Trials & Maturity
“Blessed is a man who endures trials, because when he passes the test he will receive the crown of life that He has promised to those who love Him.” (James 1:12)
In the Christian faith, we will face many trials, it’s going to be hard and many end up walking away from the faith, which is not the best thing to do in the Christian faith. The bible tells us to have joy when we face trials in life and to enjoy it, we are blessed when we face them.
I wrote that above paragraph about 9 years ago. I think it safe to say that life is full of problems. Traffic, work, school, those are just the main places you may find your next problem to solve, problems are part of life.
There are problems though that we can’t expect to come around the corner. Recently between 6 to 9 tornadoes touch down in Dallas, TX destroying homes, churches, businesses. As an uber driver, I drive through these neighborhoods daily and see the destruction. Some parts look like a war broke out and other parts are untouched. From looking at the damages I can only guess that it will be a year before the families and businesses and the churches are back up and running in that neighborhood.
I meet people every day from all walks of life. One man recently was talking to his wife on the phone about the doctor telling him he had cancer. Another man was telling me about how his wife had a few months left to live. I meet other people who are on their way to do business deals and people from Washington DC down here just to party for the weekend. It’s like we are all in our own little world, passing by each other with smiles on our faces, but each person is facing a different circumcise.
I don’t know what it’s like to have cancer or be told that my wife has a few months left to live. I do know what it is like to be homeless and hungry, not knowing if I will eat tomorrow. I know how it feels when your car breaks down and you been living in your car for a year. I am only living my story, but other people have unspeakable stories that truly break my heart.
It’s important to understand we all have hardships that hit our lives, but it’s even more important to understand that in those hardships we learn two simple words, “Trust God”. Those two words have got me through homelessness, broke down cars, unemployment, and my problems I faced as a manager in Walmart. Oh, I have stories about that company. You would think being a manager in Walmart is a walk in the park, it’s not.
“consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. But endurance must do its complete work, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.” (James 1:2-4)
What is Endurance?
In some translations of this text, it may say the word “perseverance”. In the greek, we will read “ὑπομονὴν” (hypomonēn). It means to be able to hold on and to go through something. Not to fall and never get back up, but that when you fall, you get back up and become stronger than before. To be able to endure through the storms of life and hold on to Jesus Christ. See how it says, “must do its complete work”. God didn’t put us in the storm for anything, it’s there for us to grow stronger (…mature and complete, lacking nothing…).
3 Keys of Endurance
- Trust in God
Proverbs 18:10 “The name of the Lord is a fortified tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.” When we face a hard time the first thing we need to do is turn to God.
- Seek God Intensely
Proverbs 4:4-6 “Then he taught me, and he said to me, “Take hold of my words with all your heart; keep my commands, and you will live. Get wisdom, get understanding; do not forget my words or turn away from them. Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you; love her, and she will watch over you.” ‘Take hold’, ‘Get wisdom’, ‘Do not forsake wisdom’. This is a picture of clinging to the Word of God and pursuing God with all your might. In times of hardship, the best thing you can do is Seek God Intensely. Prayer Time and Bible Time. Speaking to God (Prayer) & allowing God to speak to you (Bible).
Psalms 1 got me through a lot when I first came to Christ. Sounds silly, but I went through a breakup with a girl when I was 19. I thought this girl was the one. We dated for 3 years and I was ready to buy a ring and ask her to marry me. We ended up breaking up. That broken relationship led me down a broken road. I party for 5 or 6 weeks, and spend maybe $2k or $3k. Don’t worry, I had way more saved up for the ring and wedding. I was trying to find happiness in the midst of sadness.
Psalm 1:1 says, “Blessed is the one who”. The word “Blessed” can also mean “Happy”. David, the writer, is saying, “Happy is the one who” … “delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night.”
Right about now, people stop reading, because of the word “law”. When I first read this, I was scared. Do I have to follow a law? This is a great example of why we must study the Bible and not just read the bible. You don’t look at a plant and assume that there is nothing more to study about the plant, no, you cut open the plant and study it. The Bible Studies you and I must study in which we cut open the Bible and study it, both from a 30k feet view and a -50k feet dive. From a 30k feet view we read “Law of the Lord” in this passage, but when we take that -50k feet dive, we find out that it means “Word of the Lord”, which is a term referring to the bible.
