UNDER PRESSURE (1/4)
Let me ask you a simple question.
Let’s say you want to buy a second-hand car from a car dealer. The odometer shows over 200k which means that it has been used quite a lot already. How do you know that the car is still reliable?
Do you trust the word of the salesperson?
Do you have a look at the engine?
Or do you have to do more than just believing the words of the person that is trying to sell you this old car or even more than having a look at the engine?
Experience tells us that the only way to figure out if this car is any good is twofold.
First, you test-drive the car for yourself. After all, we are all too aware of the sales pitch of a car salesman. They might even ‘sell you their mother-in-law’. Just joking…
Second, if you are careful, you bring someone with you that probably understands more about cars. Or, alternatively, you bring the car to your mechanic to have a good look…He’ll know!
The only way to know if it works is by testing it. That’s where you will perhaps find out the flaws of the vehicle. And perhaps you allow a specialist to have an even better look at it. He’ll know what to look for.
In our journey with God we are all invited to walk in a relationship of faith with our Heavenly Father. We are people of faith. Yet, the big question that comes to my mind when I hear that is this. WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE A PERSON OF FAITH? How can you tell that you actually believe?
The book of James helps us with that big question. How can you tell that someone really believes what God says? After all, many people believe many different things. Does that mean that everything is valid? Does it mean that the only thing that matters is simple to ‘believe’. Or is it possible that there is a ‘kind of faith’ that God approves of?
Let’s dive in the book of James chapter 1
[stop reading this blog for a sec and have a good look at James 1:1-20]
Let me ask you a very different question: do you know how diamonds are formed over time?
Diamonds are made up of carbon and for diamonds to take shape in its rough form, two elements must be in place: tremendous heat and tremendous pressure. Diamonds, therefore, don’t surge on the surface of the earth but are formed under the earth, where the pressure of the earth and the immense heat shape this precious metal.
By analogy, we are, in God’s eyes, very precious to Him. We are His possessed treasure because He made us in His Image. OK. We may not always see it that way, but what God sees in us, our potential, purpose, and destiny is something very special to Him. The Christian journey for us is to start seeing life from His perspective, but that takes time.
You see, when you and I started following Jesus when we got first saved, a process of refining also started. God sees in you and me the potential for a beautiful diamond. But from the outside, it looks perhaps very rough on the edges. That’s what people sometimes say about talented athletes or people with a gift. There is a huge potential. But it also needs to be refined, chiseled and shaped so that what is already there, can come to the light. For both diamonds and talented athletes, there is only one way to bring that about! Pressure! It needs to be put to the test!
Our life journey with the Lord is like that too. That’s why chapter the apostle James starts with something important for all of us to understand. I will give you 7 points or aspects of a faith that works during trials.
POINT #1 TRIALS ARE PART OF LIFE. THEY ARE GUARANTEED. YOU MIGHT AS WELL FACE THEM!
He didn’t say: if you fall into various trials, but rather WHEN YOU fall into various trials. That means that trials are not optional on the Christian journey.
What are trials? Is sickness a trial? Absolutely!
Getting fired? Could very well be yes!
Family issues? Of course they can be trials!
Life is not a bed of roses. When you lived your life for yourself, apart from God, it was already hard in some ways. Life’s tough at times! Now when you started walking with the Lord, perhaps in some ways that tough life became easier. After all, He poured out His love into our hearts. We can experience His presence in us. Yes, He is the Giver of Life, joy, peace and so much more. Yet, living on this fallen earth where also a lot does not seem to make sense at times, can be painful nonetheless.
It’s not that being a Christian means that you are immune to difficulties. The Gospel is not a vaccine or method against anything bad in life. Life is still life.
So keep this in mind!
THE ROAD TO MATURITY IS BY OVERCOMING TRIALS, NOT AVOIDING THEM!
You and I become children of God when we put our trust in the Lord. But we don’t stay little infants in the Lord. It’s His plan for us to grow and mature as believers too. The road to maturity is by testing out our faith. Like with the used car, the only way to know that faith works, is by testing it under pressure. It’s how our precious faith becomes stronger, firmer and more real.
It’s therefore very important to know what you are embracing when you say: ‘I believe in God’. It would be dishonest to promise you a life without hardships and pain if you just come to Jesus. That’s simply not true!
That’s why James also says this:
“knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect (“mature”) and complete, lacking nothing.” James 1:3-4
The only way to know that a car is working is by testing it. The only way to know that faith is working is…by testing it. Avoiding the tests in life out of fear or comfort is not going to help us. In fact, in a world driven by the quest for pleasure and entertainment, it’s the reality of trials that can shake people to the core.
So point #1 is simply this TRIALS ARE PART OF LIFE. THEY ARE GUARANTEED. YOU MIGHT AS WELL FACE THEM!
Let’s move to point #2, but that will be in my next blog.