Summary: There will be the test of the seductions which seek to lure us from the right way. There will be the tests of the dangers, the sacrifices, and the unpopularity, which are so much a part of the Christian way. But they are not meant to make us fall; they are intended to make us soar.
Text: James:1:3-4 (KJV)
3Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.
4But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.
F. J. A. Hort, the New Testament scholar, writes: “The Christian must expect to be jostled by trials on the Christian way.” All kinds of experiences will come to us. There will be the test of our sorrows and disappointments that threaten to take away our faith. There will be the test of the seductions which seek to lure us from the right way. There will be the tests of the dangers, the sacrifices, and the unpopularity, which are so much a part of the Christian way. But they are not meant to make us fall; they are intended to make us soar. They are not meant to defeat us; they are designed to be defeated. They are not meant to make us weaker; they are intended to make us stronger. Therefore we should not complain about them; we should rejoice in them.
3. Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.
If we meet this testing (“the trying of your faith”) correctly, it will produce unswerving consistency (“patience” or “steadfastness”). The Greek word “hupomone” is translated as patience but is far too passive (too compliant). “Hupomone” is the quality that makes people able not merely to suffer things but to overcome them. “Hupomone” is not only the ability to bear things; it is the ability to turn them to greatness and glory. The thing which amazed the non-Christians during the centuries of Christian persecution was that the martyrs did not die grimly; they died singing. One smiled in flames. They asked him what he had to smile about while he stood in flames. ‘I saw the glory of God,’ he said, ‘and was glad.’ The rationale for such joy and gladness is knowing that the various trials we face have a spiritual value. The result of testing borne in the right way is the strength to bear still more and conquer in even more challenging battles.
It is commonly taught that trials bring maturity, but it is not so. Instead, grit and perseverance in times of testing produce maturity. In troubled times we must practice spiritual toughness. As we endure “trials of many kinds” – economic stress, disappointments, criticisms, domestic pressures, persecution for our faith, illness – the multiple facets of our being are touched with grace.
4. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.
The unswerving consistency, in the end, makes those who have been tested three things.
(1) It makes them perfect. The Greek word is teleios, which usually has the meaning of perfection towards a given end. A sacrificial animal is teleios if it is fit to offer to God. A scholar is teleios if he or she is mature. A person who is fully grown is teleios. This consistency, which comes from a positive response to testing, makes each one of us teleios in the sense of being fit for the task we are sent into the world to do. Give this some thought. By how we meet every experience in life, we are making ourselves either fit or unfit for the task God sent us to do.
(2) It makes them complete. The Greek word is holokleros, which means entire, perfect in every part. It is used of the animal that is fit to be offered to God and the priest who is qualified to serve Him. It means that the animal or the person has no disfiguring and disqualifying blemishes. Gradually, this unswerving consistency removes the weakness and the imperfections from the person’s character. Daily, it enables us to conquer old sins, to shed old blemishes, and to gain new virtues until, in the end, we become entirely fit for the service of God and one another.
(3) It makes them deficient in nothing. The Greek is leipesthai, and it is used to indicate the defeat of an army, for the giving up of a struggle, for the failure to reach a standard that should have been reached. If we meet our testing in the right way, if day by day we develop this unswerving consistency, day by day, we will live more victoriously and reach nearer to the standard of Jesus Christ himself.
The idea that when we “get it all together,” our trials will lessen is a falsehood. Paul told Timothy the truth: “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tim. 3:12). Life will always be full of testings for the true Christian. We must not imagine they will lessen with time – say fewer trials at 35 than at 25, or 45, than at 35, or 55 than at 45, or at 65 than at 55, or at 75 than at 65. Trials are not a sign of God’s displeasure but are opportunities to persevere in the Lord.