As I look back over 2015, one persistent feeling that plagued me. It is frustration. I found myself repeatedly hit with problems that culminated in a surge of disheartening discontent. From the news of ISIS terrorizing the Middle East to home-front problems of families in financial struggle, catastrophes crashed on me like one wave after another. I’ve resorted to taking it as the underdog in a fight. I’ve tried to roll with the punches. After a few tragedies, however, it’s hard to refocus and keep going. At times, with a heavy heart, I’ve looked heavenward and sighed with emotional exhaustion asking, “When will this end?” I know the quick catchphrases to tout. But they seem like an inadequate bandage to deep-felt wounds. I’ve been looking for something more to engage my heart with a sense of hope.
I started my usual morning ritual of preparing for the first Sunday of this year. With these thoughts of fatigue weighing on my heart, I grabbed a mug of coffee on the way to church and arrived early to a partially empty parking lot. The cold weather confirmed an unspoken feeling of depression. I pushed through the thought, as most of us do and shook the hands of many loving friends and greeted them with a “Happy New Year!”
As the morning service began, I mumbled a prayer in hopes of getting a word from Jesus. I needed a clear voice of direction. I felt Holy Spirit reply to me saying, “he shall wear out the saints…” I knew the passage He prompted in my thoughts. It was from Daniel 7:25-26. I quickly read over the text. The passage reads,
“And he (the Antichrist) will speak words against the Most High, and he will wear out the saints of the Most High… Then the saints shall be given into his hand… But the court shall be seated, and they (the saints) shall take away his dominion, to consume and destroy it forever.”
Although this passage speaks of the last days and the spirit of Antichrist, it offered me a profound hope in its description of those who will be oppressed. They are called saints. Saints in this text are defined as “faithful and devout ones” or “holy ones, those set apart to God.”  The passage doesn’t indicate that these saints acquired sainthood as a result of their persecution. No, it attributes this description to those in the midst of the struggle.
As a follower of Jesus, our identity in Christ isn’t attained in hardship. It is given to us prior to the battles that we will endure. What every follower of Jesus should be glad to discover in the middle of difficulty is the character of God fused that has been fused with their own. Even if hardship is a consequence of poor decisions, it doesn’t negate the identity the Holy Spirit has deposited into us as “new creatures in Christ Jesus.” (2 Cor. 5:17). God placed Himself in us, and suffering awakens us to the opportunity we have to demonstrate His power in us. This truth is reflected in the letter of James. It reads,
“Consider it all joy, my brothers, whenever you encounter various trials, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance.”- James 1:2
Notice that testing doesn’t produce faith. Testing of faith produces endurance. The word for endurance literally means “a courageous active resistance to a hostile attack.” It’s important to note that James’ letter is the first epistle circulated to the early church. James takes up his pen to write to Hebrew Christians who were facing many devastations against their faith. In this era, disciples were violently tortured by a Roman government. In addition to this, they faced personal rejection from their own families and communities. Christians were also assaulted with the heresies of Greek Gnosticism, which threatened to undermine the fundamentals of the apostles’ teachings.
In the middle of these three pandemic hardships, James optimistically writes, saying, “count it all joy.” What did he know that we need to discover? What was the hope that anchored James’ faith? I believe his hope was anchored in the transforming power of the Holy Spirit. With urgency, he pushed believers to rest in this simple truth. Suffering, if we will allow it, will make manifest the perfect character of Jesus in us
Even when we cause negative consequences in our lives, we can pull on the indwelling Holy Spirit who resides within us. God is counting on us to yield to His nature within us. He’s betting all of eternity on this. He is counting on the presence of His Spirit in us to be the winning play against the work of evil in the world. He is so confident that all of Heaven is seated, according to Daniel 7:26, with confidence that we will overcome and utterly destroy wickedness.
In the Old Testament account of Job’s life, we see God making this same eternally consequential wager. It’s not a game, it’s a transformation in us that all of Heaven looks to see manifest. Angels curiously consider the miracle of salvation. (1 Peter 1:12) When the Divine nature is infused with human nature, it provokes all of hell and humanity against it. The battle proves God’s perfect work of salvation to be a definitive end to evil in the hearts of those who love Him.
The Apostle Peter, in the reference above, encourages the church to consider the hope we possess soberly. Our understanding or revelation of Jesus directly unveils who we were created to be in Him. Jesus is, as Paul later tells us, the first of many. (Romans 8:29) The identity that He possessed in conquering the grave, as the Son of God, is extended to us through the new birth that we enter by faith. Just as Jesus is, so we are in this world. (1 John 4:17).
