I was on a motorcycle ride couple years ago with my neighbor. We were riding my favorite route, which is St. Croix River road in to Stillwater, riding a little further south until you cross the bridge into Prescott, Wisconsin, then riding the Wisconsin side down to Winona. With Lake Pepin, the rocks and trees, it is a beautiful ride, with plenty of turns and great places to stop and eat. The problem this day was, they were in the middle of construction about 10 miles out of Prescott. The main asphalt was scraped off and the road was like a mix of corrugated asphalt and rock. When your on 2 wheels, a road like that heightens your focus, it is no longer a “relax and enjoy the scenery” kind of ride. On that day, the beautiful weather and smooth roads were relaxing and carefree – but the moment we got on the rough road life became more difficult and challenging.
I share this because it reminded me of the “road of faith” as I studied James 1 this week, particularly James 1:2-4. As Christians we have a desire to honor God in all we say, think, and do – the problem is; we live in a fallen world that pulls us, we have a powerful enemy that hates us, and we have the flesh that tempts us.
For many of us, this problem is made even more difficult because we think the road of faith is like the first part of the ride described above – we think our hand has been stamped, we are headed for Glory, so let’s sit back and enjoy the ride until we get there. However, that is not even close to how Scripture describes the road to Glory. The road is littered with trials. These trials come in the form of persecution, temptation, illness, survival, and relational difficulties at work, with friends, and with family.
These trials have a cause and effect. God has a desired outcome for trials – it first tests the genuineness of our faith. When trials come, will you abandon your faith because living the way the world lives is easier? Will you look to the solutions the world offers for your problems, or will you trust in God? When temptation comes will you yield to it, or will you flee to the escape route God provides?
There has to be a paradigm shift – we must have a different way of thinking if our mindset is to sit back and enjoy the ride. If I would have rode that “corrugated” highway with the same carefree mindset I did the smooth roads I probably wouldn’t have made it safely. It is not that the road was impossible, it was that the road required more focus and awareness of what I was up against. If we understand what we are up against, a road littered with trials, and these trials are to test our faith – we will navigate the road with more caution and focus. If we have an awareness and expectation of these trials we will be prepared instead of confused. We must understand that the Christian life is not easier, it is more difficult. We are told that the narrow road that leads to life is difficult and there are few that go that way.
When we are met with trials we are called to be steadfast. This means we must stand firm, we must not waver. To be steadfast is to be fixed in a direction, and that direction is toward Christ. Steadfastness can also be thought of as grit. Grit is the relentless resolve to keep pursuing a desired goal and not give up. True grit is forged in the fires of adversity.
The effect, the result, of the grit of a Christian in the midst of trials is perfection, completeness, lacking nothing. When I think, as a Christian, of what I want most I arrive at three things: I want the peace of God, I want the assurance of salvation, and I want to be directed by the Spirit of God to ensure I am doing the work He has for me to do. I would be lacking nothing if I had the peace, assurance, and direction of God in my life 24/7. If I want that, as I say I do, then I will be steadfast when I face trials – but not only will I be steadfast, but I will count it all joy when I face trials. Why should I “count it all joy”? Because the trials test my faith, and the testing of my faith (when found to be genuine) produces steadfastness, and the effect of steadfastness is that I will be perfect, complete, lacking in nothing.
James 1:2-4 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
Matthew 7:13-14 "Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many.14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.
Luke 13:24 "Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able.