Count it all joy when various trials occur, time for us
to get our Instrument Flight Rating as Christians!
2 Dear brothers and sisters,
5 If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. 6 But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind. 7 Such people should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. 8 Their loyalty is divided between God and the world, and they are unstable in everything they do.
As Christians, who have been set on this course of life, in this pilgrimage (if you will) that is leading us all towards our eternal destiny, it is inevitable that we will from time to time pass through deep valleys, deep waters, and fiery furnaces (through that shadow of the valley of death, that David talked about in Psalms 23).
These are times of testing for us, that may have happened for any number of reasons. It could be due to wrong and/or unwise decisions we have made; sometimes they happen as God’s way of chastening us and correcting us; but often there is no rhyme or reason as to why, sometimes bad things happen to good people (to quote the title of a popular book), and we haven’t a clue why.
James tells us in the above verse of scripture, as he is only speaking to Christians, that whatever the reason we are passing through these rough and deep valleys, and mind you we are told to continue passing through and not to camp out, but nevertheless we are to count it all joy… in the experience of having our faith exercised and tested!
Well how does one do that?
How did Horatio Spafford deal first with the death of his only infant son; then the loss of all his lake front properties (during the Chicago fire), properties that he was building to be used for the Lord, in Dwight L. Moody’s Ministries; and then finally to lose his remaining three daughters to an accident at sea… after which he received a telegram from his beloved wife stating, “All lost save for me.”
It was this last tragedy that caused him to write a poem that later became a popular hymn, a classic even, entitled: “It is well with my Soul!”
Is it also well with your soul?
How are you faring in your difficulties, in the trials and tribulations of your life?
Are you counting it ALL joy?
It is obviously that these things are much easier to talk about, than they are to experience and actually do.
If you are a Believer, who loves the Lord and are called according to His purposes for your life (as per Romans 8:28) we are told (both here and also in other scriptures that can be found in other parts of the Bible), that regarding God’s covenant children, when they are being tested, that God is very much involved with every aspect of their life; and in Romans, we are told specifically that God promises to enter into every situation, and every trial of that person’s life, including the good, the bad, and the ugly, and even when we make mistakes and are in the wrong and are at fault, to work these situations and those circumstances out for our good!
For those Christians who have been around the church for a while and have studied their Bibles, most would say, “Yeah, I believe that and I even know that to be true;” but have they actually experienced it in their lives?
Even though we all may readily acknowledge, and even some would fight to the death defending and arguing (if challenged) that these promises of scripture (and others like it) are true, until we have actually been in the fire and put it to the test, how can we know this for sure?
There are any number of promises in the Bible like this; and most everyone, who has been raised in the church, have been taught these truths all their life, since Sunday School, and some have even committed them to memory; but the truth is, it is not until we find ourselves in the fire, threatened and challenged on all sides, facing whatever… bankruptcy; a deadly disease in our body or a family member’s body; the loss of a child or loved one, or maybe even the loss of a mate… or you name it, as the list goes on and on of bad things that often happen to God’s children!
The truth is, even through many Christians will fight and argue for things that they believe are true, the reality is (in so many cases) that there are many who have not personally experienced these truths in their lives; and Christianity should not be about memorizing a bunch of doctrinal principals and theories, in scriptures verses, so that we can impress people with how much we know; but rather it is should be about our learning the practicality of our faith, by having to apply real promises, that are given by God in His Word, to real life situations; and thereby learning to stand on those promises, come rain, shine, or even death, and remain there in faith until the answer come, and is manifested… casting the whole of all that we are and all that we have on the trustworthiness of God and His Word!
As an example, some Christians may say, “I believe that God can heal,” howbeit when faced with sickness they often may preface their prayers with, “Lord, if it be your will, please heal?”
Well it seems clear to me that the way they phrased that prayer they actually are showing that they don’t really expect that He will heal… and faith without HOPE or confidence is dead.
The point is, God never tells us, in the Bible, to ask Him for things that He doesn’t want us to have; and the truth is our HEALING (whether it be physical, psychological, or emotional) was ALL paid for IN FULL at Calvary’s cross, just as our salvation was paid for in full; and no Christian would ever pray, “Lord, if it be your will save this person.”
4 Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.
5 But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.
6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.
