High marks in the school of hard knocks

Wow, it’s treacherous out there, boys and girls. Please be careful on these icy roads! I’m still going in this morning but not until later when the sun comes up and I can see some of the ice I’m driving on. I’m very thankful for my job that allows me to be flexible with my schedule.

Ice driving is one of those skills you either have or you don’t, and I can tell you that most people in Wichita and the surrounding area don’t have it. I mean, you can probably learn how to drive on ice, but around Kansas it’s not around long enough to really learn on it. It’s kind of a spontaneous thing. One day it’s 70 degrees. The next day it’s 12 and all the world’s a solid sheet of ice you have to drive on to get to work. But then the next day it’s 50 so everything melts.

Now people who drive in North Dakota or Wisconsin? Yikes. Those are the pros. During their winter, they have to drive on ice all the time, so it’s commonplace for them. So maybe it’s all in what you get used to.

The verse today, James 1:2-3, doesn’t talk about driving on icy roads, but that’s kind of what it made me think of, oddly enough.

 2 Dear brothers and sisters,[a] when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. 3 For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.

I love this verse, mainly because I think it’s one of the best examples of the difference between joy and happiness. Happiness is fleeting. You can be happy one day and unhappy the next. Happiness usually depends on your circumstances. But not Joy. Joy is completely different. Joy is a constant. If you know Christ, you have Joy no matter whether you’re happy or not. It’s the only way you can be sad at the death of a friend and excited for them getting to go to heaven at the same time. Joy is a paradox that allows you to rejoice even in the blackest times in your life.

But what caught my eye this morning was the last part of the verse, about how when your faith is tested, your endurance increases. I guess I hadn’t thought about that part much, but it’s very true.

Why do we take tests? (Other than the fact that we have to pass them to get a good grade to pass the class to get a degree to get a job with benefits and retirement so we can afford to buy stuff.) Tests examine what we have learned. And I don’t know about you, but when I would take a test, I always wanted to get all the answers right; but when I didn’t, I rarely missed those answers again. We don’t just take one test in school. We take a lot of them because we’re always learning, and tests are a good way to confirm how deep and wide our knowledge is.

What happens when your faith is tested? Well, that depends on the person. In some cases, it can be a financial test–that you have to rely on God to provide for you. Or it could be a relationship test–that God is wanting you to demonstrate that You love Him more than the person you’re with. It could be anything, although most of the tests God gives us are all about trusting Him. And it’s funny, looking back now. The tests He gave me when I was a child seem pretty small now.

Trusting Him to help me do well in school. Trusting Him to help me make friends. Trusting Him to help me find something I’d misplaced. All of those are pretty small in the grand scheme of things–but I went through them a lot. I had to trust Him a lot. And in trusting Him in the little things, when it came time to trust Him with “something big” it wasn’t any big deal because He had already proved Himself faithful to me in the small things.

When your faith is tested, your endurance increases.

If you start trusting Him with little things, pretty soon it won’t be hard to trust Him with big things. But just like anything else you want to get better at, you have to do it a lot. It’s a process you have to repeat over and over again, giving up control and sovereignty in your own life. And you don’t always see immediate results. Actually, immediate results are rare. But bodybuilders don’t see immediate results either. They have to work out. Just like them, you have to continually trust God with the things in your life that you don’t understand.

It’s not easy, but the more you do it, the easier it gets.