The Light of Life Magazine
A ministry of Christian writing

March 2010

John Christopher

Stay connected to Christ and trust Him in difficult times.

When life hands you lemons' what do you do?'Lemonade!' That's correct-you turn them into lemonade! This has to do with overcoming, which is required of all of us walking the way of God. The Biblical application is sound; we must do what? We must take hardships, or trials, and, with God's guidance and help, turn those around and turn those lemons into lemonade, so that we are victorious and not overcome by these problems. It is very important that we keep the Biblical perspective. What God wants us to understand is that we have the ability, with the help of God, to turn what looks like defeat into victory. That is very important, because God does not want us to be victims; He called us to be victors, and victors have a perspective of life that is far different from a person who feels he/she is a victim. God has not called us to be victims.

Reaction To Trials
“My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into diverse temptations; knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing" (Jas.1:2-4).

Trials have a tremendous effect on our lives, and they have the power to either make us or break us. How do you react to trials? And how are you handling the trials you are facing right now? Do you blame others? "If those people had done this or that thing, then my situation would be better." Do you use escape tactics? Maybe you don't want to deal with your trials, so you deny them or try to minimise them.

Now, either God is a liar and James is out of touch with reality, or there is something truly extraordinary that happens in the life of a believer when he faces and endures the trials that come his way. As you think about your particular trials, are they strengthening and developing your faith, or are they wearing you down?

Billy Graham said, "Mountain tops are for views and inspiration, but fruit is grown in the valleys." James says that we are to have joy in the midst of our trials; but, can we really count it all joy in these situations? Can we have joy in the midst of hell on earth? Can you experience abundant living when life dishes out more and more grief? I believe we can. I want you to see that by accepting and trusting three basic ideas about trials found in this passage, you can learn to maintain a right attitude in your trials, giving God the freedom He needs to produce in you the quality of life that you want, and the fruit of life that will ultimately bring great honour and glory to His name. Turning trials into triumph requires three basic imperatives-three basic things that God wants us to keep in mind as we face these difficulties, or hardships.

Trials Are Universal
"Count it all joy when (not if) you fall into various kinds of temptations." Although this seems like such a simple truth, we fail to remember it too often. God has never promised to keep His people out of trouble. He has never said in His word that anyone will be immune to trouble. In fact, the Bible says that man is of few days and is full of trouble.

We all experience trials. James experienced them. He knew what trials were all about. Can you imagine what it was like to grow up as the brother of Jesus? Some of us have older brothers or sisters. You remember what it was like to be compared to him or her. "Why can't you be more like your brother?" What if your brother was the sinless Son of God who never did anything wrong? Maybe Jesus' perfection was a problem for James. In the gospels we read that James and his brothers mocked Jesus. They thought He was headed for some crazy thing. Jesus gave up a good career to walk around telling people He was God's Son, but eventually James came to believe that message and came to be a part of Jesus' Church.

All people suffer trials-lost people and saved people. Norman Vincent Peale said, "There is only one group of people who don't have any problem, and they're all dead." Jesus Himself said, "God makes His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust." Rather than asking, "Why me, Lord?" or complaining and grumbling about our trials, we must simply accept the fact that trials are universal. In other words, trials are simply a part of the human existence. Trials are universal; you're not the only one with problems. In fact, if we'll just take time to look, we can usually find people who are suffering problems that we can't even begin to imagine.

Jesus told the disciples that in this world they would have trouble. It is a fact of life that you must accept.

Trials Are Useful
James said, "The trying of your faith worketh patience." Patience is being able to abide under pressure. When an athlete trains for a sport, he willingly allows the coach to try his body and push it to the limits. Weights, running and other such work are designed to build strength and stamina in the athlete. A good coach requires these things to build you up, not to tear you down. God is like that coach, and the trials are the weights and exercise that He uses to build our spiritual muscle.

Not only do trials build patience in our lives, but they also produce maturity. "But let patience have her perfect work, that you may be perfect." The word perfect doesn't mean flawless. It means mature, complete. Why does God want to develop maturity in your life? To put you in His trophy case and show you off? Not at all! He builds all of that so that we'll be more useful in His service.

Tests are intended to enable us to prove to others and ourselves the existence of a quality which, without the tests might never be displayed. You can tell people that you have faith in God, but what happens when the bottom falls out in your life? Do you cling to your faith or do you fall away? "And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is, but exhorting one another, and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching" (Heb.10:24-25).

We need one another. We need people to share our lives with, and we need people to share our hurts and struggles with. Verse 23 tells us what the motive is, "Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering." Some of those first century persecuted believers were forsaking the faith. Don't fall away, but be committed to one another; be committed to the body life of the church so that your faith will be strengthened during those trials.