And lest you think verse 5 is talking about something other than physical healing, let’s read the fulfillment of this scripture in the New Testament:
When evening had come, they brought to Him (Jesus) many who were demon-possessed. And He cast out the spirits with a word, and healed ALL who were sick, 17 that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying:
“He Himself took our infirmities
And bore our sicknesses.”
Hebrews chapter 11 tells us that, FAITH is the substance of things that we are HOPING for; things which have not yet manifested in the natural, and which cannot yet be seen nor felt through our natural senses.
From these verses of scripture we know that faith is based on HOPE, and also that it is sustained by our confidence in the trustworthiness of God and His Word, that truly what God has promised in His Word, He is well able to perform… and further He will perform it if we remain in faith!
I like this scripture, because I believe it reveals God’s heart on this subject:
2 Chron 16:9
9 For the eyes of the Lord search back and forth across the whole earth, looking for people whose hearts are perfect toward him, so that he can show his great power in helping them.
There is also another scripture that I would like to reference here, that was given by Jesus, that I believe should be read and memorized, but also it should be applied by every Believer when we are in troubled waters.
This is where I believe faith begins for all of us, in the attitude of our heart:
2 Jesus called a little child to him and put the child among them. 3 Then he said, “I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven. 4 So anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.”
For God it’s all about the attitude of our heart, and a child when raised in a loving and nurturing environment (home), never questions where his or her next meal is coming from or whether mommy and daddy have enough money to provide for their needs; or if dad promises to take his son fishing the next weekend, the son isn’t doing anything put anxiously waiting for Saturday to come, and when it does, he’s already packed and ready to go!
Well, I guess most all of us where that way once, that is until life happened, and we became hardened in our hearts.
Well, if we are going to experience the Kingdom of God in this lifetime, then we are going to have to change that attitude, and go back to the trust and reliance of a child, sitting upon the lap of his or her loving heavenly Father.
Now this is true, whatever our situation was as children, and whether we had a loving earthly father or not; and whatever our earthly fathers were like, just know this, God is always loving and nurturing towards His children; and He can always be relied upon and trusted to have our best interest at heart, in whatever happens.
In fact, not only does God want to perform for us, as we are told in 2nd Chronicles (above), but He most definitely will perform, if we are willing to hang the total of our circumstances, and yes even our very lives on the reliability and trustworthiness of His Word.
Again, this is something, I might add, that is much easier for us to confess and talk about, as Christians do as I have acknowledged, than it is for them to actually do and perform, when they are facing a crisis, and are passing through the fire… in those circumstances, when you are feeling the flames and feeling the pressure, subjective theories become very real!
So what is the reason for our HOPE, and why can we be confident and know ALWAYS that if we can find a promise in God’s Word telling us what His will is on a certain matter, then we can be confident, as Abraham and Sarah were confident, that even though Sarah was well past child bearing age, that God was well able do a miracle and fulfill the promise He had made to them, that Sarah, that same time in the following year, would bear a son in her old age.
What follows is the reason for our confidence:
1 John 5:14-15
14 Now this is the confidence that we have in Him (Jesus), that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. 15 And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.
If we will number the times given in scripture, in the New Testament, where Jesus healed the sick, we will find that in most of those instances the people that were healed went through great effort and personal inconvenience in order to get their healing; and each time Jesus said words to the effect that, “Their faith has made them whole!”
The evidence of that said faith can be found in the great effort that was put forth, on their part of these people, in order to reach Jesus and receive their miracle.
It didn’t just happen, and many there were in those days, as it is even today, who were dying and were sick who were not healed.
Could it be that some of these people, who are not being healed today, are the sort who would say, in the face of God’s promise to do something, “If it be your will Lord?”
That actually is a cop out to say that, because if it doesn’t happen, all we have to say is, “It wasn’t God’s will!”
I believe, as per God’s Word on the subject, that it is ALWAYS His will to heal; though sometimes there may be intervening factors that may hinder or prevent such a healing; and in those cases I believe a Word of Knowledge or Wisdom would be useful to show what is lacking or needed, in order to receive that needed healing.
Sometimes it could be that a person needs to repent of a certain attitude they are holding on to, such as possibly harboring bitterness and unforgiveness against another is always a big hindrance when it comes to these matters; or if a person is being disobedient to something God has told them to do in the past; or if they are battling lung cancer and are still smoking… all of these are things that may interfere with one receiving their healing.
