The first kind of the testing of our faith is when we choose spiritual disciplines, because we have a heavenly Father who sees us, who longs to draw us closer and who wants to bless us with his strength, his presence and his compassion and he wants to grant us the grace to grow our faith through our personal relationship with him.
It is not easy to set aside more time, energy, money, prayer, worship, meditation and sacrificial outreach to find justice for those in need.
But we have to agree that the tests and disciplines we choose are never as hard as the ones we do not choose, because these are the tests that scare us.
Jesus teaches about testing we do not choose for ourselves in Matthew 5. In Matthew 5:11 he says, "God blesses you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things against you because you are my followers." We never choose these testings of our faith, yet our Lord allows these episodes and events into our lives. Why?
The testing of our faith that we don't choose are described by James in James 1: 2 – 9 as trials of many kinds. We ask questions like, "What possible value could this situation have for me? "
So how do we deal with tests we did not choose in order to grow into the spiritual maturity God needs us to have to meet his demands to accomplish our mission as his disciple.
Sometimes we rebel! The first way we could respond to trials and tribulations is to fight against it, to get angry with people, the church, with the world – with anything and anybody who had something to do with this.
Yet, there is no comfort, joy or growth on this path.
Or we can respond by resigning. You start to believe that you are powerless in this trial and simply surrender to its painful reality. And this leads to a sense of helplessness without hope - that brings despair.
Or you can react in a way that will grow your faith and your ability to meet the demands of God’s mission chosen for you personally and for his Church: to rejoice, as Jesus suggests in Mt 5: 11 and James in James 1:2.
Jesus says, God blesses you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things against you. Here is how he says you deal with that: "Rejoice and be glad." Jesus wants you to face that trial by the power of remaining joyful – called the power of rejoicing!
And James says in James 1:2, "Whenever you face trials of many kinds, the testing of your faith, this is what you do: "Consider it pure joy."
It is a hard journey, but not impossible! And it takes you to a place of choosing what God chose for you and not what you chose.
It is painful, it hurts and it remains hard.
But you say nonetheless, I choose to accept this situation as a situation in which God can work, in which I believe God's love cannot be stopped and he can work through this for my good and for his glory.
I can confess that God is providing for me to be able to accept the challenges of his mission through my discipleship.
James teaches that because we choose to grow spiritually during times of tribulation and testing of our faith, it will bring us to a place of maturing spiritually and we will receive the gift of perseverance as a result of this choice.
And suddenly you notice an insightful difference on how you look at what happens to you! Instead of merely enduring it, you receive the freedom to grow as a disciple of Christ and to become stronger through God’s gift of perseverance.
Instead of something being taken from you, by choosing to grow within a situation you did not choose as a discipline and test, you see that because you have to mature through it, it is becomes a gift – a gift that makes you glad and rejoicing!
What was a dark prison without a door becomes your paradise in the presence of the Lord who sustains you, matures you and enables you through joy and perseverance - and most of all, loves you till the end of your faith journey in this world.