The Power in a Trial

The proverbial phrase, when life hands you lemons, make lemonade, is one I am sure we all have heard a time or two.

 It is easy to hear and even smile about but did you know it is biblical? If we follow this essential thinking. What it is saying is, instead of being victims, become victors. No matter what we face, perhaps the trial on the outside or the temptation on the inside, we can experience victory through our faith in Christ.

I will be the first to say it is a challenge to endure some tests and temptations. I believe that the Father knows this beforehand, which is part of the reason He allows the stretching. Jesus’ omniscience has no boundaries and His love for us, in the trial or when we are up against a temptation again. I don’t know about you, but I sometimes find it hard to solve problems with a smile on my face because sometimes they are hard.

The standard definition of a trial is a process of testing or investigation to prove innocence or guilt in a court of law. If anyone has ever sat through or been the center of a trial, then you know it can get intense. Just the thought of being on trial is stressful from a mental perspective but do me a favor. I want you to think about a trial from a spiritual perspective to test our faith through different ways used to build our inner man.

James 1:2-6 gives some imperatives for us to think on. If I did not know any better, it appears that James (one of the four brothers of Jesus Christ) is coming across a bit testy and so sure of himself but what he is explaining is the blueprint for how to go through the difficult times.

The truth is we are going through some tough times now as humans, a nation, and a world. There are four simple statements I want to point out that James has reminded us all of to stay encouraged through these times.

The first is to count a joyful attitude. Stop and think about this statement, Outlook determines the outcome, and attitude determines action. I had heard this statement from a professor when I was in college, and it stuck with me. Can I tell you something? We cannot expect everything to go our way. Jesus said to us in John 16:33, In the world, ye shall have tribulation. Some trials come because we are human- sickness, accidents, disappointments, even some tragedies. Sometimes this is hard to fathom and understand because God takes care of us through some pretty rough times.

This leads to my second point; some trials come because there is a test that we need to pass.

I know there were some that I failed, and I am not broadcasting or happy about these, but I might as well be transparent with you. Some of the simplest tests that the Lord placed before I failed because I did not study or thought I could handle. Such arrogance and thank God for deliverance and grace.

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials. James is telling us the importance of thinking carefully about a thing or evaluating it correctly. Do you know we are to assess our problems in the midst of what we value? Our values determine our evaluation. In other words, if I value comfort over character or if I value material and physical over spiritual, I cannot consider it all joy because what I value is more important than what I cannot see right now.  

The second James tells us it is when you encounter various trials. I know this probably not a new revelation for us, but let us take a look one more time. What James is informing us of is we will; trials are inevitably a part of life, and they are like mosquitos; they keep coming. Some translations may say, fall into. When you least expect and want them, they will appear out of nowhere, but guess what? They are building our inner man. A trial is like lifting weights. The more weight you take on, the stronger you become; the process consists of ripping the very thing you are trying to build (from the inside) first before the growth can appear outwardly. The muscle tissue stretches, and then it repairs, but when it restores, it is that much stronger. Did you catch that?

Knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. James 1:2

“To know” means that we are to have an understanding mind. We must know faith constantly is tested. Testing helps to prove something. Remember when we take examines of various sorts, well tests are taken to approve a thing. I watch the show Gold Rush sometimes, any fans reading this? Well, the show’s premise is they are searching (excavating land for gold) and when they find what they call “pay dirt,” they run it through a dredging machine that separates it from the dirt. The separation is necessary to relinquish the gold. The process is not easy and requires endurance. They put in some serious work that sometimes appears to be for naught. After a while, the prospectors reap the benefit of their work, gold ore. The gold prospector brings his ore sample into an assayer’s office for approval. The purpose of the Assayer tests a metal to see how pure it is. 1 Peter 1:7 is the scripture reference of this testing of faith. Endurance is not attained by reading a book, listening to a sermon, or even praying. They help but only going through the difficult situation life presents for us; trusting God and obeying Him is the point. James reminds us not to waver or have any doubt in who or what our responsibility should be.

And let endurance have its perfect result so that you may be perfect and complete lacking nothing.

The word “let” means a surrendered will or to relinquish control. God cannot build character without cooperation in the trial from us. Letting go of control is hard, especially when the trial appears to be intensifying, whether Covid, political and social injustice of any kind, or perhaps individually the problems we face. This word is for all of us; let endurance have its perfect result. Say that a few times to yourself or write it down today, but remind yourself that God is building our character and strength in the trials we continuously face. I think about times before when something has come up out of nowhere (it seems), and at the moment, it breaks me, but upon closer inspection, God is with me. And he is with you too.

James gives us insider information letting us know God desires to build our character before He calls us into service for Him. That is why the surrendering of ourselves to His will is essential. Ephesians 6:6 tells us we are to be surrendered not by way of eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as God pleasers, doing the will of God from the heart. There is the perfect and complete, lacking in nothing because when connected to our Lord, just like a caterpillar to a cocoon, we are equipped and built up for the journey ahead. The trial that we find ourselves in today, tomorrow, or yesterday is all perfecting us, friend.

Last but surely not least, James tells us But if any you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. Why did James say this? Does not he know if we are human, we lack wisdom in many areas? To some, the book of James is a guide for following the path to life, avoiding the way that leads to pain and heartache. And in doing so, it offers us something more, a consideration of the nature of faith. It can only be found in the Son of God and only when we truly desire wisdom or insight to be our goal. Insight helps us understand how to use these trials for our good and to bring God glory. Wisdom is the qualitative factor determining if we have evaluated the trial we are in, just came out, or about to enter correctly. Only when we seek God’s wisdom of handling or approaching even the trial are we able to win.

