James 1:2-4 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. (NKJV)
My first thought was to write: holy cow, you’ve got to be joking. How do you feel “joy” when the trial is your daughter dying of cancer? But I know that’s not right, so I ask God to give me spiritual eyes to write this message.
There are times when Bible verses come alive. This is one of those times for us. These verses couldn’t be MORE real than right now. Let’s work backwards through the verses because the first part is the hardest, and frankly, the most difficult to obey.
Perfect, complete and lacking nothing…
How do “various trials” accomplish that? Here’s a few thoughts that come to mind:
- Trials give you experience
- Trials reveal your weaknesses so you can correct them
- Trials reveal inexperience
- Trials reveal lack of understanding
- Trials allows us to understand what was previously only theory or imagination
- Trials cultivate empathy, knowledge, wisdom, humility, deference, faith and personal conviction
- Trials toughen you emotionally
- Trials mature you
Think about some trial you’ve been through (ie. divorce, cancer, persecution, sickness, financial collapse, slander, etc). First, don’t you know have a lot more understanding and patience with other people who are going through the same thing? (you should; if you don’t that’s a whole other message) Second, don’t little problems that seem to devastate other people now seem inconsequential to you?
For example, if you’ve suffered through the loss of your job and reputation because someone didn’t like that you are a Christian, would a little gossip have that much effect on you now? That’s not to belittle someone’s “small” problem… it’s all relative. Which is the point: the more frequent and intense the trials, the more you grow in strength to deal with future ones (and help others through theirs).
Testing produces patience…
This is not hard to explain unless you’re one of those folks who has lived a charmed life – and there are those who have. I personally know numerous people and families who have had very few serious trials, some have had none. For them, there are things that “really bother” them that don’t even hit my radar. That doesn’t make me more spiritual; again, it’s all relative to experience.
For someone whose child has died, having a kid get bad school grades is not earth shattering. For a person who has been beaten severely for being a Christian, they probably don’t even notice some insult thrown their way. For a person whose spouse ran off with someone, took the kids and told everyone (untruthfully) they were being abused, it’s not much of a trial when the cap was left off the toothpaste.
One time I was teaching and a young lady was in tears, just beside herself because someone at work was being rude to her. My flesh wanted to tell her “no big deal, get over it” but I realized that relative to her experience with trials, this WAS a big deal to her. Through that “small” trial, she would become prepared for the next bigger one. We’ve all gone down this road, and we are all at different points on the path.
Okay, now here’s the hard part I don’t like:
Count it all joy…
I used to think “you’ve got to be kidding!”. Even now, I want to say at times “ENOUGH Lord, I don’t want any more patience!” Then God helps me in my weakness and reminds me how much He has taught me through the trials, and I get to sweetly reminisce about how many people have been encouraged and edified simply because God has allowed me to communicate what I’ve learned through the trials.
This is not a manufactured “pat Brent on the back” moment. I am beginning a study on James, and the first verse just happened to be hyper-relative to my current life experience. We are being tested on several fronts. Our faith has grown through it and will continue to grow. There are people who have been much more severely tested than us, and our problems would not be very difficult for them. Did I mention that it’s all relative? Why do I keep saying that?
I keep saying that because 1) we shouldn’t snicker at, or brush off the trials of others that we deem insignificant and, 2) we need to remember that what we think is difficult now will seem more tolerable in the future after we’ve been through it.
My family is the “various trials” thing as I write this. We will take God at His Word and pray for more faith, patience and completeness. THAT is why we can count the trials as joy…because we constantly remind ourselves of the spiritual reward.
Lord God, help me to count all the present trials as joy knowing that they will result in patience, faith and completeness. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
- What is the most obvious Bible truth you have learned today?
- What change in your life needs to be made concerning this truth?
- What specific thing will you do today to begin that change?