One of the biggest myths about following Jesus is, “If I do everything right, my life will be easy!” This is just not true. Yet, this commonly believed falsehood distorts what it means to be a genuine follower of Jesus. I have come across many whose faith in God has been destroyed by this heretical belief. The Bible reminds us that those committed to walking in Jesus’ footsteps should not only expect conflict, but embrace walking through it.
The Bible is overloaded with instructions and illustrations of how bad things happen to good people. The verse that just came to my mind puts it this way, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,” (James 1:2) James, Jesus’ half-brother, reminds us that conflicts of many kinds interrupt our lives. He describes these conflicts, not as a particular trial, but with great variety. His challenge to believers is to embrace these unwanted difficulties because God will work through them to work in you.
Let me suggest a few ways to embrace these trials. First, we need to be reminded that God is in control. This means that He is aware of everything that happens in our lives. He is not ever surprised with the poor choices that we make at times. We are reminded in Romans that He is able to redeem these difficulties in the lives of His followers. Things will always go better when you embrace what God is doing, rather than fighting it, or going it on your own.
Second, treat others with dignity. I have learned the hard way that going in with guns blazing only inflates the conflict. Treating others with dignity frequently opens the door to resolve the conflict. I need to remind myself that I am not a prosecuting attorney but a peace negotiator. Many years ago, an unhappy neighbor knocked on my door. She shared how my child was sitting on the hood of her brand new car and broke the headlight by kicking. I responded calmly and assured her that we would take care of any damage our child was responsible for. My response helped to deescalate the situation and work it out.
Third, we are reminded of the importance of getting as many related facts as possible. It is interesting how unknown facts make a huge difference in each situation. The Bible reminds us, “Every charge must be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses.” (2 Corinthians 13:1) I later learned, talking to my child about the broken light, that there were three girls sitting on the car. It was encouraged by the car owner’s daughter. I also learned that it was the daughter’s best friend that broke the light. The owner’s daughter blamed our child instead of her best friend. Things got resolved when all the facts were known. I also should add that we have a great relationship with these neighbors to this day.
The most important reason to embrace life’s difficulties are the words of James himself. “for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”( James 1:3–4) Our Lord uses difficulties to help us mature as His followers. This means that growing followers of Jesus will face difficulties!
-Pastor Joe Parkinson