The Message version of the Bible paraphrases what James writes like this: ‘Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colours. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well developed, not deficient in any way’ (James 1:2-4 MSG). The truth is, we all go through trials. One of Jesus’ less popular promises is in John 16:33. He says ‘In this world you will have trouble’ (NIV). We’ve all gone through trouble. Chances are we’ll encounter more pressure in the future, too. Our following God’s plan can sometimes clash with the ‘fallen’ nature of this world, and that creates tension. The upside, though, is that God can highlight the positive in anything. He uses all pressure to refine us. When James says that our ‘faith-life is forced into the open’ when we’re under pressure, that means that our strengths, weakness, and flaws become more apparent through our response to difficulty. It’s a chance for self-reflection, and for God to draw our attention to things that He wants us to work on, to allow Him to change. The second half of Jesus’ guarantee of trouble in John 16:33 sees Him say ‘take heart! I have overcome the world’ (NIV). No matter how much pressure we find ourselves under, and how many flaws we see in our own response to that, God can change us because He’s already won the battle over all difficulties. Thanks to His victory, we’re on a journey to reflect Him more and more every day.
Think about how you reacted the last time you were under pressure. Thank God for the positive aspects of your personality there, and ask Him to change any flaws that you can see in retrospect.
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