Last week, I started a series called James: Two Verses at a Time where each week I write about what I am learning as a friend and I memorize James two verses at a time. The verses for this week are James 1:3,4 (NLT)
"For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.
As winter drags on and our city power is erratic, James 1:3,4 reminds me that it is times like this that my endurance has a chance to grow so I should let it grow. Last week I talked about considering the troubles that come into our lives as an opportunity for great joy. This week, I discuss the why. Why should we consider troubles an opportunity for great joy? According to James, when our faith is tested, our endurance has a chance to grow and develop with the goal of being perfect and complete needing nothing.
First of all, what is faith? According to the Oxford Dictionary, faith is the complete trust or confidence in someone ( in this case God). The author of Hebrews describes faith as "the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen, it gives us the assurance about the things we cannot see." (Heb 1:1 NLT) In fact, it is impossible to please God without faith. (Heb 1:6 NLT) Hebrews 11 is filled with references to those who had faith and believed in God even when they did not see the results in their lifetime. Faith has to do with trusting in God no matter what.
Which leads to the next question, what tests our faith? When I think of faith being tested, I often think of Daniel in the lion's den or David facing the giant. I wonder what I would do if my faith was tested like their's but forget that their endurance didn't develop overnight. Daniel's endurance grew as he walked faithfully for many years in a pagan culture. David's endurance grew as he faithfully watched and protected his sheep from predators. It is in the daily day to day grind, in the little things, that my faith is most often tested and my endurance has a chance to grow. For me, my faith is tested when the winter drags on and I wonder if spring will ever come. I am tired of the extra work that winter brings and trying to keep warm. Students who don't want to learn or are acting up in class also test my faith. (Luckily my students right now are the best.) As the week drags on, my patience wanes as I try to engage the students and motivate and train them. Why can't God make my students behave? My husband's faith is often tested daily as he tries to help those we serve in this country with often no thanks, or there is more red tape he has to go through. Maybe your faith is test by your health situation or dealing with young ones that need your attention constantly. Maybe your faith is test as you work in an environment that is hostile to the gospel, or you are tired of trying to survive on a salary that barely meets your family's needs. All of these tests challenge our faith on a daily basis. It is not a one time thing. They can break us or cause our endurance to grow.
So how can we give our endurance a chance to grow? In college, I ran cross country. In order to do well, I had to build up endurance both physically and mentally. Here are some lessons I learned that can also apply to endurance in our everyday life.
1. Endurance takes time. It took days of running many miles before I had enough endurance to run the 3 mile race well. In life, I have to remember that endurance is built a little every day. I can't wake up one day and just have all the endurance I need. It happens a little bit each day as I live life depending and trusting God each step of the way.
2. Endurance takes consistency. In running, I had to keep running almost everyday to keep the endurance that I had gain. It was important to get out and hit the streets every day. In life, I have to face the consistency battle daily whether it is patiently talking with one of my children through a situation or heading out to get another load of wood with a good attitude to build yet another fire. Maybe it is continuing to engage with my neighbor even when communication is hard or I am not sure how to relate. The key is that I have to engage and work through the situation not run away and hide. There needs to be some consistency.
3. Endurance takes mental energy or, in the case of life, spiritual energy. The runners who come out on top are those who are mentally tough. They keep going even when their body wants to quit. They are able to convince themselves that the pain is worth the gain. In the race of life, the biggest battle goes on in my mind. Do I trust I am where God wants me to be, and He is working for my good? Do I claim God's promises or try to stand on my own strength? Do I take every thought captive, or let my emotions dictate my actions? Do I believe it is worth it?
4. Most of all endurance takes training. In cross country, our team sometimes ran sprints around the track, and other days we took long slow runs. Each day was different and was designed to be prepare us for our race each week. In life, I need training. This training may be one on one as I spend time with God in prayer and study. It may be studying the bible or praying with others or even just spending time with people who I can learn from. As a teacher, I often found myself hanging out with my math department head. She was fun to be around but I also learned so much from her about how to teach and how to discipline. As a mom, I find myself spending time with other moms who do a good job of communicating with their children and raising them to love God. It encourages me to do the same with my children. Sometimes my training comes from books on marriage, parenting or on how to communicate better.
Often though, the training comes from just getting out there and doing it. It involves putting one foot in front of the other as I pick up after my family or respond gently to someone who is angry. It involves practicing what I am learning. Building endurance is not a passive process but an active one.
How is your faith being tested? Is your endurance growing? What has helped you? I would love for you to share in the comments what God is teaching you.