“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 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)
James, in a very different writing style than the Apostle Paul, jump right into his subject. No big introduction, just straight to the point.
James starts out with a paradox – joy through trials. How can this be? Our natural inclination is to avoid pain, to choose a path that minimizes our discomfort.
First, notice that James does not say “if” we go through trials… instead, he says “when”. Trials are guaranteed in life.
So what are trials? Are they temptations? No, they are simply tests.
And what is being tested? Our faith.
And who needs to know our level of faith? God? No, it’s for our benefit.
Psalm 139 reminds us that God knows everything about us – including our level of faith in Him. He knows if our faith is genuine, or a counterfeit – if we’re real or a poser. The benefit is for us.
The letter from James to the churches of his day was (and is) a series of tests for us to look in the mirror and see if our faith is genuine or not, to see if we are really trusting God, or just using God to satisfy our own selfish desires.
James tells us to count our tests, our trials, as joy, because the tests prove out our faith and make us mature in Christ. When our faith is tested, when we pass the test, it builds character and integrity and develops spiritual maturity in us. In short, we become more like Christ.
What does it take to be more like Christ? First of all, it requires that we face our tests, not run from them. To face our trials (tests) means that we put our fears aside, and put our faith in God to see us through the test. Facing our tests means that we endure, that we persevere, that we finish going through the trial – that we don’t bail out because it seems too hard.
And when we persevere, when we see the test through, James says our endurance builds our spiritual maturity, eventually becoming complete, lacking nothing.
We have talked about passing the tests – what happens when we fail the test? In short, we are then faced with temptation. If we give in to that temptation, we sin. And when we sin, we move further from God, not closer. Does God still love us? Absolutely. His love toward us does not change. At that point of sin, we must repent, we must turn our heart back to God and confess that what we have done was wrong, and by His grace, and get back in right relationship with God.
As we go through these tests in life, James commands us to go through the trial, and to do so with a good attitude. We can’t endue the test and have joy while grumbling or complaining. Having joy and a bad attitude (grumbling and complaining) are mutually exclusive.
So what can we take away from today’s text? We know tests will come our way. So let’s get prepared to face them!!
How do we prepare? Three things are key:
- Spend time in God’s Word every day
- Talk to God in prayer each day
- Have a “battle buddy” – God designed us to live in community, not in isolation