What we’ve covered so far
This is blog #5 in the “Pathways to a Joyful Walk” series that covers what a faith walk is and the different pathways you can take to having a joyful walk with the Lord every day of your life.
In the first blog, we covered why a Christian life is called a walk in the Bible and what joyful means. We also learned that we must choose the right pathways to take for our faith walk to be a joyful one.
In the second blog, we looked at Pathway #1 for a Joyful Walk: Know Jesus Christ. Christianity is a relationship with Jesus. That relationship begins with knowing who He is and putting your faith in Him to be your Savior. This is a walk with someone you know and love.
Then, in the third blog, we looked at Pathway #2 for a Joyful Walk: Know Who You Are. We learned that how you see yourself directs how you live out your faith walk. Knowing your identity in Christ is the foundation for how you see yourself. This is a familiar walk that you know well and can repeatedly enjoy.
In the last blog, we looked at Pathway #3 for a Joyful Walk: Know Whom You Are Serving. I asked you to picture a miserable walk. That would represent going back to serving the old slave master sin in your life rather than serving Jesus, the one who set you free. You learned the importance of choosing to actively serve Jesus as your master and trusting in the Holy Spirit in you as a greater power over master sin.
Picture in your mind a walk you took that was very hard. Maybe you didn’t know how long it would take or how it would turn out. But, at the end, you realized it was so worth it.
The one that comes to mind for me was a 6-hour, 4000-foot uphill hike with my husband in Colorado’s Weminuche Wilderness area. My body hurt all the way up. It was cold and drizzly. But, at the end of that horrific hike, I was rewarded with the most gorgeous display of wildflowers I had ever seen in a mountain-peak ringed area called Chicago Basin. I still have that feeling of awe when I think about it. Enduring the hike was so worth it!
Pathway #4 leading to a joyful walk is this: Know Where You Are Going.
The reality of challenges to our daily walk
Something is going on somewhere in your country, in your town, in your neighborhood or in your family that’s got someone upset, nervous, or in a panic mode—maybe even you. Cancer. Disaster. Job loss. Death. Enemy attack. For those of us who like to plan and control our environment so that our loved ones (and ourselves) can rest, relax, and be productive, these interruptions to life are very hard to bear. So, we try to escape to something that makes it go away for a while—a feel-good movie, book, or a retreat—or perhaps other not-so-healthy things. But, then we get back to the rough-and-tumble of real life and find that whatever is stressing us is still there. Most stressors don’t last just for a day—more like a month or year or even a decade. Right?
Jesus said we will have trouble in this world.
Jesus said to His followers that we will have trouble in this world. All of us. It doesn’t matter where you live or how much money you have or what kind of success you have gained. It doesn’t even matter how much faith you have or how faithful you have been to God in your daily life and work.
Some troubles simply come from living in this fallen world and are common to everyone such as illness and natural disasters. Other troubles like persecution and rejection are related to being a child of God living in an unbelieving world. Then there are those we inflict upon ourselves because of sin still present within us—our own bad choices—or troubles that others inflict upon us because of their bad choices. Either way, we get stuck with the results. Maybe that’s what you’re experiencing right now.
Suffering has a purpose.
Here’s what the Holy Spirit inspired Paul to write in Romans chapter 5, beginning in v. 1,
[Peace with God, hope, justified through faith, access to God. Those are benefits of our identity in Christ. Remember Pathway #2: Know who you are. Certainly reasons for rejoicing. But, then the Bible continues…]
“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.
Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:3-5)
Why is suffering thrown in with all this good stuff? And, we are supposed to glory in it. Some translations say rejoice in our sufferings. Why would we do that? Well, the Bible says it’s because we know that sufferings or troubles can produce something in us that is good. Suffering produces something called perseverance. That produces character which produces hope and the experience of God’s love being poured out into our hearts.
The Holy Spirit inspired James to write something similar:
“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)
Again, that sounds crazy! If someone came up to you while you are suffering and said, “Find joy in your sufferings,” how would you respond? I bet if you are right now in the midst of something that seems awfully like a trial, you want some counsel that doesn’t sound “churchy,” don’t you? So, let’s wrap our minds around what both Paul and James were thinking as the Holy Spirit inspired their writing.
To survive suffering with joy requires perseverance.
