James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,
To the twelve tribes in the Dispersion:
2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.James 1:1-4
The letter of James often gets a bum wrap. Martin Luther even thought the epistle didn’t belong in the canon of Scripture.
Every writer has a point of view (POV). James, the half-brother of Jesus, had his; Paul had his. They were different. Paul was writing to establish a clear understanding of the gospel of grace and its implications for our lives. James was not attempting to articulate the doctrine of salvation. He was concerned with the practical application of gospel truth. Paul dealt with many doctrinal errors. James was dealing with failures to apply the truth to our conduct. He was not dealing with doctrinal error. James was not an apologists, he was a practitioner of the faith.
A practical lesson
Trials are a normal part of life, even when we follow Jesus. Actually, I would say especially when we follow Jesus. Note that James does not say if we meet trials, but when we meet trials. Trials are to be expected. An approach to life that says, ”When I follow Jesus all will be peace and prosperity” is not to be found in James’ writing.
For those of us who have lived several decades the idea that life is filled with trials isn’t new news. What may confound some of us is James’ exhortation to “Count it all joy” when we meet trials of various kinds. How can one consider trials as something to prompt joy?
More practical lessons
There is something that is produced in followers of Jesus through trials that cannot be produced without them, steadfastness. We are like the lodgepole pine tree that produces serotinous cones that are completely sealed in resin. Those cones will only release the seed for new lodgepole pines when the resin is melted by fire. New pines only come into being following a forest fire. In this case, a forest fire (a trial) is a good thing.
In followers of Jesus, trials produce steadfastness or endurance which cannot be produced without the fire of a trial.
What is the benefit of steadfastness? When it has had it’s full effect, we are made perfect and complete lacking nothing. Whoa! Perfect? Complete?
The idea of being perfect is that we are brought to our intended end or purpose. What is that? Ultimately, it is to glorify God. We are able to do that through trials when our pleasure and joy are in Christ alone. So, count it joy or pleasure in Christ when you meet trials. those trials will produce steadfastness which will in turn produce perfection or take you to your intended end of glorifying God.
Completeness carries the idea that all areas of life have come to maturity. Maturity is defined as living in the image of Christ. His life is fully lived through us in all areas of our life, domestic, business, religious, communal.
I love how God has revealed things about himself in nature. The lodgepole pine reveals the truth that new life comes only from the trial of a forest fire. For us, the manifestation of the new life we have in Christ cannot be fully realized outside of the trials of life.
When we see that the presence of a trial equals the development of steadfastness which will takes us to perfection and completeness then we can count those trials as occasions of joy.
When Jesus faced the cross, he counted it as joy because he was looking at the end of it all, the production of many sons, you and I.
When facing trials, be sure your eyes are on the prize, not the trial. Walk in the Spirit during trial, see steadfastness, and let steadfastness have its full effect, perfection and completeness.
Thank you Jesus for designing a path for us that will enable us to glorify God and have all areas of our life transformed from glory to glory into the image of Christ.
Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.James 1:12