- Developing Perseverance
- James 1:1-4
- Lyndol Loyd January 13, 2019
- What if I told you that there was a book I know of that is powerfully relevant and practical?
- What if I informed you that this book is relatively brief, yet addresses some of life’s most important issues? Would you want to read it?
- What if I promised you this book would teach you to persevere through hard times and how to overcome destructive desires in your life? Would it be worth your time?
- What if I add to the mix that it would help you gain confidence in life as well as certainty about your eternal condition? Would that interest you?
- What if I said this same little book would challenge you to use your words wisely as well as grow as a person of authentic prayer? Are you interested now?
I hope so because over the next several weeks here at LakeRidge we are going to be looking at just such a book. What is this book? It is the book of James, found in the New Testament.
It is a relatively short book – only five chapters – but it packs a powerful punch. James addresses many of the core issues of life. James minces no words and shoots straight about topics that are as relevant and practical today as they were two thousand years ago when they were first given through the Holy Spirit to the first followers of Jesus. James knows how to provide us with the kind of tough love we often find ourselves in need of.
As a pastor every once in a while someone comes up to me and says, “I have a real hard time with a specific passage in the New Testament.” Then they pull out verse two from the first chapter of James: “Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.”
What they really want to know is, “What am I supposed to do with this? I’m supposed to have joy over tragedies that come into my life?” Maybe they have just lost a job, or perhaps someone they love has just died. It is clear that they are far from being joyful.
Other times it is a husband that tells me how his wife has just left with no warning or a friend who has fought a long battle with cancer and lost. It is clear that their sorrow is real, genuine and deep.
They read this passage of scripture found in James, and they can’t quite reconcile it in their minds. “Does this section of the Bible really say that I should be joyful and happy about this suffering? How does this passage of the Bible fit in with what I am facing in my life?”
These aren’t people who are looking for a biblical sparring partner. Rather, they are looking for real, deep and lasting answers to the aching in their hearts. They want to know what God has to say to them in the middle of their pain. If there is any joy or peace to be found in the storm, they are experiencing they want to know about it.
If you are a human being, you’ve either found yourself in one of these painful experiences or you will at some point in the future. Fourteen years ago, on July 5, 2004, Joni and I received a phone call telling us that my sister had been rushed to the hospital because she was in labor. The problem was that she was only twenty-five weeks into her pregnancy. Our niece was born that day at 1 lb—12 oz.
We immediately left our home and made the journey to be there with them. I have to tell you that I have never seen anything more pitiful than the site of my niece in the NICU. In a moment like that, it is challenging to understand how on earth you could be joyful or happy in the midst of suffering.
Let’s take a closer look at exactly what it is that James has to say to us.
1 This letter is from James, a slave of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ. I am writing to the “twelve tribes”—Jewish believers scattered abroad.
Greetings! 2 Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles 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.
James has some powerful things to say about perseverance. He is saying that when we have a highly developed spirit of endurance or perseverance, we have a significant character trait. We are mature if we have perseverance. We are ready to face and overcome whatever comes our way.
James also says that the spirit of endurance is available to anyone and everyone if we are willing to face trials squarely. In our days of pain and loss, we need to learn what God desires to do in us.
We must be willing to stay faithful to God even when everything seems dark. James says that in so doing we will develop a spirit of perseverance and we will also develop the ability to be a caring, wise and loving friend to anyone who is suffering.
A historical example of perseverance can be found in World War II. When the Germans were dropping tens of thousands of bombs over Great Britain. Winston Churchill addressed the nation:
“We will fight on the seas and the oceans. We will fight with growing confidence and strength in the air. We shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We will fight on the beaches, we will fight on the landing grounds, we will fight in the fields and streets, and we will fight in the hills. And know this, we will never, ever surrender.”
That kind of spirit sent chills through the hearts of their adversaries and hope coursing through the veins of the British soldiers. This is an unquenchable spirit.
It is virtually impossible to conquer a nation filled with people who will not give up. The Germans would have had to come in and kill every one of them. If you can’t destroy a person’s spirit, there is no way you can conquer them.
Perseverance is the crown jewel of character traits. If there is any quality we should be building into ourselves and our children, grandchildren, friends and each other it is the quality of perseverance.
We should regularly be inspiring each other not to quit. We need to call people to persevere in marriages, in friendships, at work, in school, and in every area of life. We need to challenge each other onward and upward!
