My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing…Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.
James 1:2-4, 12
After reading the post last week, a dear sister shared with me the verses above. They remind us of the blessing of enduring suffering. When my children were young, they would fight against my attempt to get a thorn out of their hand or foot. They hadn’t learned that the brief, though more intense, pain associated with removing the thorn brought with it the reward of not having to deal with the longer pain of leaving the thorn lodged in there. Aren’t we the same way with the Lord at times? We run from the suffering of the present circumstance because we fail to see the blessing that’s coming as a result of it. Jm 1:2 says we should rather “count it all joy”! After all, aren’t you glad the Lord didn’t give in to the temptation to abandon suffering when the Jews cried out, “If You are the Son of God, come down from the cross”? If He hadn’t endured, we would have no salvation!
Last time, we looked at three of five blessings that come as the result of suffering. Just to recap, we saw that through trials 1) we are identified with Christ and enjoy unique fellowship with Him, 2) our spiritual man is developed, and 3) God draws us closer to Him and keeps us from sin. Let’s now consider the final two points. Through suffering:
4) The true believers are manifested
The children of God don’t like tension and strife. One of the descriptions of the blessed ones in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount is that they are peacemakers. (Mt 5:9) When separation and division occurs within the church, believers suffer, but did you know there is blessing in such experiences? “For first of all, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you, and in part, I believe it. For there must also be factions among you that those who are approved may be recognized among you.” (1 Cor 11:18-19) The saints are suffering, but the trial brings the blessing of manifesting those that are true Christians! John writes in 1 Jn 2:19: “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us.” Division is hard to deal with for those that love peace, but the church is blessed by it as tares are purged from among the wheat. Jesus’ parable of the seed and the soils teaches us that the way an individual handles suffering will reveal the truth concerning a his profession of faith. Suffering exposes the man who is a stony-ground hearer, “for when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles.” (Mt 13:21)
5) We are equipped to comfort others in their affliction
In Heb 2:17, we read that Christ in all things “had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God”. This experience was a new one for God as He entered the virgin’s womb, humbling Himself and experiencing life as one of us. The result of that suffering is listed in v. 18: “For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.” Because He suffered temptation, He is well equipped to aid us in ours. Christ has been in our shoes! He has first-hand experience with our trials because He “was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.” (Heb 4:15) This pattern is the same for the believer. We live in a pain-filled world. How can we minister to those that are hurting unless we endure the same? According to 2 Cor 1:4, it is through our suffering that we come to know the tender care of the God of all comfort, “who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” Suffering equips us to minister to others in unique ways that we otherwise would not be able to do!
So, the next time suffering comes your way, dear child of God (and it will for “we must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God”–Ac 14:22), don’t be so quick to despair. Instead, as our text today reminded us, we can count it all joy if we realize God’s got better things in store for those in Christ Jesus. He’s bigger than the attacks made against us, and we, like Joseph, will see in the end that, though they meant it for evil, God meant it for good! (Gen 50:20) Believe me, the trial is small compared to the greatness of what God is accomplishing through it. “Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” (2 Cor 4:16-18)