In David’s time, the Word of God was commonly called the Law of God, because God gave the Jewish people a-lot of laws to follow after coming out of slavery. Now between 3000 to 4000 years later in our time, we look back at history and we understand the Bible is the Word of God and not only the Law of God. Both are the same things and both give Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth (BIBLE). We are called to Know God through His Written Word. I say Written because Jesus was the Living Word. We are called to Know God through both the Written Word and the Living Word. The two can not be separated, to separate the two is like to cut an atom in half, which causes an atomic explosion. Taking Jesus or the Bible out of your Walk With God is only going to cause your Walk With God to explode, and these explosions lead to Destruction. Proverbs 13:15 “Good judgment wins favor, but the way of the unfaithful leads to their destruction.”
If I am honest I hate this part of the truth. I don’t like being around other people. I am just fine sitting alone in the church in the very back, just leave me alone. For me, stepping outside of my comfort zone is stepping into a community group, as Watermark Community Church calls it. Maybe that is why I am single. That is partly the reason why I have not been to the Marine Corp Ball in the all-time that I have been in the Marines. If I can find a way to escape, I will find a way. There is a word for this, “Introvert”.
I have been trying to overcome this horrible personality type. I personally believe that this is a result of the fall of Adam. In the Beginning, God made Adam and Eve. God wanted to be in Community with Adam and Eve and he wanted both of them to be in Community with each other. Community with other people was God’s original design. When Adam ate of the fruit and God came walking into the garden calling for Adam and Eve, the text says, Genesis 3:8 “they hid from the Lord God”.
The first thing that happens as the result of sin was the community with God was broken. I find it interesting though. Even though sin had entered into the world, God still pursued Adam and Eve, Genesis 3:9 – But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”. A ton of people think that God wants nothing to do with them, because of all the sinful things they have done, but that’s not true. God is pursuing you as you are wasting away in your sin and hiding from God, God is calling you out.
So our relationship with God needs to be restored back to its original design and that is done by coming forward to God and confusing the truth about the sin you committed. Genesis 3:10 – He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”. Adam comes to God. The problem though is he doesn’t admit the sin he committed, instead, he pushes the blame on God and on his Wife, then Eve pushes the blame on the serpent. That act of pushing the blame on someone else shows that there is fear. Adam and Eve are fearful of the punishment that was promised by God if they ate the fruit. Fearful of Death. That day something did die. Their relationship with the Creator died. #SpiritualDeath. I wonder how it might have played out if Adam would have said, “God, I’m sorry I ate the fruit you told me not to.” Maybe God would have forgiven the sin and that broken relationship would have been restored.
The next broken relationship that needs to be restored is with other people. Adam blamed Eve. That fellowship that Adam had with Eve is broken now. Do you think Eve trusts Adam? Her husband snitched her out to the Creator. Dude, that’s like the worst thing you could ever do in a marriage.
So this result of sin entering into the world destroyed our relationship with God and with other people. We need to be restored back into that relationship with God first and foremost and then with other people.
When we face hardship in life, it’s important we have others around us. Being an introvert caused me to be homeless for a long time when I faced hardship. Ecclesiastes 4:9-12, “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”
“Two are better than one” – This is a picture marriage relationship in the eyes of Solomon, the writer. You can also read it as 2 roommates in the 21 century.
“A cord of three strands is not quickly broken” – This is a picture of a marriage relationship with God binding both of them together. Three Strands, Husband, God, and Wife. God should be in the middle of their relationship. As they turn to look towards each other, God is in the middle and they come together in all decision making with the view of God in each of those decisions. God should remain in the center of their marriage.
Maybe you’re not married, maybe you’re just in a community group or roommates with someone. God still needs to be the center of those relationships. If God is not in the center of those relationships, it is time to find new friends and new relationships. Proverbs 4:14 “Like a broken tooth or a lame foot is reliance on the unfaithful in a time of trouble.”.
“The unfaithful in a time of trouble” – think about that. Are you around people who got your back if everything goes wrong? I was out of a car a few months ago. I needed to get to drill, so I packed my bag and I was going to walk 20 plus miles to get to drill. Well, on my 3rd mile, my Gunnery Sergeant happened to pass me while driving, he stopped and asked what I was doing. I told him and this guy got me lunch, a haircut, and a ride to drill. Do you have people around you like that? Just going to stop everything they’re doing and help you? I don’t know what his faith status is, but if I had to guess, I would guess Christian, because very few non-Christians would do what he did. But then again, it’s the Marine Corps and we watch each other’s back. It’s a brotherhood that even the church can learn from.
Being in the Marines is tough. I will admit that. If there is anything that requires endurance it’s the running that we have to do. It is a 3-mile run that needs to be finished in under 27 minutes. I make that run around 23 minutes. The one problem is that you can’t just expect to run these 3 miles and not train for this run. So I have been learning more about how legs muscles work because I’m getting slower at my running. Training before the test is important and that is true for the Christian walk too.
