“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. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.” James 1:2-4 (NLT)
In my last blog post, I spoke about how hard it is for me (and I am sure many others) to relinquish control to God. I develop so many worries that consume my mind when I try to control every detail and every situation of my life. It is exhausting and, most of the time, depressing. It is depressing because I can believe I have total control of a situation or a season of my life, only to have it completely unravel in a matter of seconds when things do not go according to MY plan. For me, relinquishing control does not mean letting go of the wheel and hope the car still steers straight, it means that I am still holding onto the wheel, but allowing God to guide my hands. It is working with God through OBEDIENCE not fighting for control.
“For wherever there is jealousy and SELFISH AMBITION, there you will find DISORDER and evil of every kind.” James 3:16 (NLT)
If I allow God to have complete control in my life, I better make sure that my faith is only in God and not divided between God and the world. Am I going to mess up? Of course. But I need to recognize my inadequacies without God and continue to relinquish control to Him on a daily basis. If I constantly have divided loyalty between God and the world, my life will be full of disorder and instability (James 1:6-8).
So what is relinquishing control?
Simple. Allowing God to have FULL control of my life is faith. If you can recall from my last post, faith is trusting that God has all of the details figured out in our lives and is working all things together for our good. If you did not get a chance to read that post, I encourage you to do so because I am going to be building off of each post and missing some posts may make this process confusing and difficult to follow. Out of everything in that last post, the one point that we all must understand is the purpose of God and the purpose of the enemy.
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” John 10:10 NASB
It is important to understand the role of the enemy and how God works in our lives because being able to identify temptation versus testing is vital in the process of building faith and endurance.
Testing or Temptation?
How do we distinguish between these two? How do we know if what we are experiencing is a test of our faith or if something is tempting us? Well, for me, a good way to distinguish between the two is to think of testing my faith as a trail and temptation as trouble. When we look at John 10:10, we can understand that the enemy’s sole purpose is to steal, kill, and destroy which is similar to causing trouble in our lives. On the other hand, Jesus came so that we can have life and have it abundantly. God tests our faith in order that we can endure through those trials and become better versions of ourselves by developing our faith in God.
Trial = Test
Trouble = Temptation
When going through trials or troubles, one thing to completely avoid is making hasty decisions or have quick reactions. This is why it is so important to recognize what exactly is happening in a given situation. Whatever the situation may be, God wants us to endure through it PATIENTLY (James 1:12). This is hard for me because I am not exactly what you would call a patient person and we do not live in a patient society. But developing patience in key moments gives me the opportunity to think clearly and go through the process the right way. Whatever your method is for distinguishing between trials and temptations may not be wrong, I am just sharing what has worked for me.
Endurance is a process…
Be patient. Step one. It is important to not allow my emotions to get the best of me in critical moments. Choose wisely. Step Two. I first pray and ask for wisdom in these situations in order to distinguish what is exactly going on. Most of the time, being able to understand testing from temptation is easy, but sometimes, it is very difficult and can hinder my growth if I am not careful. One thing that I am for certain about is that temptation never comes from God (James 1:13-15). Temptation comes from my own personal desires and the enemy will do everything to make those desires seem so attractive to lead me away. When I am able to recognize when I am being tempted, I FLEE. I do not want those desires to take root in me and cloud my decision-making. Personal desires birth sinful action and as that sin grows it eventually leads to death. So, just to be clear, temptation comes from an attraction to personal desire which can lead to sinful actions and as that sin grows it leads to death.
What is ironic about distinguishing between trials and troubles is that my process is literally the exact same. In both situations I try my best to be patient and pray before anything else. The difference in this distinction is knowing when to flee and when to endure. When I know God is testing my faith, I pray for wisdom and strength because I want to develop my faith in God and become more and more of the person he created me to be and less and less of the person I think I want to be (personal desire). This is such an important distinction because I can easily flee from the testing of my faith and fall into the trap of my own desires. So, I must remain alert to what is going on in these situations and seek God first before making any decision that I will more than likely regret.
The beautiful thing about going through this process of recognizing trial from temptation is the ability to also recognize my personal desire. This is huge because these desires can remain in our subconscious for a long period of time and be the catalyst behind some decisions that we may regret. However, when these desires are exposed, we can ask God for the strength to rebuke those desires and pursue righteousness in Him.
“Developed endurance builds self-discipline and makes personal desires less desirable”
This process is what it looks like to endure through trials and temptations for me. I continually want to develop my endurance and faith in God because there is no destination in God’s plan for me. However, there is always going to be something greater in store. I want to stay in line with what God has planned and want to be able to withstand the testing of my faith so I can deepen my relationship with God.
If none of this post makes any sense and you have no clue what it looks like to relinquish control to God but are curious about it, please reach out to me via the email link at the top of this page to talk more about it. A life with Jesus is so much better than a life without Him!