Before, not within

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. And remember, when you are being tempted, do not say, “God is tempting me.” God is never tempted to do wrong, and he never tempts anyone else. Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away. These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death. (James 1:12-15)

It should not catch any of us by surprise that God doesn't say "IF" testing or temptation comes your way, but rather that if "WILL" come your way. The 'patient endurance' thing may have more than a few of us concerned because we are less than patient when crazy stuff messes with our life! If we ALL face trials and temptations, testing our faith and bringing freshness into our walk with Jesus, maybe we'd do well to learn how to deal with them BEFORE we need to face them. We cannot control when they will come, nor even what they will be, but we can prepare our minds, emotions, and spirit to be ready to endure them as they do.

Perseverance is harder than some might think. We have this crazy idea that if we are tough enough, or 'studied up' enough, we will be able to endure these tests and resist the temptations. Truth be told, no amount of 'self-directed' resistance will help us to endure the test or resist the temptation. In order to 'bear up under' a trial or test, we need something built up within our character that helps us turn to God quickly and not lean into our own strength or 'earthly wisdom'. If we are facing these crazy things in our own strength, we are surely not going to 'bear up under them'!

Whenever we attempt to face the craziness in our own strength, we will be tempted to give up. Why? Doubt begins to enter in, fear takes root, and soon we find our 'flesh' winning over our spirit. We weren't as 'prepared' as we thought we were. The discipline to endure the trial today is built into us BEFORE the trial ever begins. We press into God now in order to face what comes tomorrow. When it comes tomorrow, we lean into God a bit more and then we listen to what he is telling us in that moment. We hear his voice clearer in the midst of the craziness of the test because we have learned his voice when there was no craziness messing with our heads!

When we lean a little less on our own strength and a little more on the strength Jesus brings, we find that although we may not face the test or temptation 'perfectly', we have come out the other side unscathed and stronger than when we began to face it. While we may not want to hear it, trials and temptations actually help us to rid ourselves of our 'false trust' in our natural ability and strength. We learn there is a greater power that we can lean into when the craziness of life places demands upon us that we are really not strong enough to persevere through anyway. Just sayin!

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