How do I train for a test in the Christian Walk?
Reading your bible is a great way to start. You have to learn about the Christian Walk and reading the bible is where you can learn those things. Praying to God daily is another great place to start. If you are going to walk with God you need to have conversations with him.
God is seeking you like a woman seeks a man and like a man seeks a woman. That is why the Christian faith is called a personal relationship with God. We are making the claim that we know and walk with God.
This is the whole point of the bible. In the beginning, God walked with Adam in the garden. 4000 years later, Jesus steps on the earth and God now begins a ministry where he walks with the 12 disciples for those 3 years. Adam’s sin is what destroyed our relationship with God, in Genesis 3, but Jesus’s death on the cross is what bridges the gap between us and God, making a way for us to renew that broken relationship with God. Take advantage of that opportunity. To walk with and know God today.
Many people are trying to earn their way to God. They think they can offer something to God, but that’s not true. All God wants is your heart. Just like a wife wants the heart of her husband or the Husband wants the heart of his wife. God only wants your heart, you can never offer anything greater than your own heart. Your love for Him is far more valuable to God than anything else in this world. Hosea 6:6 – “For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.” “Mercy” is the intro of the relationship, “Acknowledgement” is the building up of that relationship. Like laying down a foundation with Mercy and building up the walls and putting on the roof with Acknowledgment of God.
This is a great example of how the Christian faith isn’t a walk in the park, as a lot of teachers claim it to be. I know persecution (suffering trail; many believers face) is not a walk in the park, maybe in the USA, but not in other places in the world.
I was talking recently to a woman that was convert from islam to christianity from a nation that would have her killed for doing that. I am unsure if she is alive. She wanted to know more about Jesus the last I spoke to her. In some places, Jesus will cost you everything.
Doing a simple Google Search, you can find Christian persecution everywhere and every day almost. According to Open Door USA, on their website at OpenDoorsUsa.org/christian-persecution, 245 Million Christians worldwide are experiencing high levels of persecution. 4305 killed, 1847 churches/Christian buildings were destroyed, 3150 arrested, those numbers were for November 1, 2017-October 31, 2018.
The reason behind sharing that information was not to make you sad but to help you see that we all are facing trials, but some of us are facing trials that could lead us to the death penalty for something as simple as believing in Jesus.
In some places, writing this book could get me killed. That’s another great reason to stop right now and thank those who serve this great nation. People put their lives on the line for our freedom.
Now understand this, every believer goes through the storm. It’s a testing of our faith. To know if we truly are saved. If we fall away, then we never had been saved, but for us to endure in the storm, trusting God in the mist, then we are saved. Storms are put in our lives to help us grow stronger with God. Unbelievers fall away in the storm because they don’t know God.
Judge yourself, and don’t judge other people. Growing up, my pastor would say we aren’t to judge other people’s lives or say rather or not they’re going to hell. I agree, but we sure can judge ourselves and our own personal life, to make sure we are standing right with God.
Asking for Wisdom
In our walk with the Lord, we can ask for anything, but in the period we face trials, we are to ask for wisdom. God will give it to us, if we ask, and don’t doubt, the wisdom of our God lasts forever, and we will see the world in new ways, but not like this world, its wisdom is like a plant, it looks so amazing from the inside out, but it will die out and be no more. It’s also like rust, rust on metal looks very shiny like gold from far away, but it’s just rust, it’s not really valuable. It’s worthless.
“Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives to all generously and without criticizing, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith without doubting. For the doubter is like the surging sea, driven and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. An indecisive man is unstable in all his ways.” (James 1:5-7)
Why ask for wisdom? Why not just ask God to get me out of the storm? We would be on their knees asking God, “Get me out of this storm God”. But we should be asking God, “Give me wisdom in this storm”. Out of the experience of the storm, we grow stronger in our faith. In persecuted countries, Christians asked God for stronger backs.
I was in blind denial for a long time. When I was sleeping in my car, many people told me to go get a room at an extended stay hotel for $250/week. I said no because I can save more sleeping in my car. Now 3 years later, I’m saving more sleeping at an extended stay hotel. See my car doesn’t have a bathroom, kitchen, internet, and tv. I had to pay for a gym membership to have access to a bathroom and shower, I had to go to Starbucks for wifi, I had to go to fast-food places to eat hot food.
Just like my friends giving me the advice to go live at an extended stay hotel instead of my car, God wants to give us advice when we are faced with difficulty. Come to think about it now, God was giving me advice and he was using other people to speak wisdom into my ears. Be open to take advice from others, it may just be God speaking the very things he wants to tell you.
