James 1:1–4 (ESV) “James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes in the Dispersion: Greetings. 2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
The more time I spend in the book of James, the more convicted I am, AND, the more encouraged I am. And these opening lines are ones I come back to virtually every day. Why? Because I’m a runner.
I don’t like conflict. I prefer the path of least resistance. While the word “challenge” seems to energize some – it almost always evokes feelings of doubt, fear and defeat in me. Challenges, are only opportunities to fail – not to succeed. Maybe you’re somewhat like me.
This is why passages like this one are so important to people like me. The jury is still out on who originated the saying: “When the going get tough, the tough get going” (Joseph P. Kennedy or Knute Rockne) but when I hear it – I say internally “Yeah, when the going gets rough, I get going, IN THE OPPOSITE DIRECTION!” And that response is deadly, especially when it comes to spiritual growth. For it is only in remaining “steadfast” – keeping on the path and in a forward motion WHEN IT IS TOUGH – that finds us at last where we want to be. No one ever arrived at a destination they stopped moving toward.
The glad thing for the Christian is – we have God’s inviolable promise that one day – we WILL arrive. No matter how little progress we seem to make. Just staying on the path, is the key. Just trusting His Word. Believing his promises. Resting in His character. Remaining – steadfast. Keeping the eye fixed upon Heaven, no matter what else happens or doesn’t happen.
Years ago, the Imperials had a song with these lyrics:
He didn’t bring us this far, to leave us.
He didn’t teach us to swim, to let us drown.
He didn’t build His home in us, to move away.
He didn’t lift us up, to let us down.
They aren’t Scripture – but they’re true.
In the words of George Herbert Walker Bush – “stay the course”. Not for earthly pursuits – but for the one, all consuming heavenly one. You are His. He will not let you go. Let steadfastness have its perfect work. That one day, you may fully bear the image of our precious Redeemer.