benefit. Amen.