In the first post in this short series, I explained that I’m working my way through a few posts on the topic of perseverance. But, I’m dealing with some different issues related to perseverance and the church, perhaps some topics that we don’t often deal with. For example, the first post dealt with persevering through temptation, the second post dealt with persevering through forgiveness, and the third post dealt with persevering in grace.
In today’s post, I’m looking at persevering in trials. We don’t like trials, persecutions, and suffering, but the New Testament authors warn that trials will come, and they exhort their readers to persevere during and through those trials.
As with the other scriptural exhortations to persevere, there are many passages that I could turn to as an example of encouragement to persevere in the midst of trials and suffering. I picked this one:
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds… (James 1:2 ESV)
Many people have commented on the fact that those who follow Jesus should rejoice whenever they face persecution for their faith in God. (Jesus himself said this in Matthew 5:11-12, among other places.)
However, notice that James is commanded his readers to rejoice. “Count it all joy” is an imperative. Why would James need to command his readers to rejoice during trial? Because the tendency (human tendency, perhaps) is to not rejoice, but to despair when facing persecution.
(And, I need to state up front that I am talking about persecution caused by someone’s faith and by following Jesus Christ. I’m not talking about giving up certain TV shows or caffeinated drinks or having someone smirk at your or other things that people often call “trials”.)
When we are submitted to the Lord – when we are walking in the Holy Spirit – we are able to rejoice in the midst of trials and persecutions. When we look away from him and toward ourselves, we begin to despair because of the troubles that we’re facing.
This is where our brothers and sisters in Christ can help us, and where we can help other believers. Our encouragement and reminders to those facing trials to remember Jesus can help them turn back to their joy of their life in Christ. (By the way, this is exactly what the author of Hebrews is doing in Hebrews 12:1-3 and following.)
Obviously, joy comes only from God working in our lives. But, as we all know, God often works through our brothers and sisters in Christ – as well as others. We can be conduit for joy that God uses, and we can expect God to work through others to bring us joy – even when we are facing persecution and trials.
Do you have any stories to share of times when other believers have helped you be joyful in spite of persecution or when God used you to bring joy to a brother or sister who was being persecuted?
[Addendum: Last weekend, I had a change to speak with a brother from Ethiopia who constantly lived in the midst of trials and physical persecution. He not only reminded me that it is possible to have joy during trials, but he also reminded me how important it is that we share in one another’s suffering. He told me how helpful it was for him to receive notes of encouragement and to know that people were praying for him.]