Monday, November 24, 2008



Faith works, when life doesn't! This week as we continue dealing with the stressed out world in which we're living, I want to walk through three ways to handle your troubles. Remember, it's not what happens to you, but how you handle what happens that counts. There are three ways to reframe your situation by refocusing on the right things.

We spend a lot of time studying and considering the teachings of Jesus. I just feel like you can't go wrong with this kind of emphasis. In addition to the five Gospels-Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and Acts-the earliest of the writings can prove to be most valuable and helpful in embracing the teachings and principles of Jesus as a lifestyle. James is one of these writings.

James begins his book talking about trials and how to handle them. He says: Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.

This is the first way to handle your troubles. Note that James starts with "consider it pure joy". when you face your trials. Talk about counter-intuitive! Consider it a joyful thing to experience all kinds of trials and problems? The reason? You must understand that these trials are a testing of your faith. He doesn't mean by this a test in order to trick you or to trip you up. It's a testing that is a refining of your faith-purifying and improving your faith. In other words, these trials have come into your life in order to make you stronger.

Now note that there is a goal for this testing of your faith. It is to produce in you perseverance. Perseverance is a strengthening of your faith-a certain resolve or a solid determination to hang on or hang in there. This kind of faith is strong enough to endure and handle anything that comes your way.

James goes on to say: Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. This is the ultimate payoff! Your faith is strengthened by your troubles to the point that you are becoming more and more mature and complete, lacking in nothing!

You see, there are two responses to problems. You can focus on your problem or you can focus on the positive result that will be produced by your problems. If you focus on the problems, you will surely fall into deeper trouble. When you brood over your problems, you'll hatch despair. Instead of focusing on the trouble that has just dropped into your life, refocus on the product-what you are going to learn and get out of it.

There is an important insight here that could go unnoticed. He says consider it a joyful thing to encounter various trials. In order to refocus on the product rather than the problem, REFOCUS ON REJOICING over the problem and not spend your time and energy moaning and groaning over what has just happened to you. You don't get anywhere having a pity party and inviting others over or singing your latest "Woe is me" song. Refocus your mind and heart on what God is going to do to strengthen your faith during this trial to get ready for whatever comes next for you and for others around you.

There is a great promise that underlies this thinking. It's what I call the promise of great endings! It is: And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28) All things-no matter what things-God causes to work together with something else for good. This is not saying that whatever happens is good, but God will cause all things to work together with something else for your good and His glory.

Note the requirement here is "to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose." I would restate this as "to all those who are interested in following God with their heart-who want to follow God's purpose for their lives." You can count on it. The God of gods-the Creator of the universe-is concerned enough to process all that happens to you in such a way that it works together with something else for your good.

Don't focus on your problems or your troubles. Wallowing around in your trials will only make things worse and make you bitter. In fact, you will discover that most of the things you fear never are as bad as you had imagined and most of the bad things that have come into your life can be processed in a healthy way. It's as if you have been mountain climbing over molehills all along. So, refocus on what God is doing in the midst of your trouble and even get excited about it. There is a great gift coming your way.

I continually remind myself that the Bible never says, "It has come to stay." Instead it says, "It has come to pass." So, whatever it is that you view as the biggest trouble in your life, THIS, TOO WILL PASS!