James 1:2-4 (NLT)
Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.
When the oncologist came for the initial consult with our son, it was the morning after we had received the devastating news that the tumor hidden away in his nasopharyngeal cavity was in fact cancerous. I will not bore you with the traumatic and devastating details of such a moment, but instead talk about the morning after. When you survey your life from a different perspective adopting a title never considered before. I am the mother of a cancer patient which is nothing that I have ever aspired to be yet God in His Infinite and Divine Wisdom knowing all the days of my life somehow empowered me to carry this role to completion. He sees something in me that I did not realize was there and am still trying to fully discover. On that morning, the man who walked wore a smart bow tie, very studious glasses and relayed information like a college professor discussing the etiology and progression of the disease, as well as, treatment plan. He asked if our son had any questions and he did – just one. How? How could he get cancer with no risk factors? He never smoked or drank. He was not of Asian descent and never lived overseas and hates fish. (The most common population who gets this kind of cancer at this age.) Nothing fit into his logical mind about how this developed. Our son is a very scientific and mathematical thinker who needs logic to understand. His question came across as curiosity rather than some sort of accusation. The doctor did not hesitate in answering. He told him that everybody goes through “that thing” in their life. It has nothing to do with them and is not about them but comes with the package. It is up to us as individuals what we do with “that thing” and how we allow it to impact our life. The doctor told our son that this was “that thing” and that once he overcame it nothing would stop him again.
I am not really sure why his words came back to me today as I sought the Lord about “that thing” again. But I believe the secret to understanding “that thing” is found in James 1:2-4. When troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. Raise your hand today if you would rejoice if the doctor told you that you or a loved one had cancer. Don’t worry I didn’t rejoice either. The message though is clear that we will have troubles in this world. The promise attached to the declaration is what we must take hold of – every trail you face is an opportunity for joy in your life. Like you, I wish a kind “no thanks” would ward off the “opportunity” of trial by fire but it does not. I also wish that once you were saved all of our problems melted away in the same sea of forgetfulness as our sin. It just doesn’t work that way. The thing you are going through today may be that thing that has the potential to change your life for the better forever. Our faith must be tested for validity due to the fickleness of the human heart. When faith endures and is fully developed we are complete and need nothing more than Jesus Christ. You will never trust the Lord with your whole life including everything and everyone in it until you apply faith to that thing, endure that thing until you overcome that thing.
John 16:33 (AMP)
I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have [perfect] peace and confidence. In the world you have tribulation and trials and distress and frustration; but be of good cheer [take courage; be confident, certain, undaunted]! For I have overcome the world. [I have deprived it of power to harm you and have conquered it for you.]
Perfect peace and confidence is not easily attained. I know a great deal of people who would say today that they trust the Lord with their life but until you walk to the line of now and forever either personally or with a loved one – it is very hard to tell. The world is full of tribulation, trials, distress, and frustration. The key is in the next part of the verse – “but be of good cheer, take courage, be confident, certain and undaunted.” Bad things happen to good people. Sin is rampant. Love has grown cold. This world is not the environment created by God but is subject to the darkness that prevails here. You live in the world but are a product of God so you will always long for a perfect life. It is innate. Jesus Christ overcame the world including that thing that appears to be destroying your life. It may be actually tearing about this life, but the Lord promises that He will give you a much better one in return for the broken pieces of this one. All you need is faith. He has given us a measure of faith (Romans 12:2) to use to begin to cultivate all that He has for us. But until you believe that Jesus Christ accomplished everything that He promised to do on the Cross enough to live like it trials will produce sorrow rather than peace and joy. As we learn to hold out longer and longer by faith, endurance produces confidence in our life. Jesus Christ deprived the world (including its ruler) of his power to harm you. He went before you and conquered the enemy. Faith allows us to walk in victory when all hell seems to be breaking loose in our life. It is the foundation that keeps us safe and secure so the storm does not tear us apart. You will never know if you have faith unless it is tested by that thing you fear the most. Fear is a predator of faith. It will consume your faith if given the opportunity sowing seeds of doubt rather than confident hope. We must learn by faith to identify “that thing” in our life as an opportunity rather than a tragedy. We must learn to hold fast to hope and not the situation at hand. We must identify with God our Father and not become associated with the trial we are facing. This too shall pass…it really will. It is up to you what you end up with when it’s over.
I Peter 1:5-7 (AMP)
Who are being guarded (garrisoned) by God’s power through [your] faith [till you fully inherit that final] salvation that is ready to be revealed [for you] in the last time. [You should] be exceedingly glad on this account, though now for a little while you may be distressed by trials and suffer temptations, so that [the genuineness] of your faith may be tested, [your faith] which is infinitely more precious than the perishable gold which is tested and purified by fire. [This proving of your faith is intended] to redound to [your] praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One) is revealed.
