In our convenience-driven, consumer-dominated society, patience is often in short supply. This is especially true when we are tested. The Bible tells us that we are to “count it all joy…when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness” (James 1:2-3). Notice that these trials are not one’s that you seek out. In other words, don’t go looking for trouble and then decide that God is testing you for your spiritual development. Secondly, “meeting” a trial indicates an encounter, not an avoidance. Yet we often buy in to the lie that just because something is difficult, it must not be God’s will, or must not be worth the effort. When God appoints a trial to greet you, according to Scripture, it is with the intention that you will confront it, learn something from it, and the result will be steadfastness. To be steady is to be constant, solid, strong, and certain. Verse four says that when steadfastness has its “full effect,” you will be complete and lacking nothing. It is not speaking of material wealth, but intangibles that are beyond value. In fact, the next few verses speak directly about wisdom – an intangible that applies to every other area of your life. Who possesses it? God does. Is He stingy? Never. He “gives generously to all.” Notice that full steadfastness lacks nothing – that includes wisdom. The number one obstacle to becoming steadfast and managing trials is often a lack of wisdom. The one condition for receiving wisdom? Believe and do not doubt (verses 6-8). Keep your eyes focused on Jesus – the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Don’t get distracted. Remain steadfast and the ultimate reward is a crown of life. Is it a physical crown? No. The crown is not of gold or silver, but of “life.” What does it look like to be crowned with life? Doesn’t that sound awesome!? Rather than simply envisioning a fragrant garland of flowers, I imagine a legacy of bringing life to others, hope, compassion, and the love of Jesus. I picture Mother Teresa, Oskar Schindler, and more recently Gary Sinise. What an incredible legacy – to have so many lives touched in potent and eternal ways. That is the kind of crown that far exceeds anything created by precious metals and stones. So how do we sum up this loaded short passage of Scripture? Be joyful – content and at peace, with thankfulness – when you are tested. Ask the Lord for wisdom as you confront the challenge, and remember the lessons learned from it. Over time, you will become more steady, patient, confident and complete. This transformation is not going to happen overnight, but it will happen if you keep your eyes focused on Jesus.
The Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines sovereign as “one possessing or held to possess supreme political power…one that exercises supreme authority within a limited sphere…an acknowledged leader.” It is a noun, a person, place or thing that is tangible and able to be located. A dominant component of this word is the word reign. Also a noun, it refers to a period of time during which a sovereign is in charge of something such as a group, organization, or country…”resembling that of a monarch.” The word supreme is an adjective describing the sovereign as being “highest in rank or authority…degree or quality.”
I can’t express in words how many times I have been comforted by simply repeating the thought silently, or even audibly, “God is sovereign. God is sovereign. God is sovereign.” I cannot see all of the twists and turns that lay ahead. I cannot fully understand things like illness, suffering, stress, and certainly not the delicate intricacies of the cosmos that the Lord God holds together. I can, however, know with full confidence that He sees everything and has a perfect design for it all. Suffering is not a commentary on God’s approval or disapproval, but is a direct result of sin. Sin is simply anything that separates us from God. When a body is separated from nourishment, it will inevitably begin to decay. Humans have willfully separated themselves from God, and there is only one way back to a relationship with Him. There is only one medicine that has an eternal significance, and it is free! Jesus, sinless and perfect, sovereign for all time and beyond, paid the debt for my sins that I could never afford. He then reappeared in the flesh after three days to prove once and for all that there is not only life after death, but that He is sovereign even over death! There is nothing that this world could throw my way that will alter the magnitude of His power, and if I’m on His team, then why should I ever fear or worry over anything? Even in times of distress, He reminds us, “Be strong and courageous! Do not fear or tremble before them, for the Lord your God is the one who is going with you. He will not fail you or abandon you! (Deuteronomy 31:6 NET).
Many will acknowledge His reign and even His rank, but will balk at describing Him as sovereign. Why? Because to describe Him as sovereign indicates that we are not trying to edit Him to fit our desires, but instead editing our lives to fit His plan. The more surrendered I am to His sovereignty, the more fulfilled, hopeful and at peace I am – regardless of the size of the storm, because I am a servant of the One who controls the rain. Will you surrender to Him?