I was comparing the following two passages written by James and by Paul…
“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith works patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that you may be perfect and entire, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:2-4 KJ2000)
“And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation works patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope makes not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who is given unto us. (Romans 5:3-5 KJ2000)
Here we read that trials and tribulation work patience, and patience works experience, and experience works hope, and hope works the love of God in our hearts because of the Holy Spirit whom God has given everyone who puts their trust in Christ alone.
T. Austin-Sparks wrote:
Experience with God is much more than knowledge. We may be very greatly informed, and have a great deal of knowledge, but, lacking experience, our knowledge will remain purely technical information. Experience is more than knowledge. It is also far more than human cleverness. Clever people may be able to do a lot of things and seem to be successful. The absence of this quality of experience will find that their structures will sooner or later come crashing down, for there is no body there. Experience is something that we can never inherit, nor can it be transferred from one to another in any other way; it has to be bought. It is therefore the sole possession and property of the individual who has it. It is something very personal. If it had been possible for the Father to bring His own Son, the Lord Jesus, to the designed and determined end in any other way, He would have done it. The only way was experience: “…yet learned (he) obedience by the things which he suffered” (Heb.5:8); He was made “perfect through sufferings” (Heb. 2:10). Even Jesus Christ (and I speak in a certain sense) had to buy His experience. He had to come to the full end, or the end of fulness, to be made perfect, made complete, by the way of experience.
It seems that God puts a high premium on seeing us gain experience in overcoming our trials and temptations. He wants us to quit looking to ourselves and other things and start casting all our cares on Jesus, Who is the Author and the Finisher of our faith. We, like Jesus, must learn obedience through the things that we suffer. According to James, it is our faith that is being tried. Peter also spoke of our faith being tried.
“[We who believe]…are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In which you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you are in heaviness through manifold trials: That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perishes, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:” (1 Peter 1:5-7 KJ2000)
First, we are kept by the power of God, not our power. Even our faith is not ours, but Christ’s (see Gal. 2:16). It seems we get an infusion of His faith to get us started, and it grows until we have our own faith based on experiences we have overcome through Him. From these verses, I picture my faith in Christ being put in a refiner’s crucible with the heat turned up. That heat is trials and tribulations that determine if I will call out to Christ to be my strength and sufficiency in all things, or if I will just “gut it out” by my own strength. Paul said it best for me when he wrote:
“And he [Jesus] said unto me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather boast in my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in weaknesses, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.’” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10 KJ2000)
Paul, like James, counted it all joy when he found himself weak in a trial. That meant he had to throw himself on Christ, and see Jesus come through for him every time. He saw that his own human strengths were his biggest enemy. He expounded on this in telling about how he despaired even of life itself:
“For we do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, of the affliction we experienced in Asia; for we were so utterly, unbearably crushed that we despaired of life itself. Why, we felt that we had received the sentence of death; but that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead” (2 Corinthians 1:8-9 RSVA)
Paul’s faith was tested to the point of death, yet he believed that even if he were killed, Christ would raise him up again. It seems that Jesus might have done this earlier in His life (see Acts 14:19). This man had a strong faith in Christ because he lived on the ragged edge of walking by faith. Like a muscle, faith has to be exercised or it atrophies and dies.
In the American church, we hedge all our bets and do all we can to keep from having to walk by faith. We have insurance policies for everything imaginable. We have our 401k and IRA to cover us in retirement. We join unions to give us power and job security. If we get some kind of pain or infirmity, we run for the medicine cabinet or doctor’s office (for more pills – there seems to be a pill for everything) without even giving Jesus a chance to heal us. We avoid trials at all cost. We even avoid being tempted by cloistering ourselves in our churches and homes away from the real world where we might be seen with the wrong kind of people. We are inoculated against walking by faith in Christ alone. Our faith is not being tried! Is it any wonder that the American church is so feeble and powerless against the rise of evil that is closing in around us as a nation? We are a nation of weak Christians being led by weak church leaders who fall for every kind of temptation that comes their way. If you think I’m exaggerating, just type in “church corruption” on a Google search!
All that is missing is for us to totally put our trust in Jesus alone and walk wherever the Spirit leads us that we might know HIM as our sufficiency and strength in adversity. During my years in churches, whenever I felt God calling me out of my comfort zone and to get out in the trenches among the people of the world and do something that would make a difference in their lives, I was told the same thing by the pastors I submitted to, “You are not ready yet!” Nobody I knew was ever “ready yet” in the minds of these church leaders, if God was calling them to go out into the fray of the world and take a chance outside the daycare center called “Sunday church.” As one man from Argentina put it, “The church as we know today is designed to preserve the perpetual babyhood of the believer.”
So, dear saints, it is a great life in Christ if we allow Him to make us weak through trials and testings so that nothing comes out from ourselves. We are not to walk by might or by power, but by His Spirit. All we have to do is abide in the Vine and He will abide in us, and then He will bring forth the fruit of His kingdom, not ours. Amen.