James 1:2-4, NIV
2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4 Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
Do you ever read parts of the Bible and think, “man, I wish that wasn’t in there!”? This might be one of those passages. James, the half-brother of our Lord Jesus Christ, tells us what to do “whenever” we “face trials of many kinds”. There’s not a condition there; he didn’t say “if you face trials”. He said “whenever”. Even in Greek, there’s no doubt what James says, “you will face trials”. Jesus said the exact same thing; we shouldn’t be surprised then for James to use information with which we should already be familiar. Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble” (John 16:33b).
But James, in 1:2, isn’t attempting to merely state the obvious or remind his readers of previously learned information. Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, he has a purpose. He calls us to “consider it pure joy”. What?! Pure joy! When I am mistreated, I am supposed to be joyful about it?! That sounds like a pretty optimistic way of looking at a problem, huh? When he writes “pure”, he is actually saying “all” or in other words, “consider it nothing but joy…”. James is telling us to consider all the trials we have as “nothing but joy.” He’s not being naïve but offers an incredible piece of Biblical advice!
Our faith will be tested. Get ready for it. It is the way it is. Knowing that, James is encouraging us in this passage to look not at the trial itself but at how God will receive glory from it. Fortunately for us, James doesn’t stop at verse two. He writes in verses 3-4:
3 because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4 Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
Why do we consider our trials nothing but joy? Because of what we KNOW. The Greek word which lies underneath “know” means to have an “experimental knowledge”. Our knowledge comes from the experiments of our lives. We know it from knowledge learned.
In the movie “Evan Almighty”, “God” asked one of the characters, “If someone prays for patience, do you think God gives them patience? Or does he give them the opportunity to be patient? If they pray for courage, does God give them courage, or does he give them opportunities to be courageous? If someone prayed for their family to be closer, you think God zaps them with warm, fuzzy feelings? Or does he give them opportunities to love each other?”
We KNOW the result of these trials because we have already seen it in our lives and in the lives of others. This is yet another reason why it is so important that we remember the past: see God’s faithfulness and provision from the past in order to build your faith for the present and future.
James says we know (by experience) that the testing of our faith results in something desired: maturity (verse 4). Maturity and completeness, then, is obtained via perseverance. Perseverance, the vehicle which drives us to maturity is fueled by what? Verse 3 tells us it is fueled by the “testing of our faith”.
We must always remember what we know: our trials bring perseverance that, once it has completed its work in our lives, produces maturity and completeness. Keep your eyes on the purpose of the trial and more importantly on the One Who has overcome that trial. Yes, Jesus said “in this world you will have trouble,” but He immediately followed that with “But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
When you find yourself suffering…try not to be shortsighted. See past it by seeing what’s behind it.