Do you want strength? How about victory? Prosperity? Contentment? Now, let me ask you a tougher question. Do you want tribulation? Not likely, right? Most of us don't. But James chapter one teaches us that it is in tribulation that that we learn endurance (KJV patience).
If we don't learn to endure, we're not going to learn much of anything and more importantly, we're not going to build character unless we endure (see also Romans 5:3). The faith that can't be tested can't be trusted.
Here are five things that I've learned from trials and tribulations.
Why do we count it all joy? Because if God gives you a test and you overcome, then you will be filled with His joy. So pull some of the groans out of your prayers, shove in a few hallelujahs, and count in all joy. As Barbara Johnson said, "Pain is inevitable, but misery is optional."
You grow when trials come. The Greek word telios in this verse does not mean perfect, it means maturity. An oak tree is the perfection of an acorn. Men lift great weights to develop muscle. God does not want us to be spiritual creampuffs. When did you grow the most? When problems came and you learned to endure.
It is a mark of growth when we stop asking why things are happening and start remembering Who is in control. Knowledge is learned from looking around; wisdom is learned from looking up. Knowledge comes by study; wisdom comes by prayer.
When trials come, ask God for wisdom. And as you pray, ask in faith: "Dear God, I know that it is Your will that I have wisdom. Thank You for giving me wisdom."
I've learned that in difficulty, sorrow, pain and perplexity, you can learn to live as a king. The apostle Paul said in Romans 8:17 that we are to reign in life. God wants you to have dominion over all things. But if you do not bear the cross, you cannot wear the crown.
In life, when trials and tribulations come, remember to get under and stay under until God is finished. And when He is finished, He will give you the crown of life (see Proverbs 25:28).
How would you like to come to the place where there's nothing you want? Well, according to James 1:4, you can come to that place. The word "wanting" in this verse does not mean desire — it means necessity.
Years ago, I went to a camp meeting in the back woods of Florida. At the time, I was driving a Volkswagen that didn't have a gasoline gauge but it had two tanks. When you ran out of gas in the first tank, you turned a lever to turn on the second tank that contained just a little over a gallon of gas.
With no gas gauge, I had forgotten I was already on that second tank! And so I began to pray. I knew I was running on fumes, but I kept on praying. I saw the gas station in the distance just when the car ran out of gasoline and the motor stopped. I put the car in neutral and we coasted to the pump. Believe me, that was no exaggeration.
Now God doesn't always work miracles like that for you or for me, but the thing I'm trying to illustrate is I didn't need any gas until I got to the pump. God will always meet our needs in His timing.
James 5:7-8 says, "Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain. Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh."
God wants to give you riches, but you can't hurry the harvest. The problem with many of us is that we want it all now. That's the reason so many people are up to their eyeballs in credit. They're buying things they don't need with money they don't have to impress people they don't like. But God says, "Endure! Endure! I'll give you the real riches of life."
You cannot pass the tests of life until you enroll in the school of hard knocks. But don't despair. It is in that school that you will find enjoyment, enlargement, enlightenment, enthronement, and enrichment that will last a lifetime.