All Joy In All Trials
By Charles H. Spurgeon (1834 – 1892)
“My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, so that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing” (Jas. 1:2-4).
First, let us think a little upon the essential point which is assailed by temptation or trial. It is your faith which is tried. It is by our faith that we are saved, justified and brought near to God, and therefore it is no marvel that it is attacked. All the powers of darkness which are opposed to right and truth are sure to fight against our faith, and various temptations will march in their legions against our confidence in God.
It is by our faith that we live. We began to live by it and continue to live by it, for “the just shall live by faith.” Faith is your jewel, your joy, your glory. And the thieves who haunt the pilgrim way are all in league to tear it from you. Hold firmly, therefore, to your choice treasure.
Do not marvel if the full force of the current shall beat upon your faith, for it is the foundation of your spiritual house. Oh that your faith may remain steadfast and unmovable in all present trials, so that it may be found true in the hour of death and in the day of judgment.
According to the text we are said to fall into “divers temptations” or into “many temptations” – that is to say, we may expect very many and very different troubles. In any case, these trials will be most real. The furnace, believe me, is no mere place of extra warmth to which you may soon accustom yourself. It is often heated seven times hotter, like the furnace of Nebuchadnezzar, and God’s children are made to know that the fire burns and devours.
Tested and Proved
The invaluable blessing gained from trials is that our faith is tried and proved. The way of trying whether you are a good soldier is to go down to the battle. The way to try whether a ship is well built is, not merely to order the surveyor to examine her, but to send her to sea. A storm will be the best test of her staunchness. Sanctified tribulations work the proof of our faith, and this is more precious than that of gold which perishes, though it is tried by fire.
Now, when we are able to bear it without turning aside, the trial proves our sincerity. Coming out of a trouble the Christian says to himself, “Yes, I held firmly to my integrity, and did not let it go. Blessed be God, I was not afraid of threats; I was not crushed by losses; I was kept true to God under pressure. Now, I am sure that my religion is not a mere profession, but a real consecration to God. It has endured the fire, being kept by the power of God.”
I find it especially sweet to learn the great strength of the Lord in my own weakness. We find out under trial where we are most weak and just then in answer to prayer, strength is given answerable to the need. The Lord suits the help to the hindrance, and puts the bandage on the wound. In the very hour when it is needed, the needed grace is given.
Therefore, when you are tempted, “Count it all joy” that you are tried, because by this you will receive a proof of your love, a proof of your faith, a proof of your being the true-born children of God.
Testing Produces Patience
Let us think of the priceless virtue which is produced by trial, namely, patience; for the proof of your faith “worketh patience.” The man who truly possesses patience is the man who has been tried. What kind of patience does he get by the grace of God?
First, he obtains a patience that accepts the trials as from God without a murmur. Calm resignation does not come all at once. Often long years of physical pain, or mental depression, or disappointment in business, or multiplied bereavements, are needed to bring the soul into full submission to the will of the Lord. By degrees we learn to end our quarrel with God, and to desire that there may not be two wills between God and ourselves, but that God’s will may be our will.
The next kind of patience is the kind when experience enables a man to bear ill treatment, slander and injury without resentment. He feels it keenly, but he bears it meekly. Like his Master, he does not open his mouth to reply and refuses to return railing for railing. On the contrary, he gives blessing in return for cursing. Blessed is that holy love which hopes all things, endures all things and is not easily provoked. Ah, friend, if the grace of God by trial shall work in you the quiet patience which never grows angry, and never ceases to love, you may have lost a trifle of comfort, but you have gained a solid weight of character.
That is a grand kind of patience, too, when we can wait without unbelief. Two little words are good for every Christian to learn and to practice – pray and stay. Waiting on the Lord implies both praying and staying. What if the Lord Jesus does not come tomorrow! What if our tribulations are still lengthened out! What if the conflict is continued! He who has been tried and by grace has obtained the true profit of his trials both quietly waits and joyfully hopes for the salvation of God.
This patience also takes the shape of believing without wavering, in the very teeth of strange providences and exceptional demands, and perhaps inward misgivings. The established Christian says, “I believe my God, and therefore if the vision tarries I will wait for it. My time is not yet come. I am to have my worst things first and my best things afterwards, and so I sit down at Jesus’ feet and wait for His leisure.”
