Sometimes the Christian life feels blessed and rewarding. Other times it’s a struggle. If you’re wandering in a dark season and not feeling much like a resilient Christian, please remember that God wants to help you grow in maturity until you become wise, complete, and Christlike.
That’s what James promises in the first chapter of his epistle. He says to be joyful when facing trials “because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:2-4 NIV).
What does a mature—or resilient—Christian look like? In the last verses of the first chapter of his epistle, James discusses three areas of behavior. From them we can discern three steps Christians can take to become more resilient.
“If you claim to be religious but don’t control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless. Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you” (James 1:26-27 NLT).
Let’s examine the three steps, but in a little different order.
1. Detox from Spiritual Pollution
Resilient Christians undergo what I call a spiritual detox. We live in a fallen world. Its values are opposed to God and His ways. Unbiblical beliefs pervade every sphere of our existence, whether relationships, family, or life goals. We can get so used to them that we don’t even notice.
We become polluted by the world. How do we rid ourselves of the corruption?
With much prayer and help from the Holy Spirit, mature Christians have learned to identify the toxins in their world. They ask themselves, which assumptions and perspectives and behaviors are biblical, and which are not?
They then remove all that is contaminating their minds and spirits. That’s followed up by consistently seeking God and nurturing right thinking with Bible study, worship, fellowship, and prayer.
Lastly, they use their learned wisdom and close fellowship with Christ to refuse to let the world corrupt them again. They guard against slipping back into bad habits.
2. Watch What You Say
Resilient Christians watch their words. What does this have to do with being mature? Isn’t free speech a good thing?
James bluntly states that “if you claim to be religious but don’t control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless.” Maybe James was thinking of something his half brother, Jesus, said: “A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” (Luke 6:45 NIV).
Worshipping Jesus on Sunday and belittling one’s coworkers or neighbors or children on Monday is not the sign of a mature Christian. What comes out of our mouths reveals what’s going on inside our hearts.
3. Care for “Orphans and Widows”
Resilient Christians roll up their sleeves and love people. Caring for distressed orphans and widows—or anyone who’s abandoned or vulnerable or isolated—is “pure and genuine religion” in the sight of God the Father. That’s a pretty high commendation!
James is being direct in verses 26 and 27. Mature Christians don’t figure out the smallest donation they can get away with or look for a widow who’s like them so they won’t feel uncomfortable by having to love someone different. They see children of God with needs; their hearts motivate them to love; they take action.
Let Perseverance Do Its Work
Worship, words, and actions go hand in hand, or maybe heart in hand. As Christians persevere through life’s trials and develop godly wisdom, their hearts will become more like Christ’s.
If James 1 shines a light on your life and you see evidence of wisdom and God’s approval, praise the Lord! But if you’re like most of us, you see some gaps or inconsistencies in how you’re living. If that’s the case, rejoice! Rest assured that God wants to shape you into a resilient Christian. He’s not going to settle for second best. By being strengthened by trials, you can stand strong in any storm, and by gaining godly wisdom, you can be knocked down and get back up!
For more Godly Wisdom and practical tools to build perseverance in challenging times, check out our teaching series resources.
Lead Pastor, Awakening Church
Ryan Ingram is currently serving as the lead pastor of Awakening Church in San Jose, California. He and his wife, Jenny, planted the church in 2012 with a passion to awaken this generation to new life in Jesus. Ryan leads his church community through teaching and strategic leadership. He graduated from Moody Bible Institute (in Chicago) and attended Moody Theological Seminary. He lives in San Jose with his wife and three children.More Articles by Ryan