Ever since I moved to Austin, Texas away from family, free rent, and free fridge I have experienced the adult life of paying bills, rent, groceries, and the unexpected hardships that came my way. I have had many things happen since August ’08 that were difficult and inconvenient to say the least. But because of these events my faith and endurance has grown exponentially.
My school is a 3 year program but I am a firm believer that if you stick with it till the end, you will have matured 5-6 years worth of adult life in just 3 years because of the difficulty of living expenses in Austin combined with out of pocket tuition payments.
What am I saying? I have matured because tough things have come my way, and without those hard times I would not be where I am now. It would be a tragedy if I missed those opportunities by giving up.
Here’s a simple but powerful story:
Ginni’s husband was injured at work and lost his job, he was the only source of income and was now rendered unable to work for a number of months. They did not know what to do about bills or payments, on top of all that they had their 3rd child on the way. Ginni’s pastor caught wind of her situation through her small group leader so when Ginni came up for prayer the following Sunday the Pastor was well informed. The Pastor said to Ginni “Ginni, I’m so sorry to hear about your husband, do you need help with bills or expenses? What can we do for you”. Ginni replied “Pray that I don’t waste this opportunity”.
Do we look at our hardships with this perspective? As opportunities? Because that’s what they are, chances to grow. If you bail out, complain, play the victim, and try to manipulate people in to helping you, you are missing the point. God is there for you and wants you to cling to Him.
A Christians goal is to become more like Christ (Eph 5:1-2) and as this happens they become more spiritually mature.
Hbr 5:13 – For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe.
Hbr 5:14 – But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.
So how do we sidestep this maturing process?
- By giving up
- By not trusting in God
- By relying on the flesh
- By avoiding tough decisions
- By thinking God’s will for your life is a smooth ride
James says in chapter 1:
1:2 – My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials,
1:3 – knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.
1:4 – But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.
“There’s no shortcut to maturity.”
When something tough comes out of the blue your faith is tested when you can’t fix it yourself, if you could then it wouldn’t be a big issue. We’re talking about those issues that you alone can’t fix – your car breaks and you can’t afford to fix it, your parents express their desire for a divorce, you get let go from your job because of the “economy”, or your income does not match your fixed expenses and you can’t afford bills/school/food. In these instances it becomes very clear that you need God. I’m not saying that only in these times do we need God but when us Americans hit these kinds of dead ends it becomes more obvious. May we recognize our continual need for God throughout our good and bad times.
“Don’t tell God how big your problems are, tell your problems how big your God is.”
Faith involves patience because it is the action of trusting in God. If you’re impatient you aren’t exercising faith, because true faith says “It’s going to be alright! In time God WILL work this all out”. And patience’s perfect work is to make you complete.
One day my teacher Jess walked in to class a bit late, he had a goofy smile across his face and seemed extra peppy, I asked what was up and how he was doing. He answered “well my van broke down on the way to school today!” Instead of being sad or complaining about it he exclaimed “This is great! Because now God HAS to do something”. He wasn’t ordering God around, he was walking in faith knowing that God would do something. That week they received a check for the amount they needed from an unsuspected family member!
“If Satan would love to do one thing to the Christian’s life, he would love to keep them from maturing in Christ.”
One of the most effective ways to mature in Christ is to go through tough stuff in life and learn to hold on to God (“the school of hard knocks”), because when you are poor you realize your absolute need for God. I believe this is why miracles are happening more prominently in many countries other than in America. because American Christians are comfortable and can generally carry their own from month to month, but when you don’t know if you’ll survive another night or eat another meal your desperation level leads to a heightened faith level.
Don’t assume that God’s will for your life is a road without trials or testings. In fact if you are on track with your walk with God (a.k.a. in God’s will), you will encounter more opposition from the world and from Satan because now you are on Satan’s hit-list.
Don’t waste the opportunities that come your way, put on your armor and stand in faith.
2Timothy 2:3 – You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.
James 5:11 – Indeed we count them blessed who endure. You have heard of the perseverance of Job and seen the end intended by the Lord that the Lord is very compassionate and merciful.
Romans 5:3 – And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance,