Thursday, April 05, 2007

Suffering as the Means to Endurance

I know that you have probably heard the old addage, "Don't pray for patience because God will give you trials to make you patient." While I agree that it takes a trial to make us enduring, persevering Christians, I vehemently deny that we should avoid trial for the sake of ease. The reason, if not explicit in the last post, is that if we do not learn to endure, we will lay hold of no other virtue..

Notice the progression of these two verses:

We glory in tribulations, know that tribulation produces perseverance, and perseverance, character, and character, hope. (Romans 5:3-4)

Count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. (James 1:2-3).

So we see that trials and troubles are to be rejoiced in, not because we are masochistic weirdos who love to suffer for suffering's sake, but because we are big picture Christians. That is we know that every difficulty that comes into life is a tool in the hand of a gentle God to shape us into His glorious image. We also see in James that trials are a "when" issue, not an "if" issue. You will have trial, prayer prepares the heart of faith to be ready to grow in them.

From what I read here in these passages and others like them, I understand that patience and spiritual fortitude are foundational for spiritual growth and personal holiness. I also see that trials are instrumental in bringing about patience and spiritual fortitude, and therefore I rejoice in them. I confess that I pray daily for patience with the expectation that I will be heard and my request granted. I also confess that I know this means enduring hardship, and so I pray that I may benefit from difficulty and become by them a Christian of virtue.

Here's the thing that I believe most Christians miss; there is no circumstance in your life right now that is not a potential trial of your faith. Not one. I pray that God will grant me more children; if He doesn't, then I must endure life with no more children. Could such a circumstance lead to bitterness on my part or my wife's? Certainly it could.

Of course, God could grant my request and give us children. Yet, is it not possible that a little bundle of joy could distract me from my devotion to the Lord? Is it not true that every child's rearing brings pain to the heart of a parent? A rebellious child is certainly a trial to a parent's heart, and I believe that every child is born with a sinner's heart. So I will face trial if God grants or denies my request. How, then, shall I pray?

Some pray for financial deliverance. If they get money, then it may tempt them to pride and to forget their Provider. If they go poor, they may become bitter and curse God (see Proverbs 30:8-9). We may learn patience and endurance no matter the circumstance if we learn that every worldly thing is a potential obstacle between us and our Savior.

I am also convinced that I experience trial as I walk with my family in in the body of Christ. The Bible commands us, "Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ" (Galatians 6:2). If one comes to me in mourning, should I not mourn with him? When one rejoices, should I not rejoice? The alternative would be sinfully selfish and repugnant for a believer in Jesus Christ.

I conclude, then, that we are not to say things as silly as the old addage about not praying for patience. Trials are an inevitable part of this fallen world. But patience is a holy virtue that not everyone can obtain. Only those who seek wisdom by faith in Christ will grow to have proven character and virtue.


Even So... said...

the old addage about not praying for patience

I never understoood that either, my response would be like "what, you don't want to see him work mightily in your life?"

wana be said...

I hope this question makes since. You say,

"But patience is a holy virtue that not everyone can obtain. Only those who seek wisdom by faith in Christ will grow to have proven character and virtue."

Do you mean But patience is a holy virtue that not every Christian can obtain. I ask because in the constant war against my flesh I find myself lacking patience, love, peace, etc. more often than it seems like I should as a new creation. As a wana be leader of men, these shortcomings in my character burden me.

Sojourner said...

Wana Be,

No, I did not mean that patience is a virtue that some Christians cannot obtain. Rather, I meant that the Spirit-led virtue of patience is something that only Christians can obtain. When you despair of being who Christ has called you to be, ask yourself whether or not you believe that He can make you who He wants you to be. If you do believe that He can, then repent of the wickedness that you know you have committed and believe that Jesus Christ can make you holy.