To be completely honest the verses I have had trouble coming to terms with are James chapter 1:1-4
Here they are according to THE MESSAGE:-
"Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colours. So don't try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way."
A Gift? A Sheer gift? I really don't want a "sheer gift" of any type of trial thank you. I am quite happy being me in my world.
Another version says - "Count it pure joy when trials come your way" even the Children's Bible says "You should be very happy, because you know these things are testing your faith."
Amazing, incredible, astounding! So what is James really saying here? That we should be overflowing with happiness when we lose someone very dear to us, or our job, our home is burnt to the ground or our marriage just exploded in front of us?
No not at all! - My mind goes back to the story of Mary and Martha and Lazarus. Mary and Martha implored Jesus to come and heal their bother Lazarus but Jesus stayed longer and didn't go when they directed him to. Lazarus died.
When he did turn up at Bethany and saw just how distraught Mary and Martha were at the loss of Lazarus what did He do? He didn't put on a happy face, No! he wept.
When Jesus faced the cross and all that it meant, He did it with crying and tears, He was sorrowful not joyful. James doesn't mean to imply that we should deny our emotional pain, he doesn't mean to paint on a happy face and deny we are screaming out in pain. So what does he mean?
What James is saying here is to realise that because of your trauma, whatever it is, that your "faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colours." Our faith is truly tested when we have hit the wall, when disaster hits us like a mac truck.
James goes on to say that we shouldn't try to get out of anything prematurely, which I am assuming that means that we can get out of things before they have run their true course.
Looking at it humanly, I can see why people run away. People run from the their marriage, their family, their jobs and their churches when things get out of hand but that is not what James is saying and saying very plainly. DON'T even try to get out prematurely don't even consider it.
That's when the "consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides" comes in.
These often horrible and unexpected challenges can hit us broadside from the most obscure areas and usually at the most inopportune times. Not that I feel there is a good time for any trial to hit us!
When things are going along Ok - when the world is as it should be, when things are all rosy in the garden then there is really no pressure to test our faith. In these times it is easy to have faith and go along with all the usual platitudes and using all the right Christianeze language.
It is only when we are put under pressure that the real test of our faith comes to the fore and our faith-life will be "forced into the open" as James puts it in the Message Bible.
But we don't like who we are under pressure - we would so much prefer to be our own people in our own comfort zone but guess what? We can't pick the amount of pressure we will be under when the tidal waves hit. It's not so much that they hit us but who we will rely on when they do.
Will we be master of our own destiny and rely on ourselves to heal the problem? Will we maybe run away and 'take a break' from the world to make the current disaster disappear? Or will we use our faith to rely, trust and obey our Master Jesus Christ.
Will we use His example of perseverance under pressure or not? It is our very faith in God that is being tested here. Another way of looking at it is that we may not even know if our faith is genuine until it stands up and is counted under pressure of trials, cyclones, tsunamis or whatever.
It's so easy to say "I trust God" heaps of people "say" that but really it is not until we are placed under severe pressure that the genuineness of our trust is proven. Afterwards when the tidal wave has passed, which may take years, you will know for sure whether the trueness of your faith is sure or not.
The awesomeness (in the true sense of the word) is manifested so strongly, when James commands us to trust God and rely on His hope and joy, yes JOY, in the middle of extreme trials.
Matthew 16 says "if anyone comes after me let them deny themselves, take up their cross and follow me." Deny in this context actually means to be prepared to lay down their very lives for Christ, taking up your cross simply means taking everything the cross means to you and showing that to the world around us no mater what we are gong through personally.
If the cross of Christ means hope, faith and trust to you, then let's turn that cross into a sword and become real warriors for Jesus. When you consider what Jesus did on that cross, how He turned that wooden, terrible yet wonderful cross into a sword and smashed death in one blow, then we can surely use our cross and make it a sword of life, felling disaster and trials.