By the way, smoking won’t keep a person out of heaven, as some denominations teach… but it may mean that they go there faster; and when you think about it, why should God heal you if you are just going to go right back to the same behavior and/or habit that caused your illness to begin with?
On issues such as these, and others, that’s where we need additional information; and that’s where we need to rely on the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, such as the Word of Knowledge and/or of Wisdom.
Now I also have to say this, because we all have experienced this (myself included), where we have had friends and/or family members who we were desperately praying and believing for a healing for, who died in spite of everyone’s prayer? Why is that?
Yes, it could very well be that there were unknown intervening factors present that hindered their healing, and just maybe a Word of Knowledge or of Wisdom would have pointed out what that hindrance was, and what to do about it; but I have to say also that sometimes things happen and we don’t know the answer as to why? In such cases we just have to trust God!
The fact that healing didn’t happen, and a person dies, doesn’t at all mean that God’s promises are not true, and that they shouldn’t be counted on!
Sometimes the answer for why people die, in spite of our prayers, is because they wanted to; they had possibly had enough with their sickness and they wanted to go home (to Heaven), and God answered their prayer.
Other times, as I just mentioned, there may be any number of other extenuating circumstances or reasons why?
My point is, we shouldn’t be bent out of shape, that this happened; but rather we should view it as an object lesson to learn from, so that maybe next time we will be better equipped and prepared… and as I’ve already said, really when it comes down to it, some things we just won’t ever know this side of heaven.
As Christians there is never any excuse for us to give up, or for us not to have hope; and this is true in any and every situation/problem we may face.
After having done ALL we know to do in the natural, and after having been obedient to God’s Word, in order to deal with the situation at hand (whatever it is), regardless of what happens, if we need to tie a knot and hang on, then that is what we should do; and we should always be willing to place 100% of our confidence in the promises of God’s Word, and willingly hang our bodies and our circumstances on that Word, standing there with our feet shod in God’s shalom (peace), until the answer comes, and remain there whether the answer comes in this life, on this side of heaven, or in the next… in eternity!
Again, if a person happens to be one of those who are of a mind that says, “God knows where I am, and if He wants to heal me He can.”
Folks, there is no faith in those words; there’s also no hope and there’s no expectation either!
Think about the examples of scripture, and how in most every one of the examples that are listed in the Gospels (New Testament), where Jesus healed the sick, in most every example given the healing was the result of that person going through great effort and inconvenience in order to get to Jesus!
Sure we have examples, even today, where people in large meetings are healed, but these occurrences are a sign to unbelievers; and whatever we may think… God can NEVER be put in a box!
I’m also sure that there were plenty of others around, in Jesus’ time (during His ministry on earth) who were also of a similar blaze’ mindset, and they weren’t healed either.
God is sovereign and in his mercy and grace, as I have already mentioned (above), He often reaches out in meetings and heals even unbelievers; and again, as I said… this is a sign of His love and care for them… to draw them to salvation.
But for Christians, often (again, as per the example of scripture and the lessons taught there) we have to contend for our healing, in faith!
Folks, these things (the miraculous) don’t just happen automatically, they still require a measure of faith!
If you don’t believe me, that what I’m saying is true and scriptural, then check it out for yourself:
27 And when Jesus departed thence, two blind men followed him, crying, and saying, Thou Son of David, have mercy on us.
28 And when he was come into the house, the blind men came to him: and Jesus saith unto them, Believe ye that I am able to do this? They said unto him, Yea, Lord.
29 Then touched he (Jesus) their eyes, saying, According to your faith be it unto you.
30 And their eyes were opened;
2 And again he entered into Capernaum, after some days; and it was noised that he was in the house.
2 And straightway many were gathered together, insomuch that there was no room to receive them, no, not so much as about the door: and he preached the word unto them.
3 And they come unto him, bringing one sick of the palsy, which was borne of four.
4 And when they could not come nigh unto him for the press, they uncovered the roof where he was: and when they had broken it up, they let down the bed wherein the sick of the palsy lay.
5 When Jesus saw their faith, he said unto the sick of the palsy, Son, thy sins be forgiven thee.
6 But there were certain of the scribes sitting there, and reasoning in their hearts,
7 Why doth this man thus speak blasphemies? who can forgive sins but God only?
8 And immediately when Jesus perceived in his spirit that they so reasoned within themselves, he said unto them, Why reason ye these things in your hearts?
