Summary: When trials come, as trials do come into each life, how shall the godly person respond?
WHAT TRIALS MAY COME
“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.”
One truth is undeniable—trials come into each life. When trials come into your life, for trials do come to each of us, how do you respond? What is your first response when disappointment grips your soul and threatens happiness? The letter James wrote is, if nothing else, practical. The brother of our Lord speaks pointedly to fellow believers who share in the trials of this world. Join me in exploring the teaching of the Word as we equip ourselves to respond to trials of various kinds.
TRIALS ARE INEVITABLE — James recognises that trials are inevitable. In the Greek language, “trials” [peirasmós] may refer either to external adversities or to internal temptations that come into the life of an individual. In VERSES 13 and 14, the word refers to temptations. Here in our text, and for our contemplation this day, the word speaks of those external events that try us, exhausting us and even threatening physical life.
Christians to whom James was writing were under extreme pressure because of their faith that Jesus was the promised Messiah. Among the trials we recognise were executions [ACTS 7:57-60], physical mistreatment and imprisonment [ACTS 8:1; 22:4], impoverishment and deprivation of the basic necessities for life [JAMES 2:2-6; 5:1-4], and sickness and attendant discouragement [JAMES 5:13, 14]. The author of the Letter to the Hebrew Christians also writes of their trials. “Recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one” [HEBREWS 10:32-34].
Other trials were less apparent as trials. James speaks of the temptation to become casual about the Faith of Jesus the Lord. He spoke of the temptation to be religious without being transformed—of going through the motions of worship without worshipping [JAMES 1:22-25]. He spoke of the temptation to show partiality toward fellow believers [JAMES 2:1-6]. He also spoke of the temptation to selectively do what the Lord commands—to apply faith in a selective fashion [JAMES 2:14-17], to say what you are really thinking without thought of the consequences of your speech [JAMES 3:1-12], and to exercise worldly wisdom without recognising heavenly wisdom [JAMES 3:13-18]. The ever present danger of becoming worldly in one’s thinking and in one’s actions [JAMES 4:1-12], and boasting in our own strength [JAMES 4:13-17], are temptations that James recognises as dangerous for those who would honour the Lord Jesus. He also warns against depending upon what one has, instead of depending upon the Master [JAMES 5:1-6].