I am sure that at one point or another we have all seen the bumper sticker that says “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” And I am sure we have all had days that when we read this we thought, “I would love some lemonade right now, so I could put it in a water gun and shoot you in the eye!”
It is easier to smile at that statement than to practice it, but the basic philosophy is sound, in fact, it’s biblical. Throughout the Bible there are people who turned defeat into victory and trails into triumph. Instead of being victims, they became victors.
The epistle of James tells us that we can have this same experience today! Whether we are dealing with trails on the outside, or temptations on the inside, through faith in God and Jesus Christ, we CAN experience victory!
Let’s read James 1:2-8.
“Consider it all joy my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.”
The key to turning our trials into triumph is to obey the four imperatives:
“Count it all joy when you fall into various trials” (1:2) Notice that James assumes we WILL experience trials. He doesn’t when “if,” he says “when.” This is because as Christians, we must expect trails. Jesus said so in John 16:33. Paul also said so in Acts 14:22. Also notice that the nature of these trials are “various.” We all know that some trials come simply because we are human (sickness, accidents, etc.) Other trials come because we are Christians (1 Peter 4:12 and 2 Timothy 3:12) But because Satan fights us, and the world oppose us, we can expect trials!
What is to be the Christians Response? “Count it all joy!” This was the attitude of the apostles (Acts 5:41), of Paul (Romans 5:3, Philippians 2:17-18) and of the Christians (1 Peter 1:6-8, 4:12-14). So the first step to turning trials into triumph is to immediately thank God and adopt a joyful attitude!
But how, we ask, is it possible to rejoice in the midst of trials? The second imperative in verse 3 explains how. “Knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience” (vs. 3). The right knowledge concerning the value of trials makes it possible to have a joyful attitude. We need to understand that trials test our faith, and faith tested can bring out the best in us! Just as fire purifies gold (1 Peter 1:7) and just as training makes an athlete stronger, so also we can be stronger through our trials. With this understanding, we can have joy in our trials because we know that testing works FOR us and not AGAINST us, and trails help us to mature.
Specifically, faith tested produces “patience.” Notice Romans 5:3-4. In the Bible patience is NOT a passive acceptance of circumstances. It is a courageous perseverance in the face of suffering. It is the continuing on even when it is rough, despite the circumstances. Such a quality of steadfastness can come only through experiencing trials. The value of developing patience will be seen in the next few verses. Having an understanding about what trails can accomplish enables us to have a joyful attitude toward such trials.
To really benefit from our trials, we must obey the third imperative found in verse 4. “Let patience have its perfect work.” To truly turn trials into triumph, we must let patience do its work. Too often we want to get our trials or difficulties over with quickly, but the best course is to bear up under the trial patiently instead of grumbling and complaining. We should patiently endure the trial, doing good despite the circumstances, for when patience has had an opportunity to work, it produces “maturity.” The word perfect does not mean sinless, but completeness, wholeness, maturity. In the New Testament, it is used for those who have attained to spiritual manhood in Christ, those who have reached full maturity and understanding in spiritual matters, and those who are no longer “babes” and immature persons in Christ. Such maturity only comes when patience has had time to work.
Consider, for example, an endurance runner in his training. To be a mature runner requires letting patience do its work. That is, patiently running mile after mile in training. If we wish to run a race well spiritually speaking, we need to develop patience which only comes through a form of spiritual “resistance training”. That would be the trials which put our faith to the test!
Letting patience have its perfect work is not easy. It certainly requires wisdom, which enables us to see the value of our trials. This brings us to the fourth imperative necessary to turn trials into triumph, found in verses 5-8. “Let him ask of God”. If we lack wisdom, let us ask of God! He has promised to give it liberally and He will not reproach us for making such a request. Even Solomon’s request for wisdom was well pleasing to God (1 Kings 3:7-12). Now what exactly is wisdom? We should be careful to distinguish “wisdom” from “knowledge.” Knowledge involves information, facts, etc. Wisdom is the ability or insight to properly use those facts in the most expedient way. Failure to understand this distinction has led many to error. Many believe that this passage (vs. 5-8) teaches that God will give knowledge concerning His will in answer to prayer, but knowledge comes only through His word. We must carefully study it if we want to know the will of God. However, the wisdom to properly use His word can be received through prayer.
The wisdom to properly use trials and turn them into triumph can likewise come through “proper” prayer. Proper prayer is that asked in faith and with no doubt. Otherwise, the prayer will not be answered by God.
So here is the key to turning trials into triumph: having the knowledge and perspective that adversity can accomplish much good, then letting patient endurance of adversity accomplish its work, all the while using the wisdom God gives in answer to prayer to help put it all together. When this is done, even trials can be a source of joy for us as Christians!
So now I ask, will you turn your lemons into lemonade?
By Carley Robertson
Carley and her husband, Travis, serve with the Columbine church of Christ in Littleton, CO. Travis is a minister there focusing on young adults & families. Carley is a stay-at-home mom to their two daughters (Paityn Elyse, two years old; Brooklyn Kate, nine months old). Before serving with the Columbine church, they served in Hope, AR.