1 James, a bond-servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,To the twelve tribes who are dispersed abroad: Greetings. 2 Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. 4 And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
I’m rolling back to the old way I was doing these devotionals, at least for now. I chose the book of James because it has been in the forefront of my mind lately. I love the opening about trials and testing and its purpose.
As we begin, we should look at the purpose of this letter. While it has been argued that this letter is the product of 1 of 2 James’ in the bible, it seems that evidence leans more towards James, the half brother of Christ. As we see in the first verse, it is addressed to the 12 Tribes. More specifically, it was written to converted Jews who were at that time Christians. It is said that this letter differs from the letters of Paul in that it discusses more practical application of the virtues of Christ instead of theology.
I love how he just jumps into his point in the second sentence. Verse 2 tells us to enjoy our trials in life. What? Is this guy crazy? Sure he is, he’s crazy for Christ and we should be too. But the question remains: why should we consider it pure joy?
Because it produces endurance. Let’s think about this for a second.Endurance is being able to withstand something for a period of time. As anyone who has ever done a cardiovascular exercise knows, we build our endurance by continuously exercising and doing it harder and faster each time. I believe the comparison is the same here. We look forward to repeating the exercise to meet our goal: increasing our endurance. Why do we need endurance, though?
James tells us in verse 4 that is so that we may be perfect and complete. Complete in what? Perfect in what? Roll back to verse 3, testing of your faith. It is so our faith may be perfect and complete. You see, when we are tested, we are presented with a choice, a fork in the road. We can choose to fold under the pressure or we can fight against it until we are victorious over it. We all know, however, that we cannot resist all temptations on our own. First, I don’t want to confuse testing with temptations. Temptations are a beckoning from the enemy, whereas testing, while it can be in the form of a temptation, is something that God allows us to go through in order to strengthen our faith. More about this later.
Luckily, we have God “on call” waiting to help us if we ask. We are told this in 1 Corinthians chapter 10,“No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.” This testing is an opportunity for us to call on God for support. It is an opportunity for Himi to not only shine in our lives, but possibly in the lives of others as well.
This is how we strengthen our faith. Imagine going on a run to improve your endurance. At the end of your run, you know what your body is capable of and next time you run, will trust your body to run atleast that but most likely will push yourself faster or farther. The same is true with God. We will learn to trust him more for bigger things in our lives. “Well He got me through that last time, so I know He will do it again.” It is important for us to recognize, however, that this is not an opportunity for us to test God. We cannot look at this as, “well I fall off the cliff and survived last time, I’ll jump off of it again to show my friends how cool God is.” No, this is putting your God to the test, something the scriptures and specifically Christ warns against.
In the end of the testing, our faith in God is stronger because we relied on Him and He proved Himself faithful. We learn to trust Him through this testing and over time, we perfect our faith. I’m not saying that we ever arrive at the “perfect” level of faith, but that it is something to strive for. This is what the perfect result of endurance is. Peter says the same thing in his own words in the beginning of his first letter, “6 In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, 7 so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; 8 and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory,” Our obvious faith in God as Christians is an example to others that causes them to ask, “how do I get that?”
This is why we should look forward to being tested. Certainly, it’s a gruelling process, one that sometimes we don’t want to go through. However, we know that in order to become a marathon runner, we have to lace up our shoes and just start running. Thankfully we have a loving God that is willing to step in when we need Him as long as we trust Him to follow through.
What testing are you going through today? How can you persevere and increase your endurance? How can you ask God to help you?