As humans, we face all kinds of stress, pressure, and pain in just trying to survive physically, financially, or socially. That stress makes us more susceptible to compromise with sin to avoid the suffering. The Bible teaches us that in order to keep going forward on a joyful walk with Christ, you and I need to have something called perseverance, something the Bible says is good for us. Both of the scriptures I just read used that word perseverance.
But, perseverance is only learned when there is a challenge to our comfort. And, who likes that? The Bible teaches that perseverance is part of the Christian’s faith walk, and there is a reward at the end for doing so.
What is perseverance?
The Bible talks about perseverance a lot. We don’t use that word often today. Instead, we use the word endurance. Endurance race. Endurance test. Endurance is a good word, but it is not as intentional as perseverance.
By definition, perseverance is holding to a course of action, a belief, or a purpose without giving way. Holding to—without giving way. It refers to active staying power and tenacity to hold up under some long-term burden, not just getting stuck in traffic. It carries the idea of whole life experience. It is the quality that enables a person to stand on his or her feet when facing a storm head on.
The Greek word translated perseverance in the New Testament means “bearing under.” It’s holding up a load with staying power, tenacity and stick-to-it-iveness. You have to be “under” to bear “under.” That requires some kind of weight.
A good analogy is how we as women can prevent osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a condition where bones have lost so much density that they look like “Swiss cheese,” full of holes making them weak. Not good for anyone, especially older women. What we want to have are bones of iron. That requires daily intake of vitamin D and calcium. Plus load bearing exercise. Nutrition alone won’t develop strong bones. Bible study alone won’t develop perseverance. Staying on your feet and moving forward in a storm does. Sadly, for those of us who are book learners, we can’t learn perseverance from a book. Only by going through suffering. Ugh!
James chapter 1 says that suffering tests our faith then perseverance through that suffering matures our faith.
Suffering tests our faith; perseverance matures our faith.
Testing refers to the process of melting down rock that has suspected gold in it. It’s tested to see how much gold is in it and to remove anything that’s not gold. Fire melts the ore. The heavier gold metal sinks. The weaker crud that’s not gold floats to the top and is skimmed off, leaving just the real stuff. The gold in the ore was already gold before being melted. But, after melting, all that is left of the ore is pure and is useful for making jewelry, money, and decorations. Beautiful stuff.
Testing faith that is already there
The testing of our faith is on faith that is actually there. That’s one thing you can rejoice about. You have faith worth testing. Gold in any amount is beautiful, isn’t it?
Jesus uses those tough times, when we are under stress, pressure, pain or suffering to float to the surface the parts of our character that are not so beautiful, not so strong, not so godly. And, if we let Him, He will remove that not-so-beautiful stuff and strengthen what’s left so we can persevere. The result is having stronger faith.
Testing faith surfaces sinful tendencies.
Here’s what can happen, especially for those of us who became believers as adults. Old habits and ways of doing things are hard to forget or ignore. Some of you know what I’m talking about. You’ve been a believer for only a few years, having 20 years or more experience living life the world’s way, not God’s way. So, when tough times hit, you revert to what worked for mom and dad, or your friends, or in the movies, or on TV. When tough times hit, you keep your options open. I’ll try God’s way, then my friend’s way, then my mom’s way, and so forth. You know what I’m talking about here.
That’s sin. The scary thing is that if you choose to deal with the problem in a sinful way, Jesus will let you! We talked about that in the last blog. You aren’t going to get the wisdom to hold up. Some of you listeners are double-minded like that. You know you are a Christian. You know what God says about right and wrong. But, when faced with a trial, you don’t want to do it God’s way. You want to do it your own way. It’s like asking Jesus for wisdom about your marriage while you’re having an affair with a neighbor. It’s a double-mindedness.
The picture I get is being on a tilt a whirl. Tossed back and forth, unstable, not anchored. Is that all you want for your life? Jesus wants more for you than that. Humble yourself, admit you have been doing it your way, turn back towards Jesus. Let him grow you up so you can faithfully persevere through any trial. It’s knowing where you’re going. With Jesus. Not against Him.
Faith matures by perseverance through testing.
Not only that, perseverance accomplishes something else in our lives. James chapter 1 verse 4 says that when we persevere through any pain, distress, or long-term challenge, we will be mature, complete and lacking nothing. And, even have joy in the process because of the reward at the end for that staying power. For holding on without giving way.
Motivation by reward helps, but we need one more ingredient in the mix in order to “hang in there” over a lifetime. We need hope in this difficult world.