A long time ago I was looking for a job for 2 years, he (God) gave one to me starting part-time. I needed full-time. God only provided a part-time job that I work all day Saturday and Sunday. I missed church and that really made me sad, I would cry out to God, “’Why?!”. After 6 months of having that job, and trying to do everything I could to get another job. Finally, nothing was working, I just said, “Know what I’m going to just humble myself and clean bathroom’s the rest of my life and accept part-time and the minimum wage amount. God will provide for me, I will trust in him.” I emailed my boss and asked for Monday through Friday to work in the pool, summer in 2013. He never emailed me back.
I prayed over and over. “God please give me max part-time hours in the pool job that I can receive.” I went in to work on Saturday, the boss was checking his email and then I walked around to clean something, but he looked at me and said, “Hey, yeah, you’re going to get a lot of hours this summer in the pool.” I thought, “Oh, like last time, here and there hours”. I was so happy and sad inside, I was hoping for more hours, but I was still looking at him, and then he said, “40 hours a week this summer in the pool.” I didn’t want to look surprised, but I said, “Thank You, that is going to help me out a lot.” I was asking God for max part-time hours to humble myself and God made it where that summer, I got the max full-time hours. Later, God gave me a full-time job at Walmart at an even higher wage.
Pray, and be faithful to God. Know that he is there and trust in him. Also, I grew, even though I got a full-time job, I still would have been thankful even if I was stuck with a part-time job after that full-time job is done.
We have a faithful God, so stay faithful to him, he’ll help you grow and he’ll do amazing things that will surprise you. Never thought I’ll ever hear a manager say I’m getting 40 hours. I never thought I would be a manager. Never thought I would be a US Marine either, but both those things happened.
Re-reading this old story, it’s been so long, years have passed by. I never thought in a million years that I would be called a Marine. When I was cleaning bathrooms and swimming pools and dreaming about full-time hours. I couldn’t have ever thought that my next job would lead me to an hourly head management position with the world retail giant. I remembered being 5ft away from the CEO of Walmart in my first store I was a manager at. This past summer I was in the same tent as a 1 Star Marine General with a bunch of marine officers and I’m just an enlisted. I really wish sometimes God would stop putting me in front of powerful people. That stuff stresses me out. I remember bumping into the Founder of Watermark Community Church once. People I know who know him say that he hates being a pastor of a megachurch and being known worldwide. Well, I hate being around people who are high up in the chain of command. I feel like God knows that best about me, see God will purposefully make you uncomfortable, in order to help you grow stronger.
I got promoted one time like that. I was at one Walmart, trying to start over and not be a manager. So I hid at a small little store 20 miles from the store that people knew me. Well, a manager that knew me was transferred to that store a few weeks after I started and within a month, I’m the most famous employee in this store. I found myself standing in front of the store manager. He knew everything about me, but I was still trying to act like I’m new to the system. Yeah, it didn’t work, a week later I was in charge of half the store. Then about 4 years later I’m at another store and I’m in charge of the whole store. In the role of an Hourly Manager.
This new role of my life was a role of problems and I was praying for God’s wisdom every day that I was working in this role at Walmart. My years as a manager taught me so much about leadership and grew me into the person I am today. My success doing uber full-time is because of the skills I learn about managing a business from Walmart.
Whatever season of life you are currently in, pray for God to give you wisdom as you walk through this season in your life. That wisdom will carry you to the next season and make you an even better, stronger, and greater champion of the faith.
“The brother of humble circumstances should boast in his exaltation; but the one who is rich should boast in his humiliation, because he will pass away like a flower of the field. For the sun rises with its scorching heat and dries up the grass; its flower falls off, and its beautiful appearance is destroyed. In the same way, the rich man will wither away while pursuing his activities.” (James 1:9-11)
“Rich should boast in his humiliation”
This makes me think of the tornado that hit Dallas a few weeks ago. It destroyed many parts of the rich people’s neighborhoods. Houses are all gone, even the trees are strip clean of leaves.
I think it’s important for us to understand that money can’t buy safety and time. Doesn’t matter how much money you have, those tornados are going to be a threat to your life and your family’s lives too. Your money also won’t buy time that will speed up the process that the insurance companies need to do to file your claim on your destroyed million-dollar house.
I have been thinking lately if I ever wake up one day and one of my investments made me a millionaire, how would I use that money? Most people would go buy a million-dollar house and 6 figure car. I truly feel God gives people riches to test them with money. I decided in my heart, if I wake up rich one day, I would pay off all my debt, invest and help other people have a new chance at life. I always wanted to help homeless people off the streets. Get them off drugs and pay to get them a skill they can use to make themselves prosperous people. Teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime, give a man a fish, feed him for a day. I would use riches to teach a ton of different men and woman to fish.
