Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Connecting Trials, Wisdom and Faith

[This entry follows a sermon preached by Chad McFadden this past Sunday titled "Embracing God's Perspective on Trials".  Click on the title to find the audio.]

On Sunday, I was truly blessed to hear my brother preach from James 1:1-8.  Whether one is in the midst of a trial or not, Christians need to have a proper perspective on trials (i.e.- God's perspective on trials).  I don't say this as an observer...I say it as one who needs to be reminded of God's purposes in the midst of trial, so that I can grow as God intends through each one.

Here are verses 2-8...just to get our minds set:
(2) Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, (3) for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. (4) And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

(5) If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. (6) But let him as in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. (7) For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; (8) he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

What I want to focus on in this follow-up to the sermon is look at the way James connects verses 2-4 and verses 5-8 of this text.  In our Bibles, there's a paragraph break...even in the text I just printed, I put space in between the two sections.  However, the two texts are tightly linked.

What often happens in the midst of trials is that we become myopic in our spiritual vision.  Do you know what it means to have myopic vision?  It means to be nearsighted...unable to see into the distance clearly.  And when we are faced with various kinds of trials, our tendency is to become nearsighted...myopic...focusing only on the pain of the moment...only on the uncertainty of an immediate outcome.  All I can see is the diagnosis, the broken relationship, or the wrong that has been done to me.  It fills my vision.

Don't misunderstand...James' solution to this myopic tendency is not to have us live in a dream world, where we pretend pain actually feels good.  This would actually still be a focus on the here and now...it would still be spiritually nearsighted because our only goal would be relief right now with no view to any long-term purposes.  So, James isn't calling us to focus on the pain in the here and now...and he's not calling us to imagine away the pain of the here and now.

He's calling us to see the trials of here and now with God's perspective so we can walk through them toward God's purposes.  It's interesting that in verse 3-4, James outlines the perspective of God in our trials and then he jumps to talking about prayer for wisdom and faith to believe God will answer.  Why would he do this?  Why connect enduring trials with wisdom and faith?  Because in the midst of trials, two things that seem to shrivel the fastest are wisdom and faith.

Being so nearsighted that we can't see past our circumstances, we fail to see the wisdom of God's plan, purposes, and perspective...we fail to believe that God actually has a plan, a purpose, and a right perspective on our lives.  We feel that our wisdom (i.e.- that there has to be a better way to learn and grow than trials) is superior to God's wisdom, and we forget that "the foolishness of God is wiser than the wisdom of men" (1 Cor. 1:25a).

It is when this happens that we must recognize that we are the ones who lack wisdom, we must ask God for it, and we must believe He will supply it.  This is truly the only way that we can successfully walk through trials and experience the change, the growth, and the refining of character God has designed. 

Know this, dear Christian.  God has not sent you into this trial alone. He has not sent you without purpose.  God is with you, and He is for you.  If you feel that your trial is evidence that God has forsaken you, remember the cross...where Christ was forsaken by God so you would never be forsaken. Your trial is not evidence of the forsaking of God...for nothing can separate you from His love in Christ. He is working for His glory and for your good. You can trust Him...don't give up!

Christian, are you enduring a trial now?  Don't let it fill your vision...don't try to imagine it away.  Neither response will help you.  What you need is to live with the wisdom of God's perspective on your trial.  Christian, are you lacking wisdom?  Go to God, seek Him for the wisdom you need to walk with joy under the trial, and believe that He will answer.