As you go through trials and develop spiritual maturity, God is better able to use you. Paul told the Corinthian believers, "(Jesus) comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God" (2Cor.1:4). In other words, sometimes God allows you to suffer just so you'll be ready to help someone else through their time of suffering. It would be nice if this was an immediate transaction, but it is not. Instead, it is a life-long process. Just when you get through this problem, there is another one waiting.

God's Perspective
I wish I understood everything God does in my life, but I cannot. My thoughts are not His thoughts and my ways are not His ways. He has purposes that I may never know. From my perspective, the trials I go through can seem unreasonable, but I must remember, that God has a purpose in my trials. We must learn to see from His perspective.

A woman was visiting Switzerland. She came to a sheepfold on one of her daily walks. Venturing in, she saw the shepherd seated on the ground with his flock around him. Nearby, in a pile of straw lay a single sheep, which seemed to be suffering. Looking closely, she saw that its leg was broken.

Her sympathy went out to the suffering animal, so she asked the shepherd how it happened. "I broke it myself," said the shepherd sadly. He then explained, "Of all the sheep in my flock, this was the most wayward. It would not obey my voice and would not follow when I was leading the flock. On more than one occasion it wandered to the edge of a cliff. Not only was it disobedient, but it was also leading some of the other sheep astray.

"Based on my experience with this kind of sheep, I knew I had no choice, so I broke its leg. The next day I took food to the sheep and it tried to bite me. After letting it lie alone for a couple of days, I went back and it not only eagerly took the food, but licked my hand and showed every sign of submission and affection.

"And now, when this sheep is well, it will be the model sheep of my entire flock. No sheep will hear my voice so quickly nor follow me so closely. Instead of leading others astray, it will be an example of devotion and obedience. In short, a complete change will come into the life of this sheep. It will have learned obedience through its sufferings."

Many times it is the same with us. Through our trials and suffering, God may be seeking to teach us obedience and reliance on His care. It seems that in one moment He is leading us into situations that bless us, as well as those that develop our character. Someone has rightly said, "He gives us enough of tears and sorrow to keep us tender, enough hurts to keep us compassionate, enough of failure to keep our hands clenched in His, and enough of success to make us certain that we're walking with Him."

He sees the bigger picture that we cannot. Regardless of why, when or how trials come, they are all designed to bring you into a closer love relationship with God. They are all designed to point others to God through your life, but only you can determine whether they will or not. When Job suffered the loss of all his material possessions, suffered the loss of his children and even his health, his wife told him to curse God. Job had not done anything wrong. Those trials could have made him bitter; they could have turned him away from God! but instead, he gave God the glory and grew through that situation to become a better man.

God wants us to grow in our relationship with Him in such a way that we become more and more like Christ. He is going to do whatever it takes to bring us to that place. But remember, not only do they have a unique purpose for our life, everyone has them and every one of them is good for us. We may not enjoy them, but God is simply growing us up.

James said to "count it all joy when trials come." Just because you remember that everybody has trials and that God is going to grow you through this thing and that He has a wonderful purpose bring you great joy? Of course not, because joy is not the fruit of intellectual exercise. It is a fruit of the Spirit. John 15: 1- 4 says, "I am the true vine, and My Father is the husbandman… Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in Me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in Me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without Me ye can do nothing… Herein is My Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be My disciples. As the Father hath loved Me, so have I loved you: continue ye in My love. If ye keep My commandments, ye shall abide in My love; even as I have kept My Father's commandments, and abide in His love. These things have I spoken unto you, that your joy might be full."

'Joy unspeakable and full of glory!' comes only when we are rightly connected with the Father through a right relationship with the Son. 'You are the branches, He is the tree, and as you surrender your life to Him, His joy will grow and blossom in your life. Don't fight your trials. Don't run from them, don't blame other people. Simply stay connected to Christ and trust Him in those difficult times.'

"Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God" (Heb.12:1-2).

I am not trying to minimise your problems or trials. I know they are tough. Some of yours are tougher than anything I have ever personally had to endure, but I know this: God wants you to experience great joy in the midst of those trials and to enjoy a very blessed life as you endure them, but His message to you is that you must get your eyes off yourself for a while and look at your trials through God's eyes. There is more going on than you or I have the ability to understand. Trust Him today.

We are like a ship. That ship is cutting through the water; when it goes through the water the great frontal portion of the wave is at the front; the wave is in the back. But at the front it bows up. In other words, it has its greatest impact up front. As the ship continues to move forward, that wave begins to subside, and then suddenly it disappears. Well, that is like every one of us. All we need to do is to trust Him and keep moving forward.

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