Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. James 1:2-4
You cannot help but read this verse and then stop and say … What?
James’ letter is teaching the recipient of this letter how to deal with “trials”. I know I do not wake up in the morning and say “Jesus, hit me with a big one” or “Wow, I hope I get nailed with a real test today.” But I also don’t think that is exactly what James is saying. So lets take closer look.
The ESV uses the word “count”. Think about the times you have had to stop and count anything. The act is one of consideration, measurement and evaluation. James is not asking us to go looking for trials to throw ourselves into, instead he is saying when they do come, consider it. Stop and look beyond the pain, frustration, and disappointment.
In verse 3 James gives a why for the odd reaction of joy. Trials produce endurance. Think of any activity that you are now very proficient at? Almost all of them took a time of practice and repetition. Even if you are naturally gifted at something to get even better took some time.
If you have ever trained for a run before you know this process. You start out and feel like you are going to die as soon as you leave the driveway. But if you keep going out day after day you get to the end of the block and you are not even breathing hard. As you keep training you start to see that your body is responding and your times to run the same distance shrink.
Why do we seek endurance? So that we can finish well. The words “perfect” “complete” and “lacking in nothing” string together in the original language more like “So we can reach the end, entirely, leaving nothing behind”
James is helping us see that the way we face trials is a way for us to exercise our faith muscle. And the more opportunities we have to use that muscle helps us to be better prepared, so that we are complete, better in the long run.
Trials are not fun for anyone and we should all support those around us that are going through a difficult time. But the next time you are going through a trial consider the opportunity it has just provided you. See if the understanding of a trail as a divine opportunity can lift you into the joy comes from knowing the perfecter of our faith, Jesus.
written by Stan Shollenbarger