…knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.
In last week’s installment of our verse-by-verse examination of the book of James, we noted that the author gives us a somewhat counter-intuitive instruction. In the face of trials, we are to “consider it joy”. Consider is a mind word, not a emotion word. James is telling us how we should think, not how we should feel.
As James tells us this, I imagine he could hear the questioning voices of his readers.
“Yeah…please explain yourself, James! Because…I gotta tell ya…this trial I’m going through right now has me anything but joyful.”
Inspired by the Holy Spirit, James is more than up to the challenge. He begins the verse with another mind word – knowing. Once again, it’s about how we think, not how we feel. Then he brings out the big guns.
Why should we consider our trials to be a motive for joy?
Trials test our faith.
Let’s think about tests for a moment. What is the purpose of a test? When you take a driving exam, the purpose is to certify (or not) your capacity to be on the road. The same with a school exam. It serves to tell whether or not you are able to go on to the next level of studies. That high-school diploma you have hanging on your wall represents the cumulative result of a series of tests you took and passed.
In all these cases, the tests serve to authenticate something to the general public. And this is exactly what James is getting at here. Trials authenticate our faith, both to ourselves and to the world at large.
It is easy being a Christian when things are hunky dory, easy peasy lemon squeezy. But when the road gets rough and the future uncertain…THAT is when our faith (or lack of it) shows through.
In the years God has given me as a pastor/missionary, I have seen many people make convincing professions of faith, only to fall away when the trials come. Conversely, (and thankfully) I have seen many cases of the opposite – people going through the fire and coming out the other side with their faith not only intact but strengthened, and their testimony shining to the world around them.
Christian, are you going through a trial? Rejoice, because God is putting his stamp of approval on your faith.
Trials produce endurance.
Not too long ago, at the insistence of my lovely wife, I took up running. And I hated it. Spending the first few hours of the day wheezing around a nearby soccer field, chest burning and legs aching, was not my idea of time well spent.
One day, after undergoing this torture for a few months, I found myself doing some errands at a local shopping mall. I was on the bottom floor, and in need of an item found in a store two stories up. Not wanting to walk all the way to the escalator, and being in somewhat of a hurry, I took the stairs at a trot. When I arrived at the top floor, it dawned on me that my heart was not pounding violently. In fact, I wasn’t even breathing hard. Submitting myself to daily doses of agony had built up in my body a certain endurance that had not been there before. That moment changed my whole perspective towards my running routine.
And this is what happens when God takes us through perilous times. Our spiritual endurance increases. We don’t worry as much. Our stress levels remain more constant. We trust God more. We persevere. And we gain new perspective about our trials.
As we mediate on these two benefits – authentication of our faith and the development of endurance – we begin to see why James is so adamant that our trials are motive for rejoicing.
And he has only given us two reasons so far. There are more.
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