Finish Strong: Week 1 – Facing Trials with Joy

First off, I want to say, if you are not connected with RightNow Media, you are going to miss out on a huge resource for this Bible study. We just started a video series on the Book of James presented by Francis Chan and our discussion is going to bounce off the videos. If you would like to be part of the Bible study and have access to the videos, please contact Pastor Juan with the Venue to get started!

Pastor Juan asked if I would do a bit of a weekly recap for those who don’t get to join us in person on Tuesday nights. I’m going to try to keep this post as close to the actual discussion we had but you may will definitely find some additional opinions and thoughts of my own.

I think I have prefaced enough but just in case, if you haven’t already, now would be a good time to read James 1:1-12 and watch the first video in the series.

If you aren’t Bible savy, the book of James is a letter to the persecuted church and it’s about true faith. If you are a Christian, then you’re in luck, this letter is written to you.

James 1:2-3, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.”

I don’t know about you, but a joyful attitude was, and is, usually the last thing on my mind when it comes to trials. This is how I imagine what James is saying:

Oh, how am I doing? Well,  not sure exactly what I’m going to do career wise but it’s ok. It’s a joy working here with this coworker that is basically annoying me every time I speak with her but it’s okay! And my finances are a little out of whack but honestly, it’s a joy because it keeps me from going out with my friends who like to go out and party every weekend. I mean, I’m a bit lonely but it’s ok! Honestly, I consider it a joy!

NO. That is not how it works in my brain and if you were honest, it’s probably not how it works in yours either! It’s goes a little more like this:

Oh, how am I doing? Well, you’re going to be sorry you asked! My 9-5 job doesn’t give me purpose and I’m not on the track I thought I would be for my life. Which is stressing me out and is depressing me. My finances are a freaking mess. I feel alone in my walk with Christ, and in general. And to top it off, I’m about to lose my cool on my coworker if I spend another freaking minute talking to her and I just might lose my job in the process!

When trials come our way, we usually feel stressed, frustrated, doubtful of God and ourselves, and just drained. Sometimes it hard to keep the joy at 100% when you only feel 40%. But has being negative about a situation ever brought anything positive into your life? Has speaking negativity ever blessed you? I highly doubt it.

So how do you keep the joy? How do you persevere through a trial? What good comes from the trials?

Whether you believe it or not, God has created you for something great and His plan for you is great. Pastor Juan said, “Greatness can be found in who you are, what you do, and where you are right now.” Those who are the best of the best did not achieve greatness because everything was easy. They achieved it because they rose above their trials. Sometimes, especially when we lose someone we love, we don’t see the point. We don’t understand why God would allow unimaginable grief into our lives. Pure joy? Forget about it. God is going to use this for something positive? I don’t see how that’s possible at all.

It may not be today. It may not even be this month. But whatever you’re going through, whether it’s financial struggle, loneliness, grief, crisis of identity and purpose, just hang on and look forward. It will produce good fruit if you allow it to. If you are focusing on what happened in the past, you will become bitter. You will get stuck in a moment and it will define you and your future. You don’t want your future to be marked with discontent, anger, and bitterness. You want it to be defined by perseverance, holiness, joy , and contentment. Like in Finding in Nemo, “just keep swimming”. If you’re going to go down, go down with a smile on your face. If you don’t understand how something is going to help you, ask yourself how it can help someone else. You aren’t a slave to your trials and situations. Make it serve you! What are you choosing to get out of it? Are you going to learn to trust God more? How love harder? How to persevere? How to be wise? It’s up to you.

Create an environment that produces positivity, even if you don’t believe what is being said. Subtle changes in your environment will significantly alter your perspective and attitude. Listen to Christian music while you’re cleaning or driving. Place a Bible verse on your mirror. Set an alarm every 2 hours that says something positive. Walls are built brick by brick and so is the positivity in your life.

And when all you need is some advice, remember to be cautious of you get it from. Just because someone calls themselves a Christian does not mean that they give Godly advice. Listen to what they say but listen to God first. Listen to words of wisdom from your pastor or other leaders in your church. Listen to someone who will shoot it to you straight and won’t cater their answer to your feelings and tell you what you want to hear.

Above all else, love God. Ask God to help you love Him. Love is sustaining. Even when we don’t get the plan or don’t understand the value of our situation, continue to follow where God’s love leads. You can be faithful without knowing all the answers. Don’t forget that in the end, everything will work out.

Don’t forget to join us next week for James 1:13-18. The Venue is held every Tuesday at 6:30 at the Venue house next to LIFE Church. If you have any questions or would like access to the videos, please contact Pastor Juan or his wife Kacie and they will get you to where you need to be!