Are you facing a heart-breaking disappointment, a complicated crisis? As a follower of Jesus, you are a saint. Because of who Christ has made you, your default setting is to be an overcomer. (Romans 8:37). When the heat of life is turned up, you can fully pull on the nature of the Holy Spirit that is already in you. He has already placed in you the ability to resist evil and the ability to endure steadfastly. You are not only going to make it, but you will gracefully endure because you are a saint. You can be confident that God has placed Himself in you. His presence in you is enough to sustain you. Our only response in the midst of the battle is to rely on Him fully, yield to His guidance, and you will come out victorious. When the heat of difficulty increases, remember out of you is being forged the image, Jesus. Let it happen.
 Myers, A. C. (1987). The Eerdmans Bible dictionary (p. 902). Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.
Frustration is one of many words for 2015, ha. This past year can be seen as dismal and dark, I cannot deny that but I love that the Lord can always reroute us back to the rightful thinking. I have noticed that the enemy loves us to focus on what he’s doing but we tend tot forget to focus on what God is doing or what He has done AND what He has said. I love love love that you offer a glimmer of hope in the midst of the hell around us. Your words clearly follow the style of writing in scripture; highlighting the truth of the reality around them but ALWAYS pointing it back to what the Lord says. It is even mentioned in the Old Testament. Looking at David’s life in Psalm 42 & 43. David went through all kinds of hell in his life but He always went back to God. “Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again–my Savior and my God!” Psalm 42:11. It truly bothers me when I see Christians get worked up and led by emotions. I get it, emotions are real, God made us emotional creatures and I absolutely value them, and this sounds insensitive but God never told us to live off our emotions! I absolutely agree with your principle, 1. It’s biblical and 2. There is a reason behind the trials and 3. The end goal is full of hope. The principle is contextually accurate in the fact that you are not using it to create your own hopeless theology, the reason behind the trials is that the trials will make us more complete or “τέλειος teleios; wanting nothing necessary to completeness.” God wants whole Christians, lacking nothing, not immature babies crying when things do not go their way. The end goal is to make us look more and more like Jesus, who is our eternal hope. It’s the standard of living that is not impossible to live up to but not easy. Great word, I love your ability to always turn it back to Him.
This post reminds me of a scripture I recently cited in a paper I wrote this week. 1 Peter 1:3-6 reveals our hope, our salvation, and why we can rejoice now even in times of trial. The article here makes me think that in our lives we will each have times of tribulation and trial and that is to be expected because as Christians we are told to expect persecution. 1 Peter 1 reminds us though that even when we are in dark places, we have an assurance of our eternal hope so we get to rejoice (have joy abundantly) especially during those unpleasant times.
It is an honor to suffer for Christ, and I feel that if we are not being brought to places to suffering in each season then we are not being encouraged to grow beyond self-reliance and into reliance upon the power of God through Holy Spirit in our lives.
I’m in a time of trial now but I count it all joy that I have a chance to be tested because I know on the other side I have a greater level of anointing and love in Christ waiting for me.
Good read. I found that this article had some useful bits and nuggets on the topic of hope we’ve been discussing.
1.) This article made me feel feel a little sorry for the people who get frustrated, ha. I think it seemed pretty dark at first. I felt the redemptive message the article conveyed, but I felt the depth of the problem as opposed to the depth of the solution. However, the article did give a good answer.
2-3.) I agree with the principles being discussed. I think that there is a hopeful solution to the problem of despair. I also think we have the power to glide through dispair. Our Christian walk does not have to suffer.
4.) I really don’t think I have a solution to the suffering problem in the Christian walk. I think that the Bible was clear that suffering is inevitable. It’s going to happen. The second crack of the whip will always be as painful as the first. But Jesus has overcome the world. That belief in Jesus’ power is what can propel us through suffering.
This is definitely encouraging as I am being stretched in my day to day and will continue to be stretched. I definitely agree due to the fact that this was backed by much scripture and i always think of James 1:2 when i face trials knowing that the Lord can make the best out of it whether it is from him or not. It is absolute peace knowing that i can always rely on the Lord to make the best out of bad situations. I actually have conditioned myself to see that when I am facing things in life whether it is good or bad, to always look for the Lord in is as i know that he is doing things to work out for my good. (Jeremiah 29:11) that would be my solution to christian suffering is to remember that in the midst of the storm to praise the Lord. I like what psalms 34:17 says – “When the righteous cry for help, the LORD hears and delivers them out of all their troubles.” Knowing this we should seek the Lord in all of our troubles.
I fully agree with this, and it’s very motivating to know that the reason we struggle and have these hardships coming against us is that we’re doing it right. Good stuff, Docta!