Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.
Even though I come from a long line of great cooks, my cousin in Phoenix is the only culinary professional in my family. He will tell you that the mortar and pestle is the most underestimated, even disregarded, kitchen appliance in the American home. These ancient gadgets were probably the first food processors in human history. Adam and Eve probably came up with this. All they would need was an indention in a rock somewhere, a smaller rock for pounding stuff inside, and there you have it—mortar and pestle. In fact, mortar means receptacle or product of pounding. A pestle is the pounder. We get our word pesto from this, and if you’ve ever seen pesto you know why.
But why should you move away from a modern high-tech appliance to embrace this relic? For one, the grinding action required in a mortar and pestle gently releases the natural oils in herbs and toasted whole spices instead of overheating them in a food processor at a high RPM. For another, the mortar and pestle gives cooks more control—a benefit of slower processing. There is a craftsmanship to this work that is unmistakable to the flavor and texture of the finished product. It may sound odd to refer to food as having character traits, but the work of the mortar and pestle produces an ensemble of tasty characteristics.
It might sound absurd at first, but scripture is clear that God puts us between His mortar and pestle from time to time. I hope you have never felt like pesto, but I can assure you that the testing of your faith produces an endurance that you would not have otherwise. As a follower of Jesus, we have a faith that is worth suffering for, and God is always in control of the suffering. It is His divine control that brings the flavor deep within us to the surface. It is the patience and peace that is evident from those who submit to this crushing that produces hope for the duration. Those characteristics testify to a hopeless world that God never allows those who trust Him to suffer pointlessly. He uses even the worst of our circumstances, all the grinding pressure, to produce not only a consistent but persistent faith in us.
In our study of John’s gospel this weekend, we will meet a father in desperate need for his son. He feels the panic that we all feel sometimes, needing God to act in a precise way and immediately. It is what happens in us, between needing Him to act and seeing the outcome, that brings out the quality of our faith. As we continue to discover in our study, based on the evaluation of our Lord, “sign-faith” is inferior to “word-faith.” God is seeking those who trust Him as the object of their faith instead of star-struck belief that comes from a sign. It is only through testing that we grow in our faith.