Pastor Eugene encourages us to listen to James to learn how we can press on through our trials.
No one expected Covid-19. And now, given that we are already in September, I’m sure no one expected this pandemic to persist for so long. What is more, we remain uncertain about when—or even if—things will get better.
These tough times challenge our faith. We face a plethora of worries concerning our lives and livelihoods. Stress levels are up. Jobs have been lost. Businesses have failed. Anxiety over the economy, our health and our future is mounting.
For those of us who are Christians, we may know the “correct” answers to the current crisis. But, to be honest, even biblical truths can sound like platitudes to us. God can seem distant and uncaring. Our difficult circumstance may be leading us to become increasingly fearful, frustrated and angry. How can we guard ourselves from having a bitter, complaining spirit?
The Bible is transparent about the reality of suffering in the Christian life. God does not promise us a trouble-free life. Believers will suffer for various reasons: Sometimes, we will be afflicted because we bear the name of Christ. Other times, we suffer because we live in a fallen and broken world. Scripture does not tell us to ignore our suffering or pretend life does not hurt. We can be honest with God, who is always good, wise and faithful. His word comforts us in our trouble.
The Christians James was addressing in his letter were facing various afflictions, including rejection, discrimination and injustice. To help keep them from discouragement or bitterness, James exhorts them to practise perseverance in these ways:
- Rejoice and give thanks
James says, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds.” (1:2). Why should we rejoice in suffering? It is not that we take perverse pleasure in pain, but because we understand that our pain is not purposeless. “For you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.” (v3) Metal emerges stronger and purer from the refining fires of a furnace. In the same way, God takes us through the crucible of suffering to purify us and make us more like Jesus. Although we may not comprehend all that happens to us, yet we can entrust ourselves to a loving Father who works all things for our good and His glory.
- Be patient
Trials are especially hard when they are long drawn, with no clear end in sight. In such uncertain times, we are tempted to take matters into our own hands in order to “fix” our circumstances. However, our impatience may blind us to God’s process: what He is doing in our lives and how He means to work through our trials to sanctify us. James reminds us to be patient and to not short circuit God’s sanctifying work in us: “And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (1:4) In order for our trials to bear good fruit in our lives, we must learn to trust God through patient endurance. We must let him grow us in steadfastness.
- Depend on God
Tough times show us that we are neither self-sufficient nor in control. God often uses trials to expose the idolatry in our hearts and to draw us back to Him. Our difficulties are a divinely ordained opportunity for us to renew our dependence on God. We are reminded of our need for God. Without him, we are unable to live faithfully and fruitfully through suffering. This is the reason why James urges us to pray for help: “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.”
Our God can be trusted. We can therefore humble ourselves under His mighty hand, fully confident that He will enable us to endure and grow through our trials. Wheaton College professor Mark Talbot wrote:
We may not be able to understand what God is doing and how he can be perfectly good, all-powerful, and in control in the midst of great suffering. Yet God doesn’t require us to understand. He only asks that we not throw away our confidence in him. By maintaining it, we will receive a very great reward.
Indeed, let us continue to draw near to our loving Father through His Son, whom He has given for us and for our salvation.
At last Friday’s monthly prayer meeting, we gave thanks to God for His grace to us as a church. Several members—Lee Chung Cheong, Yanadi and Matthew Seah—shared testimonies of God’s faithfulness. Do continue to pray for God to grow us in faith, hope and love, so that we glorify Him as His people.
Pray also for David and Gladys Chang, our supported missionaries in Thailand. They have requested prayer for:
- Stamina and spiritual enabling in equipping church leaders;
- Gladys’ health; and
- Wisdom and patience in mentoring several younger leaders and missionaries who are experiencing personal crisis.
This Sunday, we will be hearing from Luke 11:37-54 about the difference between genuine faith and empty religion. May God help us to receive His gospel, and to have our hearts cleansed by His word!
We are now able to gather in a group of up to 50 people to participate in the service and celebrate the Lord’s Supper. It is a blessing to be able to meet one another face to face. To attend the service, you will need to sign up beforehand here: http://gracebaptistchurch.sg/service-registration. Places will be allocated to the first 50 registrants on a first-come-first served basis. Please present your email confirmation for admission into the church building.
We will be conducting baptisms during our service on September 27. Please email me (email@example.com) if you would like to find out more about following Jesus through baptism.
Our monthly Equip session takes place next Saturday (Sept 12, 330-530pm). We will focus on the topic of sex. In a broken world where sex is often associated with sin, guilt and shame, how can God’s people still affirm the goodness of sex? Join us to hear what the Bible has to say about sex, and how we can glorify God with our sexuality. The session will be held over Zoom via this link: https://tinyurl.com/equip-12sep2020