Faith: The rougher the path, the greater our patience grows.
“My brothers, is your life filled with difficulties and temptations? Be joyful, for it is when the path is rough that your patience can grow. Let it develop and do not try to escape your problems. When your patience is fully developed, you will then be strong, perfect, and complete, ready for anything” (James 1:2-4).
God has a special plan for your life, planned long ago, even before your birth. He has carefully and lovingly formed you. Every precise detail, every characteristic has been chosen according to His purpose and will: your appearance, abilities, place of birth, the family into which you were born (or the absence of one). Nothing about you has been left to chance. In His love and through circumstances prepared solely for this purpose, God has sought you and drawn you to Himself. He has given you a new birth, a new life through the Spirit when you accepted His Son, Jesus Christ, as your Savior, and were baptized and immersed in His Holy Spirit. And His plan now is to make you perfect and complete!
“Through our faith, God has brought us into this place of highest privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to actually becoming all that God has had in mind for us to be” (Romans 5:2).
God wants us to become something. But we surely know all this! God wants us to have more love, kindness, patience, faith, peace, kindness, gentleness, humility, and self-control so that we can be true witnesses wherever we are! Isn’t that true?
Certainly, but most of us think it means imposing a strict program on ourselves to improve and try to become more loving, patient, humble, and disciplined. And the more effort we put into it, the more discouraged we become.
It is God who transforms us. Not us. He wants us to surrender to Him and then trust Him for the rest.
“And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect” (Romans 12:1-2).
How does God bring about this transformation in us? How does He eliminate the old ways of thinking and acting that we have maintained for years—all those character traits we call “personality,” “natural attractions and repulsions,” “preferences,” or “strong opinions,” which, in the light of the Spirit of Truth, are revealed as belonging to the selfish, aggressive, and selfish nature of conduct that has separated us from the love of God and others for years?
What methods does God use to transform us?
“For a little while, you may have to suffer various trials and temptations. This is no accident—it happens to prove your faith, which is infinitely more valuable than gold… which is tested and purified by fire. Your faith is far more precious to God than mere gold. So if your faith remains strong after being tried by fiery trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world” (1 Peter 1:6-7).
That’s how our faith grows! And we have read earlier how patience, endurance, and perseverance increase when our lives are full of difficulties, temptations, and problems. Some people say, “If this is the only way to gain more patience and faith, I’d rather have a little less.” If that’s your thought, it means you don’t really trust God. Deep down, you doubt His plan and love for you.
When, through His prophet Jeremiah, God told the Jews deported to Babylon that their exile would be long (seventy years) and that they had to accept it, He added: “I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans for peace and not for disaster, plans to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11). The years of suffering in Babylon were part of God’s plan for His people. And it was an excellent plan, the best, one that would bring them a future and hope. Can you believe that God’s plan for you and me is perfect?
Can’t our faith grow amid easy and pleasant circumstances? Yes! As we believe and rely on God’s promises. But the purification and testing of our faith must be through events that challenge our will to believe in God’s Word, to trust it, to rely on it despite everything our senses may suggest.
For so long, we have let our feelings, emotions, or reason dictate what we should believe. We must break this habit to exercise our faith, which is, remember, a determined will to believe something we can neither see nor feel.
Thus, our faith grows when God tells us that He makes all things work together for our good when everything seems to go wrong, and we hold on to His word and thank Him for everything that happens. In your opinion, how did Abraham’s faith grow? Would you have the faith to go up a mountain with your only son, ready to sacrifice him on the altar because the Lord commands it, while still believing that God, through this son, will bless and multiply your descendants? If you had been a friend of Abraham, would you have been able to consider with faith and praise his act of folly, believing that, even if he were wrong, God would make everything work for the good of your friend?
God alone can recreate us, reshape us from the inside. Our part is to follow Paul’s advice to the Romans: to fully submit ourselves to the Lord, believe that He has everything in His hands, and then eagerly, joyfully, and gratefully accept all the circumstances He uses to bring about this transformation in our lives.
You may know the story of the pastor who prays for more patience and, the next morning, discovers that his excellent secretary, who has been with him for so long, has suddenly fallen ill.
The one who replaces her turns out to be the slowest employee he has ever known! The pastor begins by fuming internally until he discovers that this new secretary is the answer to his prayer. How else could he acquire patience? He begins to thank and praise God for choosing this replacement, who, in turn, quickly improves.
Faith and patience are essential traits of Christian life and testimony, not forgetting another, without which we will not understand the message of the Good News.
“Seek above all love,” Paul writes to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 14:1).
“Your deep love for each other proves to the world that you are my disciples,” Jesus says (John 13:35).
“This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you… so that your joy… may be complete” (John 15:12, 11).
Love… love… love. Christians talk a lot about it. God is love, Jesus loves you, I love you! But we lack love for one another terribly… Jesus said:
“I command you to love each other as I have loved you” (John 15:12).
Love has so much more value for us than anything in the world! We were created to love God and to love one another. When we do not love, all sorts of terrible things happen to us. We end up traumatized, full of hatred and resentment, guilt complexes, and we are afraid of each other.
Our emotional shocks, fears and frustrations, self-defense mechanisms, aggressiveness—all result from a lack of love. Educators, psychologists, sociologists, and other specialists have spoken to us about the powerful influence that love has on the development of a human being. Love that accepts others, trusts them, is good and patient, is never selfish or envious, never proud; love that is selfless and does not seek to impose itself, that is neither sensitive nor irritable, that does not hold grudges or holds people accountable for the harm they cause; love that is loyal, that assumes and expects the best from others, that does not rejoice in the evil done to others but is always happy when truth triumphs. Such love bears all things and overcomes all circumstances without weakening.
That’s the love God has for us, and He wants us to have for one another. It is the kind of love that heals old wounds, drives away old fears, and melts bitterness and resentment.
It is this love that heals us and makes us capable of loving in return without being afraid of being hurt or rejected.
It is the love that the Greeks called agape: a deliberate, intentional, and reasoned spiritual affection. It is this love that is the fruit of the Spirit and that, when it reaches full maturity, becomes a light that attracts others to its source: God’s love for us, in Jesus Christ.
Every gift and manifestation of the Holy Spirit is given to show us God’s love and His concern for each of our needs. God heals because He loves. He performs miracles because He loves. God is love, and His power in us and through us is love, a personal, intense, divine, and supernatural love for each of His creatures.
What He announces to the world is a message of love, and we must be its ambassadors, channels of His love. But for us to fulfill this mission, God wants to make us beings who know how to love in return. But if love comes only from God, if it is a fruit of the Spirit, how can Jesus command us to love? Isn’t it up to Him to make us more capable of loving? Once again, we are faced with God’s promise that we must accept by faith.
Love is a fruit of the Spirit, and Scripture tells us that the Holy Spirit dwells in us. Therefore, we should expect to find love in us. We have received the ability to love, but we must step out in faith and want to love. Remember that agape is a deliberate and intentional love. We are told to love even if we feel no emotion.
So, what happens when we have decided in faith to act according to the Word of God? We know that this step of faith releases the supernatural power of divine love. It is this power that begins to transform us, making us more and more loving, while it spreads through us to the person we deliberately chose to love…
This text is an excerpt from the book ” The power of praise” written by Merlin R. Carothers.