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. (James 1:2-3, N.L.T.)
Dr. Lee Roberson was scheduled to preach the following night as part of a Bible conference. His announced sermon was “The Secret of Greatness.” Pastor Tom Wallace showed up early that night because he didn’t want to miss one word of that sermon. He had his pen and notebook in hand and was ready to write down every single point that Roberson made about what it takes to be great. Then Roberson walked to the pulpit and said to the audience, “I give you tonight the secret of greatness. It is found in one key word. The word is Trouble.”
Sometime later, Wallace wrote the following:
I was so disappointed not to get a systematic formula of instruction from Dr. Roberson based upon his years of experience and success. But the more he preached, the more I realized that what he was saying was the true secret of greatness. People react to trouble in several different ways. Some grumble, others gripe, many growl, a few groan; then there are those who grieve and thank the Lord; then some grow. Trouble will never leave one the same.
Christian, don’t miss the precise order that Wallace employs in his quote. First, come the words “then there are those who grieve.” Second, come the words “and thank the Lord.” Only then come the words “then some grow.” The point is, if you can get to the place where you can move past your grieving and be genuinely thankful for your trouble — because you understand that the trouble provides you with the opportunity to have your faith tested — then you can grow spiritually.
James, in our text passage, even uses the word “joy” in relation to the Christian experiencing trouble. Was he nuts? How can anyone be joyful about having to endure a bout of trouble? The answer is, while God doesn’t expect us to be joyful about the trouble itself, He does want us to be joyful that He is going to use the trouble to build our perseverance and faith. Just as athletes lift weights to build up their muscles, better their performance, and increase their endurance, troubles play this same role (spiritually speaking) in the life of the Christian.
I must admit that I myself have certainly not mastered this lesson yet. When trouble comes my way, I’m still quick to grumble, gripe, growl, and groan about it. Then, once I’ve passed through all that, I’m also pretty good at grieving over the trouble, even to the point of becoming morbidly obsessive over it. But I’m still flummoxed about thanking the Lord for the trouble. I just can’t see past all the bad stuff about the trouble in order to see the good work that God is doing on me through it.
Perhaps, Christian, you can relate to what I’m saying. Maybe you find yourself right now in the midst of a round of trouble, and you really haven’t give any thought to how God is using it to build spiritual perseverance into your life. All I can encourage you to do is take the words of James 1:2-3 and apply them to your life the best you can. Every time you ask God to take away your trouble, follow up that request by asking Him to not only grow your faith and perseverance by way of the trouble but even get you to the point where you are THANKFUL for the trouble.
Is this a tall order? Of course. No one would dispute that. But the alternative to having to endure trouble is to spend your life as a shallow, superficial, immature person who can’t relate to the problems of others and is therefore far too self-absorbed to ever render any real service to God. Obviously, that alternative isn’t a good one from God’s perspective, and that’s why He allows us to go through trouble sometimes. You see, just as Dr. Lee Roberson and Tom Wallace figured out, trouble is the secret sauce that makes spiritual growth happen, and spiritual growth is the secret sauce that makes spiritual greatness possible.