My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. – James 1:2-3
I recently joined a gym in the hope of improving my health and building some strength. When we exercise our bodies, we improve strength, endurance and agility. This fascinating fact is not simply true of the body, it is true of our spiritual self. In fact, we can grow our faith even when our bodies fail us. However, faith does not grow without work.
Let me put it to you another way, if you were an invalid with only the merest strength to arise and eat, would you not wish to improve? Say you were told to eat a certain diet and perform certain exercises, would you not do so if it meant a return to strength and wellbeing? It seems clear that if you heard and understood the instructions, then you would make the effort. While you might not be a marathoner or a champion weight lifter, you would know that improvements matter. How much more so to your soul?
While God’s people are saved eternally by His grace, they are also commanded, encouraged, and beseeched to seek His Kingdom to enjoy His salvation here and now while we are still beset by sinful temptations to our minds and bodies that war against the Spirit (Romans 7:22-23). In war, we must fight, but Gid has given us spiritual armor to combat the temptations on this world (Ephesians 6:11-18). Just as when the Lord gave the land of Canaan to the Israelites of old, He has given His children access to His spiritual kingdom now. Just as the Israelites had to obey God and defeat their enemies to enjoy their promised blessings, we now must obey Him and wrestle with forces opposed to God to fully experience the kingdom promised in the New Testament.
Like the woman seeking strength bodily by lifting weights and the man running on the treadmill to improve his endurance, the child of God should see temptation as a challenge to exercise their faith to improve their patience and hope in the promises of God. Because we feel better when we eat better, we should consume God’s Word like the finest cuisine to feed our souls. All of these things will grow as we “press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14).