My brothers, count it all joy when you fall into divers temptations and trials; knowing this, that the trying of your faith works patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. James 1:2-4
At my gym, there is a sign that reads, “Sweat is Fat Crying.” In that one phrase is an inspiration to push through pain, discomfort, and tiredness to see the end goal; the end goal being to erase the effects of Thanksgiving week or just that piece of pie last night. But when I workout, I like to think of that phrase from a different perspective, a Christ-centered perspective.
Instead of just thinking about getting my physical body in shape, and losing weight, I try to visualize my sinful flesh dying as I exercise and live out my faith. In other words, I change that phrase to, “Faith is Flesh Dying.”
With every ounce of sweat, and every minute of exercise, I become more empowered to live for Jesus and die to self: a workout session becomes a JAM (Jesus and Me) session. But just like exercise of the physical body, exercise of faith can often be painful and tiring. And what makes it even harder is that the best exercise of faith often comes, not through self-will or choice, but through trials and temptations that can only be waded through.
Patiently persevering through trial and temptation is an amazing, visible sign of sincere faith. And just like you can see the good fruits that come through diligent exercise, so, too, good fruits result from patiently exercised faith.
I am sure every individual reading this has gone through trial, either in the past or in the present. And during trial, temptation, or punishment, I concede that it is difficult to see God’s grace and perfect plan. When times are good, it is easy to tell people around you that God’s grace knows no bounds and His will is perfect; “faith,” in that environment, is a piece of cake. But the tune can change quickly when your house burns down, a child gets sick, a parent is in the hospital, a friend chooses sin, or you choose sin.
It is because of the uncertainty and fragility of life that we must decide here and now who we believe in and who we serve; decide now where your faith will stand, no matter what comes.
Faith is more than words, it is active obedience and surrender; it is a diligent seeking of the Savior, walking with Him, and trusting Him. Producing fruits of His Holy Spirit inherently means that you must choose His way above your own way; it is the act of denying self and seeking Christ.
Each of the fruits of the Spirit found in Galatians 5:22-23 seems to shine best through tests and trials; when sinful flesh is being defeated and “cried out.” Without tests or trials of faith, and the willingness to be stretched, no one will ever see the fruits of the Spirit truly shine through your life. So, if you are going through trials, here is one thing you can be grateful for; the opportunity to glorify God through the fire. Allow Him to use those times for His glory, and choose to keep your faith in Christ.
No, I am not saying that it is more virtuous to go through hard times and suffer, than it is to have a life of peace and joy; I am saying that God is faithful to bring you through trials and make you stronger than before. Just like that verse in James says; let faith have its perfect work. God works best through our weaknesses, and He is not limited by our weaknesses or by our trials. (1 Corinthians 12)
The world will give you reasons to complain and reasons to quit: it is just too hard right now; my body can’t take it; those people are so ungrateful; what am I getting out of this, anyway? But when selfish thoughts enter your head, I want you to remember what Jesus said; These things I have spoken unto you, that in Me you might have peace. In the world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world. (John 16:33) Chances are likely that life will not be easy, and you will honestly have reasons to complain, but you always have a reason to rejoice and push through. Your Heavenly Father is faithful, steadfast, and He will not allow the Words sent out from Him to return to Him empty and void. (Isaiah 55)
Fight the good fight, keep the faith, and never stop exercising and working out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure. (Philippians 2:12b-13)