“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. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything..…Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because that person, when they have stood the test, will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him” (James 1:2-4,12)

One of the important and very precious things about the Bible is the honesty and reality with which it views daily life. False religion trades on untruth and on empty promises, Biblical Christianity speaks into the world as it actually is and enables God’s people to live in the real world with integrity and in a way that honours God.

Nowhere is this contrast between Biblical Christianity and false religion more evident than in the matter of the daily trials of life. In false religion trials are either denied (as in Christian Science) or glorified (as in extremist religion), or, as in works based religion such as the prosperity gospel, trials are blamed on a lack of faith or obedience. All of this means that the followers of such religions end up trapped either in a form of spiritual make-believe or in guilt or, most often, in both. In Biblical Christianity, the reality of the trials that occur in daily life is openly acknowledged, but trials are also seen in relation to God’s rule over the world and His good purposes at work in the lives of His people. This view of daily trials is very evident within the New Testament as a whole, and particularly in the verses above taken from James’ letter. Several things are worth noting from these important verses.

First, we note that James is talking to Christian brothers and sisters in these verses. There is no presumption in these verses or anywhere else in the New Testament that believers will be exempt from the trials of life. On the contrary there is the assumption that every believer will experience many kinds of trials, some of them such as sickness or financial challenges, just the ordinary trials that come from living in a fallen world, others such as opposition or persecution, the specific trials that result from our faith in the Lord Jesus.

Second, we note that the experience of trials in the Christian’s life is not evidence of a lack of faith, but rather an opportunity for our faith to grow to maturity. The word that James uses and which is translated ‘testing’ (vs2) and ‘test’ (vs12) has to do with the process of refining something precious, like gold, in order to remove impurities and to bring the true precious metal to light (cf 1 Peter 1:7). The point that is being made by James (and Peter) is that testing brings that true nature of our faith to light and that it is precisely through trials that the Lord refines and matures our faith.

Third, we note that it is this knowledge that all believers face trials and that God uses trials to refine and mature our faith that enables us to rejoice in the midst of trials with what James calls ‘pure joy’ (vs2). James is not advocating a kind of fanaticism that rejoices because of trials for that is surely against common sense and by no means a mark of true spirituality. But he is calling upon believers to see life’s trials as being under the providential rule of God and thus as subject to God’s power and purpose in our lives. The ‘pure joy’ he refers to here is not the same thing as happiness which is circumstantial, but rather an inner contentment and trust that the Lord is indeed at work in our lives and for our good, not just in the short term but for eternity. It is this latter aspect of eternity that is captured in verse 12.

Fourth, we note that while it is quite natural for us to want the time of trial and testing to end and indeed to take steps to resolve the issue, it is important for us to see that God will allow trials to continue for as long as He sees fit. James reminds us that we must let ‘perseverance finish its work’, that is, that we must persevere in faith, until the trial is at an end and for as long as it lasts. Because we don’t enjoy times of trials, we naturally want them removed as soon as possible and when they are not removed in answer to our prayers, we begin to doubt God’s care and love for us. James 1:5 reminds us though that while we can pray for an end to the trial our primary prayer should be for the wisdom to see the trial as part of God’s process to bring us to maturity.

Fifth, and finally, we note that though trials may linger in this life, they will be brought to an end by the Lord either when we go to be with Him or when He returns. At the end of the road we find not just mature faith, but a crown of life which God will give to each and every one of His people. It is this knowledge as well which enables us to keep going and to look with joyful expectation to the time, as CS Lewis put it, when the term with its tests are over and the unending holidays begin!

Written by Mervyn Eloff. Original article can be found here.