“Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.” [James 1:2-4 NLT]
We all know that in life, troubles (in one form or another) will always come – whether because of our own mistakes or even if we have not done anything wrong. What James (who was the brother of Jesus) is saying is that when trouble comes, we should consider trouble an opportunity for joy. He is not saying we should enjoy the trouble as joy.
Why should we consider trouble as an opportunity for joy? Because trouble tests our faith in God. When our faith is tested, the trouble we go through can either cause us to turn away from God (i.e. lose faith – which is the wrong response) or bring us closer to God. It is by relying on God in faith that we learn to persevere and to develop patience in the fulfilment of God’s Word. In this way, our endurance is developed.
Why is it important to develop endurance? The Bible teaches us that it is through endurance that we inherit the promises of God.
“Then you will not become spiritually dull and indifferent. Instead, you will follow the example of those who are going to inherit God’s promises because of their faith and endurance. [Hebrews 6:12 NLT]
Notice that James does not say that troubles will make our faith grow, but it is our endurance that will grow. So, he says when troubles come we should know that our faith will be tested. In other words, this is a time in which doubt will come into our minds; it is a time when we may feel that we are alone and there is no help available; it is a time when the temptation to give up on God and His Word will be the strongest.
As we all know, to develop our muscles, we need to exercise our bodies. As we exercise our bodies, we put strain on the muscles, the heart, the lungs, and even mentally the exercise (as we go through it) causes stress. We may be tempted by the physical strain and mental fatigue to easily give up as that is the easy way out. So it is when we go through troubles – our faith and belief in God is tested.
How we react to such tests is up to us. Just as when we are exercising, we have the ability to choose whether to persevere or to give up, so it is when our faith is tested. That is not the time to feel sorry for ourselves or to feel hopeless. Instead, it is the time to strengthen ourselves by digging into the Word of God and finding Scriptures that remind us of the promises of God for the situations in which we may find ourselves.
For example, Psalm 91: 14-15 [NLT] says: “The LORD says, ‘I will rescue those who love me. I will protect those who trust in my name. When they call on me, I will answer; I will be with them in trouble. I will rescue and honor them. I will reward them with a long life and give them my salvation.’”
Psalm 9:9 [NLT] says: “The LORD is a shelter for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble.”
Nahum 1:7 [NLT] says: “The LORD is good, a strong refuge when trouble comes. He is close to those who trust in him.”
Psalm 23:4 [NKJV] says: “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You [are] with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.”
It is by reminding ourselves of the promises of God that we push doubts out of our minds. Even David, who was very close to God, had his moments of doubting God but he resisted this temptation by focusing on God. In Psalm 94:18-19 he says:
“I cried out, ‘I am slipping!’ but your unfailing love, O LORD, supported me. When doubts filled my mind, your comfort gave me renewed hope and cheer.”
We have to comfort ourselves by stirring our faith up with Scriptures. By doing so, we are exercising our faith and as a consequence, we start enduring through the troubles we may be going through. It may be difficult and painful at first but as time goes on, we go through the circumstances with an inner confidence that God will see us through the situation. It is then that we find peace in our hearts in the midst of difficult circumstances (just as David says he found renewed hope and cheer in his time of trouble).
It is when we reach this point that our endurance is fully developed. It is at this point that trouble does not overwhelm us or steal our peace and joy. It is at this point that we find the kind of peace that Jesus spoke of in John 14:27 when He said: “I am leaving you with a gift–peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.”
This is what James was referring to when he said “when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.”
So let us not be fearful when trouble comes (and it will come). Jesus said:
“I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” [John 16:33 NLT] When troubles come, let us focus on God’s promises and we will find the strength to overcome doubt and fear. We will find peace as we are strengthened by His promises to endure through our circumstances. It is this experience of God taking us through our circumstances that will strengthen us for future troubles and be our testimony to God’s goodness.