Faith Goes the Distance

The One Year Chronological Bible, NKJV (Tyndale, 2013), December 12

Actions are belief-driven. They do not produce beliefs; they reveal beliefs. Perseverance, on the other hand, reveals and matures faith. “Bailing out” reveals immature faith or downright unbelief.

James the Apostle connects faith with perseverance: “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing” (James 1:2-3).
What does it mean to persevere? And under what conditions do believers persevere?

Perseverance – to remain steady in a course of action, especially in spite of difficulties, obstacles or discouragement.

Place that definition into James’ statement “Knowing that the testing of your faith develops patience [remaining steady and staying the course] . . . that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”

Americans are bailout “professionals”. We bail out:

  • When marriage becomes difficult, we divorce.
  • When church becomes difficult, we either quit or transfer our membership to another church.
  • When job situations become tough, we print out multiple resumes and look for another position elsewhere.
  • When emotional pain becomes unbearable we resort to coping mechanisms (both legal and illegal).
  • When adult children make continued irresponsible decisions we bail them out.
  • When big companies over-extend, our government bails them out.

“Bailing out” has become a defining characteristic of American culture, but for followers of Jesus Christ, bailing out isn’t an option. With every bailout people become weak-willed wimps, pathetic, and remain infantile in their faith and experience of God. Persevering through difficulties and trials matures believers.

God uses the tough stuff to toughen our stuffing (our internal resolve to become mature believers). The path to maturity leads through fields of disappointment, hurt, and, sometimes, unbearable pain. Later in his epistle James uses Job to illustrate perseverance and its reward—“You have heard of the perseverance of Job and seen the end intended by the Lord” (5:11). It is always too soon to bail out.

Faith works in the midst of trials. Faith refuses to bail out. The saints of God must rediscover what it means to persevere.

Questions from today’s chronological Bible reading (James 1:1-3:18):
Theologians have called the book of James, “the Proverbs of the New Testament”. What does James teach about the source of wisdom and the expression of wisdom in a believer’s life?