Brothers and sisters, if, in a word, we learn endurance we have taken a high degree. You look at the weather-beaten sailor, the man who is at home on the sea. He has a bronzed face and mahogany-colored flesh. He looks as tough as heart of oak and as hardy as if he were made of iron. How different from us poor landsmen. How did the man become so accustomed to hardships, so able to weather the storm, so that he does not care whether the wind blows southwest or northwest? He can go out to sea in any kind of weather. He has his sea legs on. How did he come to this strength? By doing business in great waters. He could not have become a hardy seaman by staying on shore. Now, trial works in the saints that spiritual hardihood which cannot be learned in ease. You may go to school forever, but you cannot learn endurance there. You may color your cheeks with paint, but you cannot give them that ingrained brown which comes of stormy seas and howling winds. Strong faith and brave patience come of trouble and a few men in the church who have been prepared by this are worth anything in times of tempest. To reach that condition of firm endurance and sacred hardihood is worth all the expense of all the heaped-up troubles that ever come upon us from above or from beneath. When trial works patience, we are incalculably enriched.
Made Perfect and Complete
“So that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” If our afflictions tend, by trying our faith, to create patience, and that patience tends to make us into perfect men in Christ Jesus, then we may be glad for trials. Afflictions by God’s grace make us all-round men, developing every spiritual faculty, and therefore they are our friends, our helpers, and should be welcomed with “all joy.”
Afflictions expose our weak points, and this makes us attend to them. Being tried, we discover our failures, and then going to God about those failures, we are helped to be perfect and complete, wanting nothing.
Sanctified trials produce a chastened spirit. Some of us by nature are rough and untender. But after a while, friends notice that the roughness is departing, and they are quite glad to be more gently handled. Ah, that sick room did the polishing. Under God’s grace, that depression of spirit, that loss, that cross, that bereavement – these softened the natural ruggedness, and made the man meek and lowly like his Lord.
Sanctified trouble has a great tendency to create sympathy. Those repeated blows from the rod make us feel for others who are smarting, and by degrees, we are recognized as being the Lord’s anointed comforters, prepared by temptation to help those who are tempted.
Have you never noticed how tried men, too, when their trouble is thoroughly sanctified, become cautious and humble? They cannot speak quite so fast as they used to do. They do not talk about being absolutely perfect; they say little about their doings, and much about the tender mercy of the Lord. They speak gently to other erring ones.
Those, too, are the kind of people who are most grateful. I have known what it is to praise God for the power to move one leg in bed. It may not seem much to you, but it was a great blessing to me. Those who are heavily afflicted come to bless God for everything. I am sure that woman who took a piece of bread and a cup of water for her breakfast, and said, “What? All this, and Christ, too!” must have been a tried woman, or she would not have exhibited so much gratitude. And that old Puritan minister was surely a tried man, for when his family had only a herring and a few potatoes for dinner, he said, “Lord, we bless You that You have ransacked land and sea to find food for us today.” If he had not been a tried man, he might have turned up his nose at the meal, as many do at much more sumptuous fare. Troubled men get to be grateful men, and that is no little thing.
As a rule, where God’s grace works, these come to be hopeful men. Where others think the storm will destroy the vessel, they can remember storms equally fierce which did not destroy it, and so they are so calm that their courage keeps others from despair.
These men, too, become unworldly men. They have had too much trouble to think that they can ever build their nest in this black forest. There are too many thorns in their nest for them to think that this can be their home.
And these much-tempted ones are frequently the most spiritual men, and out of this spirituality comes usefulness. If you are ever to be a leader and a helper, as you would wish to be, in the church of God, it must be by such means as this that you must be prepared for it.
Do you not wish to have every virtue developed? Do you not wish to become a perfect man in Christ Jesus? If so, welcome with “all joy” various trials and temptations. Flee to God with them. Bless Him for having sent them. Ask Him to help you to bear them with patience, and then let that patience have its perfect work. And so, by the Spirit of God, you shall become “perfect and entire, wanting nothing.”
– Condensed from a sermon.