If you have accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior of your life, you are under being guarded. The Holy Spirit lives inside of you. His angels are positioned all around you. God’s Power is in full effect because by faith you have accepted the role of righteousness offered at the Cross and returned to your Heavenly Father. Nothing can every separate you from His Love. His Goodness and Unfailing Love pursue you every single day. He leaves new mercies on your doorstep each morning to make sure that your right standing remains intact. God is doing everything that He can to massage and mature your faith to confident hope that will endure to the end. I know many people who have lost loved ones or have been hurt so badly that they slam close the door to their heart and shut out the Lord. God didn’t do all those awful things. It broke His Heart to see it happen. But He cannot make His Goodness come forth unless you remain connected to Him by faith allowing your hope to keep grow in the midst of sadness, sorrow and setbacks. We have shut God out of our government, schools, businesses, home, friendships including most of our life only reserving Sunday, occasional Wednesdays, and certain holidays for worship. We through the Word of God on a shelf like an emergency handbook. Most Christians only pray, study the Word and act right in church forgetting whose Name they bear in the world. But when tragedy comes and that thing is bearing down on us – those same people cannot figure out why God has not busted down the door to rescue, heal and deliver them. Probably because we are the ones holding it shut and the Lord would never harm His Beloved. Faith is tested by the fire of refinement for genuineness. Each trail reveals any impurity so it can be removed. With each test, our faith grows stronger and more developed. In doing so, we produce a hope that is confident and sure. Is the Lord working to prove your faith today? What is that thing you are going through? Did you know that His Grace is always sufficient for you and that thing?
2 Corinthians 12:8-10 (NLT)
Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
I would be a liar to say that I have only asked the Lord to remove cancer from our life three times. I have begged, pleaded, cried, ranted, and bargained to have this removed from our life permanently. It just didn’t work. At some point, the Lord put this image of a marathon in my head. The more that I prayed about it the more an image of a runner wearing my Nikes running a course. Not just any course, but one with rocks and rough terrain. Each footfall producing a dust cloud. At some point rather than quitting and giving up (or being rescued and/or immediately delivered) I figured out that I have been ordained and commissioned to finish the race. But Lord, I am not a runner. You are now! My grace is all that you need. My power works best in weakness. Once you decide that everything you want, need and desire comes from Jesus Christ – you will pursue Him wholeheartedly. Most people will not do that until every other person and thing in their life proves ineffective and useless. It is at the point of total and utter devastation and weakness that we are willing to relinquish control of our life to the Lord and follow His Ways. If we can get by on our own, than that is exactly what our human nature will press for us to do. What is your greatest weakness? Is it your spouse? Your singleness? Your children? Your job? Your social life? The list goes on and on. Our weaknesses are the most vulnerable points of attack in our life. My children were my “everything” for my whole life. When my life plan did not turn out as planned or expected, rather than clinging to Jesus Christ – I held on to them. It became my life mission to be the best mom that I could be. It was a source of pride so that even if I failed at every other endeavor in life that I knew I could love and take care of my kids. That is until cancer came calling – it is was in one swift act that my life came crashing down around me. How can I be a good mother but not save my own child? I can’t but Jesus can. See the transition of faith that is taking place, I can no longer trust myself or anyone else with my children’s wellbeing and salvation so now I must turn them over to the Lord. Whoa! Holy Transformation! Now that I no longer bear the responsibility, I can experience the full privileges of His Grace as God is now free to work His Plan in their lives without my intervention and interruptions. The Power of Christ is manifest in us by faith and confident hope that comes from the sufficiency of His Grace. You must be weak to become strong. Your faith must be tested to be found true. You must endure to be made complete lacking no good thing. Are you up to the test today? Don’t worry! You don’t have to be because His Grace is sufficiency for thee.
I Peter 4:12-13 (NLT)
Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you. Instead, be very glad—for these trials make you partners with Christ in his suffering, so that you will have the wonderful joy of seeing his glory when it is revealed to all the world.
The enemy is like a roaring lion seeking whoever he can devour. He is a toothless, clawless, harmless, and powerless housecat who can do nothing more than hiss at his victims. But let me tell you that “hiss” can be very intimidating. There was a news story not so long ago about a cat that held its family hostage in a bedroom until they called 911 to come help them. Seriously, a housecat come on people. Fear seems so big when in reality it is nothing more than a hiss or roar. Do you run from lions roaring in the zoo? Of course not. They are surrounded by a cage, glass or high exhibit walls that act as a barrier so they cannot harm us. The Love of God surrounds us and protects us. We have nothing to fear the moment that thing hits our life. It is the declaration of our God that there are better days ahead if we are willing to apply faith to the situation, allow confident hope to develop by choosing to endure until His Glory meets us in that place. You will wait for someone that you know is coming. You have faith in them and confidence in their arrival. Joy in anticipation. Peace that they will not let you down. People will always fall short of our expectation but not the Lord. He is coming to meet you and accompany you through that thing. Just call out His Name, grab hold of faith and be confident. Three years and five relapses since the doctor imparted these words of profound wisdom, I can look over at our son who is being filled with chemotherapy and know that God is good! I have complete and total peace. My heart is secure. Not because we have escaped hardship, not because the trial has passed or even that remission is for sure – no I am happy because my faith in God has proven valid, my hope in Him secure as we learn to endure. This thing that we are going through was not part of God’s Plan but He made provision for me anyway by giving me His Riches at Christ’s Expense. Isn’t that what grace is all about! So today as you face that thing – remember that there is great joy ahead. Peace that passes all understanding will meet you on the way. Most importantly, there is nothing that can every separate you from the Love of God!
Romans 8:38-39 (NLT)
And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.