The need for hope in this difficult world
In Hebrews chapter 6 verse 19, hope is described as an “anchor for the soul.” Don’t you love that image? You can picture an anchor giving security and stability to a ship in the midst of a storm. That is what hope does for us, and more!
Our God is faithful. That is a fact. We can trust Him through present difficulties and pains. So, we can hold onto Him without giving way because we know the outcome.
Biblical hope is not wishful thinking but a confident, eager expectation of a coming certainty based on the character of God to back up His promises. Our hope is rooted in the faithfulness of God. That hope enables us to persevere through the rough-and-tumble of real life.
We live in the time period between Genesis 3 when sin entered the world and Revelation 21 when God does away with all sin and its effects. Where there’s sin, there is decay, destruction, and death. Relationally, emotionally, physically. Hard stuff is gonna happen to everyone, even the best of Jesus’ followers. Jesus said so, James and Paul repeated it. This is foundational.
Sometimes we are promised by other people that if we just have enough faith, “Nothing bad will ever happen.” Have you heard that? Nice thought. Possible? Yes. Reasonable? No!
And, when bad things do happen, we’re blown away, or we’re so disappointed we give up on our faith-walk. But, Jesus doesn’t promise an easy time. He puts it right out there in John chapter 16 verse 33 so we will know, “in this world you will have trouble,” trials of many kinds.
We develop perseverance through experience not through head knowledge.
This is the time period in which we live, and if we are going to faithfully persevere, we are going to have to accept this—not like it, but recognize it and not be discouraged. God is working during this time in history. He says, okay I am going to use those very things, those tough things to develop something in you, my daughters, so you can get through life faithfully. And, you can have joy in the process.
When James wrote that you will know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance, this “knowing” is gained through living it, not head knowledge gained through reading about it. I can read this and believe that it’s true in my mind. But, until I’ve experienced it myself or walked with a friend through a trial so I can see it’s real, it just sounds like pie-in-the-sky, churchy kind of thinking.
Remember how I said that if we let Jesus do it, He will remove that not-so-beautiful stuff and strengthen what’s left so we can faithfully persevere and have joy in the process. If we let Him. There’s a choice to not let Him.
The choice to persevere
You have to choose perseverance for it to finish its work. What would be the opposite? Whining. Complaining. Grumbling. Anger at God. Giving up. Using an acceptable but unbiblical practice of your culture to fix it—whatever IT is. We forget where we are going with Jesus. We move, change jobs, divorce, avoid, blame, consider ourselves victims, buy our way out, drink and drug our way out. You’ve seen your friends do this, haven’t you? Maybe you’ve done it. I know I have.
But, if we let Him, Jesus will remove that yucky stuff to make us mature and complete, not lacking in anything needed. It means having what’s necessary to live out Jesus’ life in us. It doesn’t mean perfect. We’re not promised perfection in this life. But, God will finish His particular work in us before He takes us home.
For you and me, God has things for us to do, kingdom work to do here on earth, during this time between Genesis 3 and Revelation 21. And, He needs us to be mature. To be grown up. It’s hard work to grow up, isn’t it?
I am not good at letting perseverance finish its work when I have a way out. What about you? It’s like exercising. I know I need to do it so I get started then get sidetracked and don’t get back to it. When I don’t have a way out, I am pretty good at persevering. That’s the value of backpacking. You’re stuck out there. You have to bear under the load and complete the trek in order to get out!!
When we look at life just with our own eyes, we become fearful and pessimistic. We think to ourselves, “Nothing’s going to work. I don’t know if I can get through this.” But, as you move forward in faith, the Holy Spirit strengthens you and gives you courage that you didn’t know you had.
Our Profiles of Perseverance Bible Study will teach you more about having perseverance in your life.
Dear sisters, God allows things in our lives to test us, but His motive is not to trip us up. It’s not to make us fail, although our choosing to do so is always a possibility.
To have a joyful walk, you need to know Christ and know who you are as a Christian. You need to know whom you are serving. You need to know where you are going. Keep the eyes of your heart focused on Jesus, and the joy of becoming stronger, of fulfilling a purpose, of growing up as God’s child—the rewards of perseverance. I’m not talking about just when we get to heaven. I’m talking today. A joyful walk is one of those rewards.
Let Jesus satisfy your heart with joy so that your daily walk with Him will be a joyful one. Choose to step through life satisfied by Him.