In his book Growing Strong in the Seasons of Life, Charles Swindoll writes,
“I fear our generation has come dangerously near the ‘I’m-getting-tired-so-let’s-just-quit’ mentality. And not just in the spiritual realm. Dieting is a discipline so we stay fat. Finishing school is a hassle so we bail out. Cultivating a close relationship is painful so we back off. Working through conflicts in a marriage is a tiring struggle, so we walk away. Sticking with an occupation is tough, so we start looking elsewhere.”
In a world where quitting is chronic, God says persevere. Too many people are taking the easy way out. This is true in many realms of life, including the spiritual realm. Yet God tells us, through James, that perseverance through tough times is the pathway to spiritual maturity and completion.
When we develop spiritual perseverance, when we regularly demonstrate rugged perseverance regarding our faith in God, we are reaching the pinnacle of our spiritual, developmental growth.
When we can say that…
- There is nothing this life can throw at us that will cause us to defect from our commitment to God
- When we realize that God has proven Himself to us time and time again,
- When our trust in Him is so rock-solid that nothing or no one could ever get us to bail out on our faith
…then we begin to understand the priceless value of this thing we call perseverance.
James says that kind of spiritual certainty and solidity is a rarity. He wants us to know that this wonderful and powerful kind of persevering spirit will sustain a follower of Christ through the darkest of nights.
It will carry us through the worst of storms and the greatest of loses. This is the kind of persevering spirit that everyone needs and hungers to have.
James affirms that this kind of endurance is available to every follower of Christ. But we must know how to acquire it and how to develop it. This is where trials and hardships come into the discussion.
Spiritual endurance is not available at the local pharmacy. It can’t be purchased by mail order or through Amazon on the internet. You can’t even get endurance through reading your Bible and attending worship.
This priceless trait comes the hard way, like most things of value do.
Spiritual fortitude comes only from having been neck deep in heartache and trouble. Through these times we learn…
- God can be trusted.
- the world is not out of control
- God’s promises are true
- His presence is available
- His love is there for us when we need it more than our next breath.
When we have learned these lessons over a long enough period of time, we become the possessors of this most extraordinary commodity called perseverance.
When this happens, we begin to see trials from a different perspective. We see them less as an interruption of our attempt to lead a comfortable life and more as the stuff out of which character is formed and endurance is developed. We might even begin to see pain as more on an ally rather than an enemy to be avoided at all costs.
Suppose you knew that the coming week was going to bring a very powerful trial into your life. What if you knew this trial was going to back you into a corner, bruise your heart, and test the limits of your endurance?
If you could choose one biblical character to walk with you through this time of testing (besides Jesus) who would you invite? My guess is that nine out of ten would pick Job because he went through a series of heartaches, tragedies, and trials unlike what most any other person in history has ever experienced.
In a brief period of time, Job lost all of his sons and daughters in a freak accident. He lost all of his livestock and wealth. He lost all of his employees. Finally, his body broke out in a painful sickness that included open and aching sores.
To top it all off, three of his closest friends told him that all of this must be a judgment from God due to sin in Job’s life. When Job thought it couldn’t get any worse, his loving wife whispers in his ear, “If I were you, I’d curse God and die!”
In all of this, Job persevered and clung to God with all of his might. It is critical to remember that God never asks us to smile at the trouble itself. God does not expect or want us to jump up and down in mock joy saying, “I love pain, loss, and suffering.”
Mock joy would be shallow, dishonest, and inauthentic to the core. Joy in suffering is not about pretending we like the pain, that would be weird, but rather a deep inner confidence and certainty that God is in control, at work, and always on the throne. In the middle of the worst of trials, we can be certain of the steadfast character of God.
There are followers of Christ who are in the middle of pain and suffering, yet they live with a deep, authentic, life-sustaining sense that God can and will bring good through this experience.
God would never ask us to be joyful over something tragic. He would never want us to be glad about something destructive or sad. But He says, “Find a deep inner peace and joy in who I am because as much as your life situation might change, I am the same yesterday, today and forever… you can count on it!”
When we look at the life of Job, we know he didn’t go through his struggles with no tears, pain or heartache. The truth is, he experienced all of these in spades.
Job asked the “why question” many times. The thought of bailing out on God crossed his mind more than once. But, at the end of the day, Job said with great conviction, “My Redeemer is faithful and true.”
As we make this journey through life, trials and challenges will inevitably come our way. There are going to be days when life makes no sense, and we ask ourselves “why?” It is just the way it is.
But in the midst of life’s storms, may we live not only as people who survive but as people who have an anchor for our souls that allows us to persevere.