The work it takes to hold that business together. The work it takes to hold your life together. The work it takes, but then something happens, that storm comes and washes that life away. All you had is gone. “Boast in your humiliation”, you rich people. Your riches are there for only a period of time. Humble yourselves again and you will be lifted up again.
When money gets involved, then people need to be careful, it can eat them alive. Step by step closer to hell. To a downfall. That storm will come and take it all away. Be-careful. One minute you’re at the top of the mountain, next you’re a slave at the bottom of the sea. We need to learn to trust in Jesus and walk on water.
“The brother of humble circumstances should boast in his exaltation”. Why though? This is a blessing. God’s Word promises us that if we humble ourselves, then God will exalt us.
When I came to Christ. I humbly bowed my face down and deny myself with my knees bent over on my bedside. Then God told me to go preach this gospel. That minute, without me knowing until about 6 months later, he placed me firmly at the top of a ministry. Because I humbly surrender all to God, he exalted me. He also lifted me up in Walmart, later on, He made me into a marine. I was homeless and now I’m not. Haven’t been homeless for a few years. We are on another scale that the world isn’t on, we are on a scale that weighs our hearts, not our achievements.
We are also reminded that we should by every effort to live humble, as humble as Christ, not only because we are called to, but because, rich or poor, we will show the world, Christ, in our daily lives. Not only the pastors and teachers but students and church attenders as well.“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” Ephesians 4:2
In trials, we will have to face the devil every time. The devil is out to kill our relationship with Jesus. He will come and try to get us to fall in his steps. This is called being tempted. He’ll say that we should do one thing or the easy thing, and not the Godly thing. He’ll tell us something, like, “you’re forgiven so sin; God will forgive you as he promises”. Don’t listen to that type of talk, if we sin because we think God will forgive us, we’re fooling ourselves out of great blessings.
We’re called to repent. The devil knows the Word of God better than us. Most of the time temptation comes because of our own self, not from God, never from God, but the devil uses our desires to tempt us. Being 26 now, I have a desire for sex with a woman. The devil will do everything he can to trick young Christians in their 20s to look at porn.
We are called to deny ourselves. I see Christians going to school to become things that have nothing to do with preaching the Good News, see that’s a temptation. Many Christians want to make sure their own life is set, and then their go help others in need, that’s not how it works, yes making sure that we are taking care of ourselves is important, but we must consider others higher than ourselves. Think about the disciples, they left everything behind for Jesus. We should be doing the same thing.
“No one undergoing a trial should say, “I am being tempted by God.” For God is not tempted by evil, and He Himself doesn’t tempt anyone. But each person is tempted when he is drawn away and enticed by his own evil desires. Then after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and when sin is fully grown, it gives birth to death.” (James 1:13-15)
- God Doesn’t Tempt Us To Sin, Our Desires Do
- Sin is like a Baby. It will grow and grow and grow, inside of you, but it doesn’t lead to life, a baby leads to life, but sin leads to death.
We all know that having sex with same-sex is a sin in the bible. God says not to do it. The reason for that is because it leads to HIV and Aids and It’s not part of God’s original design. When people step outside of God’s design, it actually harms them.
When you move in together with someone that you are not married to but plan on pursuing a relationship with the person. Your chances of divorce have doubled. Along with that, if you have kids with someone that your not married to, the chances that your kids become successful when they grow up automatically decreased.
In China, Christian communities are the most prosperous in the nation. The same was for the Jewish communities in Germany when Hitler raised to a position of power. When you live according to God’s design, outside of a sinful lifestyle, your chances of success increase for you and those around you. Don’t believe me? I was a Manager, earn the title of US Marine, first in the family to graduate high school, but I came out of a family that my stepdad was in federal prison when I was 7 years old, for almost 10 years. My real dad walked out on my mom when I was 3 years old. I was arrested and charged with a 2nd-degree felony when I was 11 years old. I open the bible when I was 12 years old.
Salvation is Given, not Gain
“Don’t be deceived, my dearly loved brothers. Every generous act and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights; with Him there is no variation or shadow cast by turning. By His own choice, He gave us a new birth by the message of truth so that we would be the first fruits of His creatures.” (James 1:16-18) We are chosen, “By His own choice, He gave us a new birth by the message of truth”. I want to make it clear that there is nothing that can keep you from going to hell if you truly are in a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. We need to stay faithful to God. God Chose You, why not decide to walk with Him?