James expressed this same thing in James 1:2-3 when he said, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.” [NASB] Paul taught similarly in Romans 5:3-5 when he said,
And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. [NASB]
These disciples of Jesus taught going through hard times produces growth, or rather, it can, depending on how we respond and react to the difficulties.
Jesus taught much about growing in a relationship with God and told His followers how they can endure hardships. In John 16:33, He spent some time walking with and teaching His disciples before Judas betrayed Him. He told them, “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation but take courage; I have overcome the world.” Jesus’ primary teaching about living through difficulties was to ask the Father for anything in His name (vs 23). Jesus’ followers can have peace, God’s heart peace, while facing difficulties because God will be with them and will help them. God doesn’t leave a person when times get tough. He stays with them, gives them the strength to get through trials, and grows the person to be a stronger believer in Jesus Christ. As a person takes each small step toward growing more Christlike, that person’s belief in God and His desire and ability to strengthen him or her in and through the trial grows. That person becomes stronger.
Consider Matthew 19:16-26 when the rich young ruler asked Jesus a question. This rich young man asked Jesus, “Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may obtain eternal life?” (vs. 16) Jesus answered him by saying, “Why are you asking Me about what is good? There is only One who is good; but if you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.” (vs. 17) The man’s reply to Jesus was he had kept all the commandments. Then he asked, “What am I still lacking?” (vs. 20b) This rich young man thought doing good would give him eternal life. Jesus told him only One is good. He told the young man, if he wanted to be complete (fully grown as can only happen by God), not just good, then he must not rely on what he can do such as making money and buying himself things. The completeness of which Jesus spoke can come only by God when He makes a person fully grown through stages. These stages of gradual strengthening take a person to the end goal of being completely Christlike. This strengthening comes through trials and difficulties, daily Bible reading and study, and prayer and communion with God. The rich young man chose not to go through this trial. He kept the commandments instead of giving himself to God. We can note this from his reply to Jesus. Recall what Jesus told this rich young man after he said he kept the commandments. Jesus said, “If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven, and come follow me.” (vs. 21) He, in essence, said stop relying on your own strength and plans, and rely on God instead. Give yourself to God totally and trust in Him. This rich young ruler heard Jesus’ statement, but went away grieving because he owned a lot of property. He didn’t want to give it up. This rich young ruler chose to rely on himself rather than follow God and trust Him for all his needs.
This moment in time was the rich young ruler’s chance to grow in his relationship with God. He could have gone from knowing about sins and Yahweh God to knowing God and being in a redeemed relationship with Him through Jesus Christ. This young man did not trust God to provide all things for him and so he did not grow in his faith. He wanted to be a follower of Jesus, but he didn’t rely on God’s strength and provision or his own learned understanding of I AM, the eternal One. At that moment in time, the rich young ruler could have come to know God personally through His Son, Jesus. He chose possessions over a relationship with God.
We each come to these places in our lives. Will we trust the God who created us and all things to take care of our needs? Will we trust Him enough to give us the strength to endure when we obey Him to go where He tells us to or do what He tells us to do? Will we believe what Jesus told Paul? In 2 Corinthians 12:9, Paul wrote saying, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.”
Jesus gave the rich young ruler the opportunity to grow in his understanding of God and his relationship to Him. He encouraged him to step out in faith in God. Jesus gives each of us the opportunity to grow in our understanding and faith in God and to become more like Him. Each day we learn something and have the chance to trust God more, and to gain strength, endurance, and peace. Only you recognize what God is trying to teach you now. You understand of what God asks from you to learn that lesson fully and become even more like Christ.
Will you let go of your own understanding and grow in God?
Will you be home-grown or faith-grown?
Peter said to Him, ‘Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.’ And He said, ‘Come!’ And Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came toward Jesus. (Matthew 14:28-29 [NASB])
Lord, You have been patient with me. I don’t understand how you have that much patience waiting on me to trust you, but You do. You love me more than I realized. You are loving and gracious and keep calling me to follow You. Please forgive my doubts and lack of faith. Forgive my weaknesses and fears. Help me see and hear You only. Help me step out of my self-made boat and walk on the storm-tossed sea with You. Only by walking with You will I grow stronger. Lord, I want to be made complete and to have Your peace. I don’t want to be home-grown anymore. I want to be faith-grown by You. Please be patient with me. I love You.