9 Whether is it easier to say to the sick of the palsy, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, and take up thy bed, and walk?
10 But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (he saith to the sick of the palsy,)
11 I say unto thee, Arise, and take up thy bed, and go thy way into thine house.
12 And immediately he arose, took up the bed, and went forth before them all; insomuch that they were all amazed, and glorified God, saying, We never saw it on this fashion.
25 Now a certain woman had a flow of blood for twelve years, 26 and had suffered many things from many physicians. She had spent all that she had and was no better, but rather grew worse. 27 When she heard about Jesus, she came behind Him in the crowd and touched His garment. 28 For she said, “If only I may touch His clothes, I shall be made well.”
29 Immediately the fountain of her blood was dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of the affliction. 30 And Jesus, immediately knowing in Himself that power had gone out of Him, turned around in the crowd and said, “Who touched My clothes?”
31 But His disciples said to Him, “You see the multitude thronging You, and You say, ‘Who touched Me?'”
32 And He looked around to see her who had done this thing. 33 But the woman, fearing and trembling, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell down before Him and told Him the whole truth. 34 And He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace, and be healed of your affliction.”
46 Now they came to Jericho. As He went out of Jericho with His disciples and a great multitude, blind Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus, sat by the road begging. 47 And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
48 Then many warned him to be quiet; but he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”
49 So Jesus stood still and commanded him to be called.
Then they called the blind man, saying to him, “Be of good cheer. Rise, He is calling you.”
50 And throwing aside his garment, he rose and came to Jesus.
51 So Jesus answered and said to him, “What do you want Me to do for you?”
The blind man said to Him, “Rabboni, that I may receive my sight.”
52 Then Jesus said to him, “Go your way; your faith has made you well.”
And immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus on the road.
Some people get offended if it is even suggested that their faith may not be where it should be, and yet just count how many times (in the above scriptures) did Jesus reference the person’s FAITH as being the reason why they were healed.
We also need to understand that the Bible says that God has given to every man a measure of faith, for we cannot even come to the Lord and be saved without it (without faith that is); but with that said, it is NOT about how much faith we have, in why our prayers are not answered, it is never a question of the quantity of faith; for we are told in scripture that if our faith is but the size of a Mustard Seed (which is almost microscopic) we can cast mountains into the sea (and really these mountains that are being referenced here are in effect the obstacles which the enemy has placed in our path, that often seem to us as mountains).
No faith is as a muscle, and if it is not exercised it will atrophy, meaning it will decrease in size and become useless.
Let me give you an example of what I’m talking about, and please bear with me if you have heard this story before, as there are others who are reading this who haven’t.
My dad was a Tuskegee Airman (a P-51 Fighter Pilot) in WW II, and he saw action over in Italy during the war. Anyway he told me once that the hardest thing he can remember about his flight training was having to learn to fly by instruments (IFR).
He would tell me that when you are unable to determine where the horizon is, which happens if you are flying in inclement weather or in a fog bank, where all visual reference points are blocked, in those conditions he said that your feelings will scream at you, and all the time they are lying to you, telling you that you need to pull up or push down, or turn this way or that.
In that sort of situation, under those conditions, with the amount of Gs that are being brought to bear on your body, and with no visible point of reference to count on, if you want to survive you will have to force yourself to disengage yourself from what your feelings are telling you, and you are forced to put 100% of your confidence in those little dials on the instrument panel in front of you, because if you don’t you will die… and it is as simple as that!
Now for the person who has had some prior flight time, in either an airplane or flight simulator, in order to practice flying by instruments, under actual real time or simulated conditions, for that person their experience will cause them to have gained the necessary confidence to trust in those instruments; but for those who are lacking in any real time flight experience, for those people, most likely, they would be very hesitant to trust in those dials; but if they trust in their feelings and try to fly by the seat of their pants, they won’t make it.
Now mind you that these sort of conditions, and again with all the Gs that are being exerted on your body, a person could actually be flying upside down and not even know it.
Now the same thing applies to us, as Christians too; because if we haven’t learned to deal with the minor (everyday) sort of problems, and trust God’s Word to get us through those minor problems, and do so in spite of what we feel or see in our circumstances, that contradicts God’s Word; then how can we expect to survive the weightier problems that may come our way in the future, where our life, or that of a loved one may hang in the balance; or maybe we are facing some other sort of ruin or loss.
