#5.3 – The Wisdom of Suffering [James 1:1-18]: Faith

So what is Faith exactly? This is probably one of the most age-old questions that people have asked and tried to answer. People have had some very interesting ways of looking at and understanding Faith. Some which still influence the way we meet and worship today. So why am I focusing on Faith, when there is actually only one line in this initial passage in James referring to it? Maybe its because I believe that a significant part of understading suffering and the endurance designed to be developed within us, is in fact intrinsically linked to our understanding of Faith.

A man and I were chatting once about religion. He said that he doesn’t know if he believes in God, but that he has “faith.” To which I asked, “what in?” Faith on its own is worth nothing. One has to believe in something. You might not always be able to articulate what that something is, but its always connected to something. Just like Muscle is always connected to Bone. Muscle is really just floppy meat until it is connected with ligaments and tendons to bone. It is the bone that gives it a base. A foundation of operation. Without bones, muscles can’t work. Our skeletal structure gives us just that, structure. A frame to which everything can be joined and from which everything can function. Without it, our faith, just like our muscles, is useless!

And as followers of Christ, our lives are built upon him. He is the framework for our spiritual existence. Without him, our Faith cannot function. Without him, our Faith is just floppy meat. Our Faith should be built upon having unquestioning confidence and trust in someone. And that someone, is Christ. And I think that trials and temptations are designed to reveal to us who or what exactly we have connected our muscles to. Is it to the strong and sure structure of Christ, found in scripture and based on truth, or is it to the weak and brittle ideas of the world based on the traditions of men?

Let us be sure to understand that trial and suffering is designed to put stress on our spiritual muscles. Designed to prove the functionality of our faith and reveal the true make-up of our spiritual frames. We get to see things for what they really are. What a great gift! For without it, all we will ever be is floppy and flimsy flippin meat!

Father, thank you for your son, Jesus Christ, who is the very foundation of truth. The solid structure upon which all of life is built. I pray God, that we will appreciate the trails and sufferings that helps us see what exactly we have built our lives upon. To what exactly we have connected our faith to. May we see it as a gracious gift. One designed to show us the truth so that we may have real, solid, eternal life in Christ. 

#5.2 – The Wisdom of Suffering [James 1:1-18]: Faith

So, we have answered the question of how endurance is actually developed within us? We saw that it happens when our spiritual strength is put to the test. When our faith is pushed to its limits. That is when our endurance stretches and tears and has a chance to grow by the infilling life of the Lord Jesus Christ. But it doesn’t end there. And so, my next question then is, What exactly is Faith? Yes, it can be understood practically as one’s spiritual strength. But how exactly does it work?

To continue with our illustration of the body I found this cool definition for muscle. See how interestingly it relates to Faith: “Muscle cells contain contractile filaments that move past each other and change the size of the cell. Their function is to produce force and cause motion. Muscles can cause either locomotion of the organism itself or movement of internal organs. Cardiac and smooth muscle contraction occurs without conscious thought and is necessary for survival.”

Isn’t that cool? Likened to muscle, we could say that the function of Faith is to produce force and cause motion for our spiritual bodies. Wow, I can understand that. Every action in the spiritual realm is produced by Faith. That is our strength. Confident belief in the truth, value, and trustworthiness of God. And it is by exercising our spiritual muscles that we are able to move, hold, touch, grab, run, jump, and even punch in the spiritual realm. An interesting thought.

And just like our muscles, our Faith is a part of our spiritual frame and enables us to engage and move around in the spiritual realm. And just like an athlete must exercise and strengthen their muscles to run the race with endurance, so also do we exercise our Faith to run the race set out for us. And the Lord, who is a well experienced coach, gives us difficult exercises and trials to prepare us. So that we, in the words of James “can be fully developed and lacking in nothing.”

Lord, I pray that we will see suffering and trial as mere exercises that you have given to prepare us for the race that you have set out for us. May we approach them with courage and allow them to develop our spiritual muscles so that we may be fit and able to run with skill and endurance. Amen.