An exposition of James chapter one in our current sermon series caught my attention, specifically James 1:2-3 – “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness (ESV).”
My Study Bible defines steadfastness as a life of faithful endurance amid troubles and afflictions. I find this definition relevant and meaningful. Even when there are billowing storms descending upon me, I want to remain steadfast in my faith.
I have yet to encounter major difficulties in my life. However, something subtle and unsuspecting could also derail one’s faith. As I looked back at my adulthood, there were segments of it running on autopilot. Some people may call it “drifting through life”, going wherever the current flows. It is surprisingly easy to end up in such a situation, particularly when I was trying to cope with work, family, and other responsibilities. Consequently, I was left with an overall sense of tiredness and limited mental capacity to focus well on many things. At times, this led to a disconnect between my desire to practice my faith and the reality of how I lived my daily life.
Our spiritual journey is often described as a race. In 2 Timothy 4:7 (ESV), Paul said “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith”. For most people, the journey is more like a marathon rather than a 100-meter sprint. Unlike a sprinter, a marathon runner must have the stamina and ability to pace oneself to reach the finish line. How do I sustain and grow in my Christian faith while running in a long exhausting marathon?
When I was a young adult, my church mentor shared a book entitled “Halftime: Moving from Success to Significance”, written by the late Bob Buford. At 41 years old, Bob had done exceedingly well in his family business, achieving both financial and personal goals that he had set for himself. However, he felt God calling him to do something different for the second half of his life. (Reference: https://halftimeinstitute.org/bob-buford-tribute/)
“Halftime” reminds me of the interval after the first half of a soccer match. The interval is necessary for the team to rest, do a quick stock take and re-strategise for the second half of the match. Similarly, I think it is important for me as a Christian to take stock of my life, realign it to God’s purposes for me and rechart the course ahead. This should be an ongoing exercise, although this has become more pertinent for me as I hit 46 this year. Thankfully, this pandemic has afforded me the time to evaluate my impact on this Earth and deal with my disappointments, while rethinking what is God’s game plan for the second half of my life.
Regardless of a game plan, what truly matters is how I perform in the game itself – how do I fare in my everyday life. In the last two to three years, I faced multiple challenges at work and experienced discouragement and self-doubt. God has tutored me in these circumstances about character building and learning how to be impactful through Him rather than relying on my wisdom alone.
Being steadfast is about having faithful endurance; there is no easier route. There were occasions when I felt socially cut-off and alone. Such experiences reinforced the need for a community. The good news is, we already have many witnesses before us who have completed the race and finished well! (Hebrews 12:1)
By brother William Soh