All things are possible, and I’m sure there are exceptions, where there will be some who, when faced with an emergency, they may experience God’s intervention, have a miracle and will survive, but I dare say that those incidents will be the exception and not the rule.
And even fewer there may be who when faced with an emergency, will have super natural guidance and know supernaturally what to do; but again these cases are few and far between.
Having a crash course, in the midst of a serious problem, is not advisable either, that is not the time to break out the instruction manual; and nor is it in our best interest to try and wing it through either, in an emergency, and hope for the best… and yet I dare say this is the way most Christians live.
In such situations, the chances are (as with the untrained and inexperienced pilot) the person won’t make it; because as is the case with all of us, unless we have been trained otherwise to live by faith, most all of us have been conditioned by life, through our education and our culture (here in the West), to trust only in our understanding (our reasoning abilities), and also in our feelings and in what we can see.
Whereas the Bible teaches us that FAITH always looks at the unseen in HOPE and TRUST in God’s Word, and sees what can’t yet be seen or felt in the natural.
How much better is it to already have our IFR rating, and know how to fly by our instruments… which in the analogy that I am giving here, with the lessons my dad taught me.
Obviously the instruments that we are flying by, as Christians, are found in the promises of God’s Word.
For the pilot, his confidence to trust in his instruments, and not his feelings, is gained only through the experience of having gone through a simulator or in an airplane with a flight instructor under real time conditions, so that when he has an actual test, an actual emergency as it were, these things are not new to him.
However try as you may, you cannot ever get this sort of confidence any other way, and most certainly not by reading a book or attending a class! You have to have the experience!
Well this is also how we learn spiritual truths too, and how we grow our faith… it is by our having to exercise it… after having put it to the test!
It is through our trials and tests, where the metal of our faith is tested (in the heat of the fire) that it has the opportunity to grow, as does our confidence and also our hope too; so that next time we have a test facing us, we not only have increased confidence and hope, but we also have perseverance.
It is for this reason that James is telling us to count it ALL joy!!!
What you are experiencing and going through now, in whatever you are facing, the Bible says is common to the experience of all men and women in the Bible (that we can read about) and also in the world today where we live, and all of it is a part of our preparation and training for eternity.
The Bible and the stories we read there are our example… our instruction manual for life!
1 Cor 10:11-13
11 These things (that we read in the Bible) happened to them as examples for us. They were written down to warn us who live at the end of the age.
12 If you think you are standing strong, be careful not to fall.
13 The temptations (trials and tests) in your life are no different from what others have experienced. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation (you are going through) to be more than you can stand.
When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.
We should never allow ourselves to become grieved or upset when our way becomes fraught with difficulties, for God has promised never to leave us, or forsake us.
Nor are we to suppose that we are in anyway lacking in the presence of God; thinking that possibly He has left us; or that He doesn’t love us anymore.
God’s promises can ALWAYS be counted on and He has promised us always to love us and not ever to leave us:
37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. 38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
5 Let your vcharacter or moral disposition be free from love of money [including greed, avarice, lust, and craving for earthly possessions] and be satisfied with your present [circumstances and with what you have]; for He [God] wHimself has said, I will not in any way fail you nor xgive you up nor leave you without support. [I will] not, [I will] not, [I will] not in any degree leave you helpless nor forsake nor zlet [you] down (arelax My hold on you)! [bAssuredly not!] [Josh 1:5.]
6 So we take comfort and are encouraged and confidently and boldly say, The Lord is my Helper; I will not be seized with alarm [I will not fear or dread or be terrified]. What can man do to me? [Ps 27:1; 118:6.]
The best that we can do when we are faced with crushing difficulties, which as I already noted, the Bible says are common to ALL men (and are part of the trip), is to find a promise (or promises) in God’s Word, and meditate on that promise (or promises), supplicate and pray, along with the offering of thanksgiving, until we experience what is promised in Philippines 4; which is that peace that passes ALL understanding, where we know that we know that we know that our prayer request, our petition, has been heard, and we then experience the peace that passes ALL understanding.
And really this is where we should strive to live our lives all the times (24/7), in the shalom (peace) of the Lord!
I pray God’s shalom in your battles,