Maybe you are like me, that I have to remind myself of this very thing. James opens the book hot off the press with the power in a trial. Having to ask God for help, I believed, showed a lack of growth but no friend; that is the wisdom that Jesus wants to give when we ask. That is the accurate measure of our development- when we stop attempting to go through these circumstances alone and depend, even throw ourselves in the arms of Jesus. He knows what to do and will always bring us out more robust than when we went in.

Be encouraged.

“Mirrors” Genesis 1:26

Mirrors come in all shapes and sizes. From elegant to the ordinary. Various shapes and sizes. They leave their mark in foyers of homes, in marble bathrooms on Capitol Hill, and the everyday places of our lives. I don’t know about you, but it is never hurts to have a good mirror nearby. Right before I leave the house for work or to meet a friend, it is good to have a look. Some are grateful for the compact mirror, nestled in a purse or bag, which serves as a necessity.

I wonder in 1835 what problem Justus von Liebig was trying to fix when he created the mirror? The history of mirrors can be traced back to biblical accounts. In times past, natural mirrors were found in lakes and clay pots. The reflection of a mirror can be so magnificent when viewed with our eyes; it helps us fix what may be out of place. I must say I’ve had a time or two when the mirror allowed me to see something that I would have missed if I did not stop to look.  Mirrors serve an essential purpose, but more notably, it is not the mirror that is important, but what the mirror reflects.

Then God said, “Let US make man in our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” (Genesis 1:26)

The significance of the reflection on a mirror is two-fold. I recently learned that there is a law of reflection. When a ray of light hits the surface of a mirror, it bounces in a certain way- like a tennis ball thrown against a wall. Can you picture it? The light reflects back and forth, this way and that way, to give us a particular image. The light itself is invisible until it bounces off the mirror and hits our eyes perfectly as an image, creating the reflection from the light by the mirror. So consider the next time we give ourselves a once over, what are you reflecting? The light we reflect, like the mirror, to others.

God created us to reflect the image of Christ. In all we do, we should want the light to shine. Jesus said, “I am the light of the world.” (John 8:12) Our actions, motives, and thoughts should reflect this light. Here’s the question: If God created us to be mirrors for the kingdom of God in His “image and likeness,” how are we doing? I don’t know about you, but that hits home for me. I don’t always reflect HIS light- the light of His truth, way, or life- twenty-four seven. If a mirror has a crack on the surface, the light does not focus in one direction, but many. We can find ourselves just like the cracked mirror, in moments where the light can’t reflect (one way) because of hindering cracks in us, creating an altered reflection.

Mirrors don’t scatter light. With a smooth surface, light reflects without distorting the incoming image. Think about that statement for a moment.

Did you catch that? The light that we reflect should never give someone reason to say that we are not real or represent a terrible image. That would be considered a broken mirror. May we hope that it is not often said of us, “they profess to be representing the light, but the way they speak, act or treat people leaves question?”  They conduct themselves with certain people at times or are always posting on social media, but do not reflect the right light.

Sometimes, my mirror in the bathroom is motley with fingerprints, water stains, and toothpaste residue. I can still see, but I am distracted because it is not a clean surface that I am looking into. I usually have to grab the Windex and wipe the mirror down for a clean surface. How is the surface of our lives? How am I viewed daily by others?  If I do not examine myself from time to time, I could miss out on reflecting my best self. If I’m honest friend, there have been moments that I have not reflected an image of light. There have been too many moments where I did not reflect Christ’s love by His light. My surface has dimmed my reputation, character, and ability to be useful for His kingdom in some critical times. If you are reading this, think back to a time when you have not reflected Christ’s character, commitment, or ideas. What did you do about it?  

This may not be your truth, but I think there are some steps that we can practice to help us be mirrors that reflect light.  Or see where the reflection is not representing the best light and want to do better.

  1. Look in the mirror often. Friends, we are here to reflect Christ daily. What should this look like? And then I remind myself of Christ and how he lived, in humility.  The more we know what we should imitate, the more we reflect. I am striving at this every day, striving to be more like Him in the little things. How I talk, what I think about, even how I carry myself in my everyday dealings. Even where I have failed the Lord, I have to look and see.
  2. Please don’t ignore the little smudges; they lead to bigger ones. The small areas that we say are no big deal; will lead to larger problems if we do not clean them up. If I know my attitude needs work or I have a bitter place in my heart, I need to deal with it before it turns into something that I cannot control or consumes me. Eventually, those streaks will keep the light from shining and create holes of light unable to peek through from time to time.
  3. When you see something, do something. This may be the hardest to follow through with. It is one thing to see a problem, but it is another to work at correcting it for the better. I will be the first to say that sometimes it is tough to change your thoughts or behavior when things around us appear dark. It can be a battle to reflect light, but this is the mirror’s function- to reflect light in various spaces. Friend, nothing is too hard for the One that created us in the first place. Let this be your strength and know that we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.

Mirrors attract more light from surrounding areas. The light reflects off of the mirror, which brightens the room or atmosphere. If you are picturing this, you can see a warm, embracing room with mirrors that illuminate the light creating an inviting atmosphere that all who enter can feel. Be the mirror for Christ, and watch the light reflect everywhere friend.

Father, help us to reflect your love and your ways in our everyday life. Give us the wisdom to know wherever we are that we represent you. Allow us to brighten atmosphere’s everywhere with your image portrayed on our lives. In Jesus’ name, Amen