Sunday, February 15, 2009

OnFire #176 Puppies, Pain and Gain

OnFire Encouragement Letter

#176 Puppies, Pain and Gain

When I was a “wee lad,” an older child on the playground told me that he had puppies at home and he was selling them for a quarter each. I thought it was quite a deal. It didn’t matter that we already had a dog, or that I hadn’t asked my parents. I happened to have a quarter and he had a puppy, and so we completed the transaction. I handed over my quarter and went home to tell my mother that I was getting a puppy.

She wasn’t as impressed as I was and she asked all sorts of questions. Who sold me the puppy? Whose puppy was it? Did his parents say it was OK? The answers made her more than a little suspicious and she said I would have to go back and try to get my money back.

The boy announced a deal was a deal and that was final. I was heartbroken. I had paid my quarter and there was nothing to show for it.

This, I think, is the great fear we have when we go through troubles and trials - that after going through all manner of difficulties we will have gained nothing, that we have paid the price in vain.

As James opens his letter, he writes, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete...” (James 1:2-4*)
The people James wrote to had their share of trials, including financial troubles (1:9), social injustice and persecution (2:6), and illness (5:14). These are not so different from some of the troubles we face at times, and it would be easy to add others.

A bad day once in a while is one thing, but as our troubles continue the thought nags us that nothing productive will come from it. And since life seems hardly free from trouble, what is there to hope for? We rarely voice these thoughts as Christians because something tells us we shouldn’t, but inwardly we wonder...

James tells us that troubles are not in vain for the believer. Rather, we develop a highly valued character trait as we endure trials. Perseverance is a quality which comes as we face these difficulties, and we need perseverance if we want to be rounded, mature Christians.

And so, James tells us, we need to look at our problems differently. Consider it “all joy,” he tells us literally. I can tell you I’m not fully there yet. There are times I can see that there might be possibilities for good in a situation. This represents growth for me. But I know I don’t look at all my problems as opportunities for growth in perseverance and maturity. If I did I could report that my trials are all joyous.

I wish I had better news. It seems there are some things we can only learn through difficulties. I wish it weren’t so.

But, thankfully, there is hope in these verses. Our problems are not wasted time and energy. If we are willing to let God work in us to transform our character and nature, these trials will change us and improve our character. We will become stronger and more mature believers. The pain is not in vain.

I hope this helps. Be on fire.

OnFire is a weekly letter on faith and character written by Troy Dennis. Troy is the Pastor of Family Ministries at Highfield Baptist Church, Moncton NB Canada. This letter published Feb 9, 2009. *Bible reference taken from the New International Version. To subscribe or reply, email Archives are located at

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