Lecturer at Harare Theological College, Harare, Zimbabwe Doctor of Theology (OT) UNISA, South Africa
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Trials - the training ground of Character
James 1:2-4
Difficulties are there to be overcome - and to grow in Christ & contentment in HIM.
Published November 11th, 2017
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Main point summary
Main point summary
Trials in a believer's life are to be welcomed because they produce endurance and result in perfection of character.
James 1:2-4
a Consider it all joy, my brethren,
James tells his readers to react with deep joy in the Lord
when you encounter b various 1 trials,
whenever they face difficulties in life
knowing that
since they may know that
a the testing of your b faith produces 1 c endurance.
difficulties are there not to annoy them but to prove the genuineness of their faith and the genuineness of their faith is shown in the way they are able to be steadfast in their faith in hardships and difficulties.
And let 1 a endurance have its perfect 2 result,
Steadfast endurance is not gained in an instance, but continues to grow in a believer's life towards greater perfection
so that you may be 3 b perfect
whose purpose is that the believer is able to meet the highest standard a Christian can have, namely perfection
and complete,
being completely intact and whole
lacking in nothing.
meaning they are completely content in each and every circumstance.
A completely contrary reaction to difficulties than is normal. Usually one starts complaining and moaning - what a challenge here: difficulties are there to be overcome - that should be my attitude!
Why can i have such an attitude to difficulties? Because i know that like a test at school tests my knowledge and skill at certain taught matters, so the difficulties in life are like a test of my character.
The purpose of these trials is not just getting better at enduring, but the perfection of character that Jesus wants to see in me. In fact, the purpose is to have sufficiency and contentment in Christi alone. If i am content, i don't lack anything - so no matter the circumstance, i can rejoice in God & Christ.
verse 2 could also be a situation-response relationship: it is not natural to react to 'trials' /difficulties with joy. 2a is a command - there is no option for the Christian - she must learn to consider the difficulties of life joy, i.e. an opportunity to rejoice - not necessarily in the difficulties themselves but in Christ through whom she can overcome difficulties. James gives a reason for that command: reacting not with disappointment, fury or whatever, but with joy to difficulties is to be done because these difficulties are a 'test of ... faith' which produces certain results, namely here, endurance. 'test' according to BAGD means 'the process or means of determining the genuineness of something'. What a challenge - difficulties are there to test the genuineness of the faith of believers! Knowing that => the result is obviously not immediate - it takes time to produce the 'endurance' that James envisages here. The result of increased endurance is progressively more endurance: it must have 'its perfect result' (NASB), or perhaps better expressed in the ESV, 'let steadfastness have its full effect.' According to BAGD the word 'teleos' means 'pertaining to meeting the highest standard' - what a challenge to the believer! Again, the result of this progressive endurance is a perfection of character. By having been tested and not found wanting in their faith, the believer attains to the goal that Jesus already called them to in Mt 5:48 - they become 'perfect like your heavenly father is perfect'. This word 'perfect' in v 4b is the adjective with the same root as the noun translated 'perfect result' in v 4a. The word 'complete' according to BAGD means 'pertaining to being complete and meeting all expectations, with integrity, whole, complete, undamaged, intact, blameless' & thus continues the thought of the word 'perfect'. And, lastly, James notes, that being 'perfect' and 'complete' in faith obviously results in 'lacking nothing'. The whole argument puts a completely different slant to ones' dealing with difficulties in life. Having a positive attitude towards trials means the believer grows in their faith and learns patient endurance or 'steadfastness'. Such steadfastness continues to grow in the life of the believer towards the ultimate goal of perfection & completeness in terms of character. No matter what the circumstances, the believer 'lacks nothing' - i.e. they can be perfectly content with life in Christ in each and every situation.
Sarah Hubert
Hi Silvia, thank you for this arc and the notes, I found them very personally helpful. This is not an unfamiliar verse, but the Lord knows we need to constantly return and be reminded again and again in order to not wander.
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