Bible Passage: James 1:1-4
Immediately after greeting his readers (v. 1), apostle James (ref. Gal. 1:19), in his epistle to Jewish Christians who had fled the persecution in Palestine and were now living in desperate economic conditions in the Diaspora, says “Count it all joy, when you meet trials of various kinds” (v. 2). The word ‘Count’ means to ‘think or consider’. He was calling them to alter their thinking about ‘the trials they were suffering’. He was asking them to be not surprised or sorrowful when they ‘fall in to’ trials, rather to consider it is an occasion for ‘All or Great or Complete or Unadulterated Joy’. He has two reasons to say so:
(1) The testing of our faith produces endurance (v. 2-3): The word ‘trials’ in v. 2 refers to ‘an attempt to test the nature or character of something’. That is why he equates ‘trials’ with the ‘testing of faith’ in v. 3. Just as Gold or Silver is tested by the furnace fire (Prov. 27:21), our faith is tested by the trials of life (1 Pet. 1:6-7). And as Gold and Silver come out ‘purer’ from the furnace (Ps. 12:6), faith comes out ‘stronger’ from trials because it produces ‘endurance or perseverance or steadfastness’. The word endurance is literally the ability to ‘stay under’ a heavy load for a long time. Like strong men who are able to carry heavy weights because their muscles were made strong by the heavy lifting in gyms every morning, our faith is made strong by undergoing the trials of life. In order to strengthen our faith in Jesus, God sends trials in to our lives. In this way we are prepared to face the continuous and greater trials in the journey of faith.
(2) Consistent endurance will lead to perfection (v. 4): Life is a long journey consisting of many trials. Many people could stop enduring through trials after some time. They can begin to question God and confess their lack of faith. Therefore, James asks us to “let endurance have its full effect”. He calls us to consistently endure the trials. And James adds that when we continue to endure under trials, it makes us “perfect and complete, lacking in nothing”. Perfect and complete in what? James is talking about ‘Christian maturity’ or ‘formation of Christian Character’. That is how Paul also sees it in Rom. 5:3-4. Through consistent endurance, God wants us to ‘mature’ or develop ‘Christian character’ so that we are made ready for the purpose that God has for us. After setting a very high standard for Christian ethics, Jesus says in Matt. 5:48, “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect”. Although we cannot be perfect till we see Jesus (1 Jn. 3:2), we certainly need to aspire for it. By continuing to endure through trials we will come very close to that ideal.
Application: We must consider or think about every trial as an occasion for ‘Great Joy’ rather than being surprised (1 Pet. 4:12) or complaining or murmuring about it. In doing this we will find our inspiration in Jesus Christ who for the ‘joy’ that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, so that we might not grow weary or fainthearted (Heb. 12:1-4).