2 Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. 4 But endurance must do its complete work, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Holman CSB®, and HCSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.
Today, we examine the second of three passages that remind us, as followers of Jesus Christ, that painful experiences have purpose.
While we’d like to believe we’re exempt from hardships, trials, and tribulations, James forthrightly and candidly informs us this isn’t the case. He instructs us on how to respond, not “if” but “when” we face trials. He says, “Count it pure joy.”
These trials will be diverse and multi-colored, specifically designed by God as tools to refine and purify our faith, instill patience and endurance, and produce maturity. They’re intended to demonstrate or test the quality of an individual’s faith and to purify his or her character. If the believer endures, she or he will be perfect, which means reaching the end and becoming complete, whole, mature.
Author Stephen Covey challenges businessmen and women to begin with the end in mind. For the follower of Jesus Christ, our end is to become mature in our faith—to look, act, emulate, and be like Jesus Christ.
James tells us that trials are a part of this process with maturity as our goal. The trials are instructive, a test-run for our faith. As we successfully face and endure each trial, our confidence increases and we become better equipped to face the next challenge that lies ahead.
In The Message, Eugene Peterson describes these trials as gifts. Trials become painful gifts that contribute to the development of spiritual maturity. Because of their positive results, we can have a positive, joyful outlook.
As I read James’ counsel, I was reminded of my freshmen year in high school when I tried out for the varsity basketball team. Because of the competition and my size, I didn’t make the cut. I was devastated. A series of events eventually led to my reinstatement. The embarrassment and pain of rejection challenged me to work hard, practice longer, and persevere. My tenacity and stick-to-itiveness eventually earned me a starting position.
Through the years, this painful experience has served to remind me that painful experiences are a normal part of life and can produce positive results. Staying power can turn adversity into opportunity for success. God does not want to keep us from pain but rather to make us mature and complete.
Sticking in there, refusing to give up, grows us up as Christians. In the words of former North Carolina State Coach Jim Valvano, “Never ever give up.”
- Spend a few moments reminiscing. When in your life did you face a challenging situation? How did God use it to strengthen your faith? Thank God for His faithful abiding presence and for this painful gift.
- What challenging problem are you facing? Identify the elements that are making it difficult. As you review the situation, ask God to help you solve these problems or to give you the strength to endure.
- God does not want to keep us from pain but desires to make us mature and complete. List areas in your life that He may be developing maturity in you.