Testing of Our Faith

Testing of Our Faith

A moment came following each of my knee replacement surgeries when I had to get out of bed (in the recovery room at the surgery center), put weight on the new knee and walk to the rest room. The medical staff had seen this before umpteen times. They were completely confident the new knee would hold up and I would be able to walk on it. I needed to prove it. I slowly put my foot on the floor and then even more slowly put my weight on my legs.

Wonder of wonders—it didn’t hurt at all and it withstood my entire weight! (Of course, the surgeon had bathed the inside of my knee with anesthetic during the surgery, so at that moment, I was literally feeling no pain in my knee!)

Then came physical therapy. Over and over I had to test the knee and work to strengthen and bend it, so it would work properly going forward. There were times when physical therapy didhurt. But the pain was part of the process of growing stronger. Since I had partial knee replacements, instead of full knee replacements, physical therapy was shorter for me. I only needed four weeks of PT on my right knee (the worse one), and then only three weeks on my left knee! A year and a half later, I walk without pain and life is good!

In the first chapter of his letter, James tells us “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”(James 1:2-4 NIV)

The testing of my knee produced strength and mobility that now results in pain-free walking. The testing of our faith produces perseverance that makes us mature and complete. It’s a trainer’s or therapist’s cliché to tell the client: No pain—no gain.It also happens to be true.

There is no doubt that the culture at large has become more skeptical and even antagonistic toward Christian faith. It has been that way since the beginning. The Jewish leaders tried to wipe out the followers of Jesus, and the Roman Empire did as well. In the big picture, though, God used the persecution to refine their faith and to make a witness to those who saw how the Christians servedand even how they diedfor their faith.

I’m pretty sure James would agree that the trial itself is not joyful. The enjoyment of pain is not exactly sane and rational. But the joy of enduring the testing of faith and coming out the other side having persevered to maturity makes the temporary pain of trials worth it. My physical therapy was not fun, but the results were worth every moment.

In his commentary on James 1, Matthew Henry says, “We should not pray so much for removal of affliction, as for wisdom to make right use of it.”It’s a very human thing to pray, “Father, please take this cup of affliction away from me,” like Jesus did in the Garden of Gethsemane. It’s a very spiritual thing to go on, as Jesus did, to pray, “Nevertheless, your will be done.”

So after the initial, instinctive prayer asking God to take away the pain, I believe James is calling us to embrace the testing of our faith like I embraced my physical therapy—knowing the joyful outcome that awaits. And while going through the trial, Jesus has a way of showing Himself to others through our tenacious, growing faith and gracious facing of “trials of many kinds.”

Nobody gets through life unscathed. Nobody lives without trials. Hard times does not mean God is angry with us. And the testing of our faith produces perseverance, which leads to maturity.

Father, please give me wisdom to make right use of the trials I face. Let Jesus shine through them to others. Amen!

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