Do you know how many times I've wanted to resign as the pastor of Saddleback Church?
Just about every Monday morning.
Ministry is hard work. I'm guessing you've had times when you wanted to throw in the towel, too. Maybe it was after a rough sermon. Or maybe you received some unfair criticism you wanted to escape.
Maybe it's even deeper.
James also struggled in ministry. But he and the people he wrote to didn't just face criticism or stress over budgetary concerns. They faced outright persecution.
James knew that in the middle of tough times, similar to the ones his readers were facing, hope was essential. Throughout the book of James, God gives us a roadmap for how to embrace a hopeful faith. I don't know what you're facing today, but you can still lean into these seven truths during difficult seasons.
1. Our difficulties won't last. In light of eternity, our problems are short in duration. The Bible reminds us in James 5:10 (GNT): "My friends, remember the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Take them as examples of patient endurance under suffering." They were able to put up with a lot of hardship because they knew it was only temporary.
To increase your hope, you need to change your perspective. Stop looking at only the here and now. Start paying more attention to God's Word and to your soul because both are eternal.
2. God will use our troubles. James gives more details about the good work God is doing through us. He writes, "For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So, let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing" (James 1:3-4, NLT).
God is using your problems to develop your patience, endurance and strength in character, which will make you ready for anything. It may not seem like that's true. You likely feel tired and depleted when you're struggling, but trials only make you stronger.
3. Getting irritated won't help. When we're going through difficult times, it's easy to get frustrated—even to lash out at people close to us. But James reminds us, "You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires" (James 1:19b-20 NLT).
It's hard to be hopeful and angry at the same time. While anger won't make the uncontrollable controllable, hope can give you the strength to handle your pain better.
4. Trusting God pleases him. When you trust God in spite of not having everything figured out, you make God smile. James gives us the perfect example of this in the life of Abraham. God asked him to put up with many circumstances throughout his entire life. God called him to leave his homeland. God asked him to sacrifice his son. God constantly commanded Abraham to take big steps of faith without showing him all the details.
James writes: "Abraham believed God, and God accepted Abraham's faith, and that faith made him right with God.' And Abraham was called God's friend" (James 2:23b, NCV). Because of Abraham's faith, God considered him a friend. The same is true for us. When we trust God through tough times—even though we don't understand why—we become friends of God, too.
5. Jesus is coming back. The Bible says, "You, too, must be patient. Do not give up hope, because the Lord is coming soon" (James 5:8, NCV). None of us have any idea when Jesus will return, but we know he is coming.
When Jesus returns, he'll right every wrong and wipe away every tear. He'll judge everyone who rejects him. We can have hope because every day we get closer to his return.
6. This isn't the end of the story. The middle of a story is often confusing, messy and uncertain. But we need to remember that God knows the end.
Think of Job. When Job lost everything—his health, his family, his wealth—he had no idea how life would turn out. But God did. James writes, "What a gift life is to those who stay the course! You've heard, of course, of Job's staying power, and you know how God brought it all together for him at the end. That's because God cares, cares right down to the last detail" (James 5:11, MSG).
God cared about every detail of Job's life, and he cares about every detail of yours. No matter what you're facing right now, you can have hope because you know that God has your future covered. He knows the end of the story, and he'll guide you to that goal.
7. We will be rewarded one day. Over and over in Scripture, God promises to reward our faith in eternity. According to James 1:12 (NLT), "God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him."
I don't know what you're going through right now, but I know it doesn't compare to what God has in store for you in heaven. The Bible tells us that nothing on earth compares to it.
Hope isn't just wishful thinking. That's not what you need right now. You need the overwhelming conviction that God will do what he says He will do.
You can depend upon that.
This article originally appeared at pastors.com.
Rick Warren is the founding pastor of Saddleback Church, one of America's largest and most influential churches. He is the author of the New York Times' bestseller The Purpose Driven Life. His book The Purpose Driven Church was named one of the 100 Christian books that changed the 20th century. Pastor Rick started The PEACE Plan to show the local church how God works through ordinary people to address the five global giants of spiritual emptiness, self-serving leadership, poverty, disease and illiteracy. You can listen to Daily Hope, Pastor Rick's daily 25-minute audio teaching, or sign up for his free daily devotionals at pastorrick.com. He is also the founder of pastors.com, a global online community created to encourage pastors.
Get Spirit-filled content delivered right to your inbox! Click here to subscribe to our newsletter.
Dr. Steve Greene is now sharing stories, teachings, and conversations with guests who lead with love on Love Leads, a new podcast. Listen now.
Dr. Mark Rutland's
National Institute of Christian Leadership (NICL)
The NICL is one of the top leadership training programs in the U.S. taught by Dr. Mark Rutland. If you're the type of leader that likes to have total control over every aspect of your ministry and your future success, the NICL is right for you!
FREE NICL MINI-COURSE - Enroll for 3-hours of training from Dr. Rutland's full leadership course. Experience the NICL and decide if this training is right for you and your team.Do you feel stuck? Do you feel like you’re not growing? Do you need help from an expert in leadership? There is no other leadership training like the NICL. Gain the leadership skills and confidence you need to lead your church, business or ministry. Get ready to accomplish all of your God-given dreams. CLICK HERE for NICL training dates and details.
The NICL Online is an option for any leader with time or schedule constraints. It's also for leaders who want to expedite their training to receive advanced standing for Master Level credit hours. Work through Dr. Rutland's full training from the comfort of your home or ministry at your pace. Learn more about NICL Online. Learn more about NICL Online.