“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” James 1:2-4
“We also glory [rejoice] in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” Romans 3:4-5 When I was a little kid, my Momma used to say, often, that tribulation builds character.
She’d say it whenever something bad happened; something I didn’t like; something that hurt me; something that caused me pain or heartache. And she’d smile this little smile and give me a big hug. She never said it was in the Bible; she said it like it was something she dreamed up all on her own. Much later, I figured out this is a basic Biblical concept; an idea from God; from the heart of God. Throughout my life, God has used money (or lack thereof) to have a profound effect on my life. It’s only when I’m flat broke; can’t pay my bills; I get so desperate that I really turn to God.
Some people equate character with integrity. Integrity is a word that comes from the Greek word for integer, and it means ‘whole number’. So integrity means “whole, entire, wanting nothing”. it’s the same as the word sometimes translated ‘perfect’, as in “Be ye perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.” (Matt 5:48)
But let’s be serious here. Are they really talking about ‘rejoicing’ in tribulation? I mean really? I’m willing to put up with tribulation; even be patient while it’s going on; but rejoicing? That’s a little over the top, isn’t it? Not a bit. That’s what it says and that’s what it means. Why? Because when you really start to get it, you’ll find that when you’re able to rejoice in tribulation, it changes the whole character of the event. It moves from being a bad thing to being a good thing, because you realize that God is using this experience to change you, to change your heart, to move you from being a selfish person to being a self-less person, from being a master to being a servant, from being like ME . . . to being like JESUS. That’s what character is all about.