Fix Your Eyes on Jesus
Do you ever grow weary? Do you ever lose heart? Life is hard… we can get discouraged, disappointed and disillusioned with the hardships we face in life. But the author of Hebrews encourages us to persevere when we endure hardships… don’t give up! And he tells us how!… We persevere by fixing our eyes on Jesus! (Hebrews 12:1-2)
What are your eyes fixed on these days? Sometimes we take our eyes off Jesus and fixate on other things including our trials, troubles, worries, woes and fears. The irony is that these trying times can cause us to take our eyes off Jesus at the very time we most need to have our eyes laser focused on Him! It’s also easy to take our eyes off Him during the “good times” too!
James tells us how to approach the hardships of life: 2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:2-3
There is a purpose in our hardships! God is at work in us. Most people read verse two and wonder what in the world James is saying! How can we find pure joy in trials… that seems counter intuitive; it just doesn’t make sense. It is hard to find joy when you can’t pay your bills, or when your marriage is in shambles, or when you’re battling cancer, or when your child is making horrible choices, or when you are struggling with depression… those trials don’t naturally bring a lot of joy; in fact they tend to lead to despair and may even cause us to question if God is with us or even for us.
Have you ever been there? Have you ever walked through a really painful ordeal personally or with a friend or someone close to you who could not understand why this was happening? In those moments, people ask: “Why am I going through this?” James tells us that these trials are a test of your faith. To be clear, the aim of testing is not to destroy, but to purge and refine. In fact, this term in the original language has to do with the testing of a coin to prove its authenticity and worth. We see God often testing the faithful in the Old Testament. He never tests the ungodly or heathen.
I read that through tests, a Believer will learn to withstand the pressure of a trial until God removes it at His appointed time and even to cherish the benefit! So what are the benefits of enduring hardships in life?
3 Benefits of Enduring Hardships In Life
1) God uses pain in our lives for the purpose of developing perseverance!
The Apostle Paul faced plenty of hardship, adversity and opposition! He wrote about a thorn in his flesh. (2 Corinthians 12:7-10). Have you ever had a thorn in your flesh? You can’t ignore it! It is painful, nagging, and bothersome until it is removed. Maybe you’re wrestling with a thorn in your flesh today. Some say Paul’s thorn was a sin; others suggest it was an adversary undermining his leadership. No matter the interpretation, a thorn in the flesh causes a lot of pain… yet God was using this thorn to develop perseverance in Paul… and He will use the thorns in your life to do the same.
Paul recognized that his thorn was to keep him from being conceited… in other words to keep him humble. God can use “thorns” in your life to keep you humble too! We may beg for God to remove the thorns in our lives. Paul asked God three times to take the thorn away… but God was at work in Paul. He was proving that His grace was sufficient! When Paul recognized that God was at work in his life, using Paul’s pain for a purpose, Paul relented! In fact, he began to delight in his insults and hardships and difficulties…. seeing them not as adversities, but as opportunities; knowing and believing that God was at work in Him. There is purpose in your pain too; God is developing perseverance in you!
2) God uses pain and hardship for the purpose of developing obedience.
One of the “cloud of witnesses” that the author of Hebrews is referencing is the Father of our faith, Abraham. God had promised Abraham that He would be the father of many nations, but that seemed impossible considering Abraham and his wife Sarah had no children. Miraculously, they would become parents at the ripe old age of 100 to a son they would name Issac, which means “laughter”. Their new son would fill them with laughter and great joy. That was, until Abraham was dramatically tested by God. Now he would face the most difficult stage of his race. (Genesis 22:1-18)
Abraham obediently followed the unthinkable command to go to Moriah and offer his only son as a sacrifice. Each step of his dark journey, Abraham must have believed that God would provide…. and He did. When in doubt, trust God to provide! When you are enduring through a difficult test, when you are suffering with loneliness and doubt, will you obey? Will you trust God to provide? To provide for your greatest need in that moment… strength, peace, calm, patience, faith. God is teaching you obedience. God’s tests are never easy. The question is will you obey, trusting him fully, no matter what?
3) God uses pain and hardship for the purpose of developing faith.
We see this truth illustrated in the story captured by Mark of Jesus calming the storm. (Mark 4:35-41). As they endured a fierce storm, the disciples wondered if Jesus cared; if He was going to sleep through the storm and let them drown. Have you ever wondered if God cared what you were going through? Let me assure you, God cares about you! He cares about your pain and hardship. You may think He is asleep, disconnected and aloof, but He is in the boat with you; you are never alone!
Jesus has the power to calm the storms in your life, in His time. In the meantime, He calls you to be filled not with fear, but with faith! Will you faithfully trust Him?
For so much more, please click here to listen to/watch: Best Practices - Part 7 - The Practice of Enduring.