Have you ever prepared for an event or left on a vacation with that vague, uneasy feeling that you’d forgotten something, but you couldn’t decide what it might be? Once I left on a trip remembering to take a suit but not a tie. Other times I’ve had the sense that I’d forgotten something only to discover that I hadn’t. Whether planning for a vacation, arranging for a business meeting, studying for a test, or a host of other things, no one wants to be ill-prepared. Few things match that sinking sensation that comes with the realization that “I didn’t provide for that contingency.” Our omniscient, omnipotent God does not leave His children unprepared for the realities of time or eternity. He graciously prepares us so that we are “lacking in nothing” (Jam. 1:4). It is the blessed reality of that fact that the Lord intends to help sustain us in trials. For trials we will have. James writes: “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (1:2-4).
The reality of trials. As a realist, James uses the term when, not if, we “encounter various [different in both type and degree] trials [multiple].” If we are believers, we will certainly endure trials, which are the “testing of . . . [our] faith.” Trials are peculiar, then, to believers. The world may share similar experiences on an external level. But they have no faith to be tested. God may be using their difficulties to provoke them to turn to Him, but much of the time those difficulties are simply the manifestation of God’s judgment upon their sin and rebellion. A believer who thinks that his salvation will result in a life of uninterrupted ease is naïve, deceived, and/or unaware of the promises in Scripture or the pattern of saints’ lives depicted there. Trials are as certain a part of believers’ lives as is breathing.
The response to trials. Since God has assured us that we will have trials, He graciously tells us what our response to them should be. Shock, surprise, anger, resentment, depression, and resignation are all natural but invalid and carnal responses to trials. God’s prescribed response? “Consider it all joy”! Is such a response the product of delusion? Certainly not. James explains that it is the fruit of “knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.” Whether young or old, male or female, no one wishes to be weak. Trials, then, promote that which we all desire: strength, spiritual endurance, godlike steadfastness. It is the stuff of which heroes are made and the character that reflects God’s work in us and glorifies Him. Believers should respond to trials with the joyous recognition that God is at work in us to personally sanctify us.
The result of trials. James has sometimes been falsely accused of being “austere” and “legal.” That he could find exceeding joy in trials suggests otherwise. And that he encourages us to see that the blessed culmination of trials makes us “perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” gives the lie to that accusation, as well. As surely as believers will encounter trials, just as surely will those trials ultimately produce perfection, completeness, and a lacking in nothing in our character as believers. We begin as babies; by the sanctifying work of God through the exercise of trials we come to maturity. As a result, our knowledge of God, our faith in Christ, and our love for Him more perfectly reflect Who He is and what He has done for us.
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