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. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (James 1:2-4)
As we awake on the first morning of yet another year, it is my prayer, if God is pleased to give us the next 365 days, that those days will be marked by unalloyed joy—or, in the words of James, “pure joy.” Now, I understand being joyful is not an easy thing to do when the waves of challenge begin to roll up on our shores. But if our confidence in the sovereignty of our Savior is in active exercise, make no mistake, it will give us unalloyed joy, regardless of the cost or circumstances we face.
James is telling us to keep the sovereignty of God in view when we are facing seasons of struggle and suffering in life. If we fully understand and accept that nothing happens to us that does not first pass through the loving, nail-scarred hands of Christ, we will respond with unalloyed joy, even when our world gets turned upside-down. When we see God’s perfect purpose being worked out through everything that is happening to us, we begin to understand His purpose in our pain. When the sovereign winds of struggle and suffering blow our way, God is testing our faith—not for a pass/fail grade, but rather to produce the perseverance that matures us in our faith.
In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. (1 Peter 1:6-7)
Think back over 2017 and some of the storms you went through. When you were in the middle of those trials, it was much harder to see the loving purpose of God in your pain. But now, looking back, you can see that God was using all of it—not to break you, but to build you up in your faith. God is conforming you to the image of His beloved Son, Jesus Christ, and much of that shaping takes place through the storms of life.
Experience has taught me that very little maturing takes place when the sky is blue, the clouds are fleecy, and the sun is shining brightly. But oh . . . what sanctifying power there is in the storms God sends our way!
Here are two things to remember as you launch out into 2018:
- Pressure creates diamonds.
- It is the crushed flower that gives off its perfume.
It is in the pressures and pains of life that we find the true persevering power of our God. God did not bring you through 2017 just to abandon you at the threshold of 2018. He who began the good work in you will bring it to completion . . . but that will never happen with you living inside a bubble of comfort.
Trust God even when you cannot trace Him, and you will experience unimaginable, unalloyed joy unlike anything you have ever experienced in the past. Let these words from A. W. Tozer put a fine point on our word of encouragement for today:
It is doubtful whether God can bless a man greatly until He has hurt him deeply.
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!