TITLE: Patience's Perfect Work
By marcella franseen
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I was recently reading through James chapter 1 in the Bible, verses 5-8. James had been talking about temptations or trials earlier in the passage and then in verses 5-8 tells us if we lack wisdom we are to ask God for it and He will give it to any who ask without holding back or reproaching us for needing it.
What does wisdom have to do with trials?
When we face a trial our first response is usually to ask God to remove it. There is nothing wrong in asking God to remove the trial. There are many times God does “rescue” us from our affliction. I love hearing testimony of God reaching down from Heaven to answer a specific prayer request in a miraculous way. I recently heard of a family who was just about to take their loved one off life support after a month long coma with no brain activity. The whole family was gathered around her hospital bed praying when she suddenly woke up. She is now living a very normal life with her husband and family. That’s a miracle only God can perform and we praise Him for it, but what about those times when the loved one doesn’t wake up?
Another example would be testimonies I’ve heard of addicts who turn to Jesus and never take another drink or hit again. Praise God! But what about those who seem just as sincere when they come to Christ, and plead with God to take away their desire, but continue to struggle with their addiction for years? In other words, what about those times when God does not jump in and rescue us from our trial or temptation, but instead, requires us to walk through it?
James tells us to “count it all joy when you fall into diverse temptations…” Why would we do that? “…knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience but let patience have her perfect work that you may be perfect and entire wanting nothing.” Could it be that God has a bigger purpose in the life of a Believer than just to make our life easy? God’s Word says “yes.” In Romans 8:29 we are told that “whom He did foreknow He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son…” It is God’s will to conform us into the image of His Son, to sanctify us, not always to relieve us.
So how do we handle trials and temptations in a way that “lets patience have her perfect work?” This is where James 5-8 comes in, “If any man lacks wisdom let him ask of God…” My pastor defines wisdom as knowing how to live life God's way. I think that’s a great definition. To live life God’s way we need God’s wisdom and here in James we have a promise that when we ask for wisdom God WILL give it and give it liberally, but there is one stipulation. James warns that this request for wisdom should be made in faith, without waivering - "a double-minded man is unstable in all His ways." The double-minded man here is not referring to the person who struggles in the trial, but the person who is "double-souled" (also my pastor’s definition) or trying to serve God and themselves. James says that this person will not receive anything of the Lord. If there is an area of our life we are not willing to be obedient to God, we are double-souled, wanting God and our sin. We see David dealing with this very issue in Psalm 139:23-24, “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” We can’t hold on to sin with a closed fist and expect God to pour His wisdom on us. We can’t invite God in through the front door, while leaving the back door open to sin.
Even for the Believer who is surrendered to God, though, there are trials and temptations that can seriously shake one’s faith. Often the hardest time to obey God is when a trial or temptation comes into our life that we were not expecting, maybe even think we don’t deserve. You see, most of us have no problem obeying God or living God’s way until it costs us something. In Matthew 16:24 and Mark 8:34 Jesus says, "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me." Obedience can often be painful because Jesus tells us it will involve denying ourselves and taking up our cross. We have a perfect example of obedience to God the Father in Jesus Christ, God the Son. In Matthew 26:39 Jesus is facing the climax of His earthly life - His crucifixion and resurrection. He knows what is coming and it is going to be painful and it is going to cost Him much. His human body will be abused in horrific ways and His divine nature will endure the sins of the whole world placed upon Himself, The King of Kings and Lord of Lords slain in the place of His guilty creation. In the moments before these events unfold He gets alone with His Father and prays, "O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt." And a second time He prays, "O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done." The key phrases there are “as Thou wilt” and "Thy will be done.” Jesus responded with complete surrender to the will of the Father, whatever it would cost Him. The Bible says, “…He was obedient unto death, even the death of the cross,” Philippians 2:8.
If we want to know how to endure our cross or trial we just need to look to our example, Jesus, for how He endured THE cross. In Hebrews 12:2 we are told to "Look 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." I love what Matthew Henry has to say about this verse:
"What is it that supported the human soul of Christ under these unparalleled sufferings: the joy that was set before Him. He had something in view under all His sufferings, which was pleasant to Him; He rejoiced to see that by His sufferings He should make satisfaction to the injured justice of God and give security to His honour and government, that He should make peace between God and man, that He should seal the covenant of grace and be the Mediator of it, that He should open a way of salvation to the chief of sinners, and that He should effectually save all those whom the Father had given Him, and Himself be the first-born among many brethren. This was the joy that was set before Him."
As Believers we are heirs of God, heirs with Christ. "The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs-heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with Him in order that we may also be glorified with Him," Romans 8:16-17. Therefore, when we are facing a trial or temptation we too can set OUR eyes on the joy that is set before us – the victory won for us by Jesus that underlies all our suffering. This is the anchor we can hold onto – that we are victorious in Christ. Our suffering, sin, mistakes, regrets are all redeemed in His death and resurrection.
Therefore, let us keep this ultimate victory in our sights and, in faith, let us entreat God for wisdom. For when we hold the victory of Jesus in our hearts, and the wisdom of God in our heads, we can endure life’s trials and temptations in a way that patience can have her perfect work in us- making us perfect and entire, wanting nothing.
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