“The Universal Test — Life” ( James 1: 12, NIV ) by Carley Evans

What is the trial Christians are to endure? What is the test through which we are to stand? The trial and the test are one in the same — life. Life is the trial we are to endure. The test we must pass is living. No one who is born into this earthly existence does not suffer. The sufferings Christians endure are those which all human beings share. We may experience a special “thorn in the flesh” to keep us humble as did Paul. We may be attacked for our faith, but many other peoples are attacked for what they believe.

Life is the common trial, the universal test. Christians are “those who love God.” Because we love God, we are promised “the crown of life” by God Himself who gave His Son for us. “And this is [God’s] command: to believe in the Name of His Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as He commands us.” (1 John 3:23) We are to know that “the One who is in [us] is greater than the one who is in the world.” (1 John 4:4)

Because of this truth — that God has overcome the world — we are able to withstand the natural sufferings which are part and parcel of life on this planet.

“And now, dear friends, continue in Him, so that when He appears we may be confident and unashamed before Him at His coming.” (1 John 2:28) We will be able to show we stood the test; we endured life. Then we will receive the crown prepared for us in advance.

“Strength Through Weakness” (2 Corinthians 12: 9 – 10, HCSB) by Carley Evans

Paul, of all people, boasts in his weaknesses. He even writes that he “takes pleasure” in them, recognizing that when he is “weak, then [he] is strong.”

How is this possible? In weaknesses, strength is perfected through the grace afforded by Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, and God the Father — i.e. through the works and persons of the Godhead.

Paul claims that his physical [or perhaps psychological] weakness, his “thorn in the flesh” remains in order that he “not exalt [himself].” (2 Corinthians 12: 7) Within his weaknesses, including “insults, catastrophes, persecutions, and pressures,” Paul finds God’s “grace is sufficient for [him].”

Weakness remains in order that we not exalt ourselves, in order that we do not think more of ourselves than we ought.

Paul prays, “that the perception of your mind may be enlightened so that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the glorious riches of His inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of His power to us who believe, according to the working of His vast strength.” (Ephesians 1: 18 – 19)