God’s Purposes in Trials and the Blessing of Responding in Faith and Obedience – James 1:2-5; 12

Dear Friends,

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.  And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.  If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him…..  Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.” (James 1:2-5; 12)                                                      

“Count it all joy” – The idea here is to think forward to the spiritual growth and blessings that can come because of the trial and even more so to the judgment seat of Christ (1 Corinthians 3:10-15) and to hearing  Christ say, “Well done” (Matthew 25:21) so as to have the blessing of eternal rewards for obedience in the midst of painful trials. Jesus is our example. “Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2) And for the joy set before us we look forward to the eternal blessing of faithful obedience even in the midst of trials.  “All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.” (See Hebrews 12:5–11) If we focus on the moment of pain versus the afterwards of future blessings we will feel sorrowful versus hopeful. The “peaceful fruit of righteousness” is the deep peace that comes from being right with God even in the midst of trials and injustices. “The work of righteousness will be peace, and the effect of righteousness, quietness and assurance forever.” (Isaiah 32:17) This is the peace that Jesus always had and promises to give us as we follow His example of trusting and obeying God. (John 14:27)  Peace from the world is circumstantial but peace from Christ is relational; knowing He loves us perfectly and is always at work for our ultimate spiritual and eternal good. (See Philippians 2:13)            

“Trials of various kinds”- This includes all kinds of trials or what we consider big ones as well as little ones. Sometimes we have very difficult trials such as health, financial or relational pain or little trials such as traffic jams or long lines at the store or frustrations at work  (first world problems). We can grow spiritually in little trials as well as big trials and in some cases we can rightly handle big trials and miserably fail at little trials that occur daily.            

“For you know that the testing of your faith”- There are critical things we need to know in the midst of trials in order to respond to them righteously. The term “testing of your faith” essentially means, testing what we really believe about God as revealed in the midst of the trial. God tests us so we can know where we are spiritually not so He can know for He knows everything about us. He tested Job, Abraham, Peter and He tests everyone. (Job 1; Genesis 22:1; Luke 22:31; Deuteronomy 8:2; James 1:3)  Inner attitudes such as, “I deserve better, it’s not fair, it’s too much for me to bear, God doesn’t care” etc., are the root cause of the words and actions that flow out of these fleshly attitudes. Here are some thoughts on what we must know: We must know that this is a test from God to help our faith grow (meaning we come to know God more accurately, more trustingly, more humbly, more obediently and more lovingly). We must know that God is totally sovereign and there’s no such thing as bad luck or things just happen, etc. God either sends the trial or allows the trial and even allows Satan to sift and refine the faith of His children (e.g., Job and Peter). We also must know that God loves us perfectly and wants our highest spiritual and eternal good and is always working to that end every day of our life and in every event of our life. (See Philippians 2:13; John 5:17) And we must know that even when He feels distant and His love feels stern (tough love) He is still full of tender mercies toward us. (Lamentations 3:32-33; Psalm 103:13-14) And we must know that He will never test us beyond what we can bear and He knows exactly how much we can bear in order to grow and benefit from the trial. (1 Corinthians 10:13) And we must have an eternal perspective on all of life and on every trial. Although most of us don’t believe the prosperity gospel as taught by the prosperity preachers (name it and claim it) most all Americans have a tendency to believe that God should bless us now in this life. “Have it your way, you deserve a break today” fills the advertisements and fills our minds. Jesus, the prophets and the apostles suffered greatly for their obedience to God and many saints today in China, Africa, the Mideast and other places are being tortured and suffer greatly (even martyrdom) for their obedient faith in Jesus Christ. Even after God humbled and tested the Jews in the wilderness for 40 years, they forgot God when they came in to the land and were prosperous, and they began to worship other gods – particularly materialism. (See Deuteronomy 8)            

“Produces steadfastness (or endurance or perseverance or patience, depending on the translation)” – The implication here is that God’s testings are intended to produce endurance and can produce endurance if we pass the test. God tests our faith so that we can grow stronger and more useful and bring Him more glory and receive the spiritual benefits of that now in this life (the deep peace that comes from satisfying God -Isaiah 32:17) and the eternal rewards and blessings that come from obedience especially obedience in painful trials. (James 1:12)            

“And let steadfastness have its full effect “- The implication here is that it takes trust and obedience and submission to God in the midst of the trial for our steadfastness to have its desired result – greater maturity or greater Christlikeness. We have to let steadfastness have its full effect. If not, we may rail against the trial and against God in the trial and not pass the test and not grow. Of course, this means God will have to take us around that mountain again and again until we pass the test. Scripture seems to indicate that some carnal (worldly) Christians never pass the tests because they do not have an eternal perspective on trials and only want God’s blessings now in this life. (See 1 Corinthians 3:1-15; 2 Timothy 4:10)                                                                                                

“That you may be perfect (mature) and complete, lacking in nothing”- The purpose of God’s testing is to help us grow into spiritual maturity or Christlikeness. This does not mean sinless perfection but spiritual growth to the next level of maturity as God desires and plans it – progressive sanctification. (See Philippians 3:12-15)                                                                               

“If any of you lacks wisdom let him ask God who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given to him.”– The wisdom we need to ask of God is not just how to get out of the trial but to ask Him what He wants us to learn in the trial to make us more like Jesus Christ. This is God’s purpose in sending or allowing the trial and this is the greatest blessing we can gain from the trial. “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.” (James 1:12) The crown of life is rewarded to believers at the judgment seat of Christ to those, who out of love for God and a desire to hear His well done, remain faithful and obedient in the trials of life. (1 Corinthians 9:24-27; Revelation 2:10)

“Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me.  Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:11-12) The overarching perspective and the perspective we need in order to respond to trials as God desires has to be an eternal perspective. (Hebrews 11:35-40) God wired us for profit (Isaiah 48:17) but not for temporal, selfish gain. The attitude of “you only go around once so grab everything you can in this life” is totally unbiblical. “For what is the use of a man gaining the whole world if he loses or forfeits his own soul?” (Luke 9:25; also see Luke 12:15-21) But Jesus does call us to have a spiritual self-interest and an eternal self-interest.  “Store up for yourselves treasures in heaven.” (Matthew 6:20) We cannot store up spiritual and eternal treasures for anyone but ourselves and no one can do it for us.                                           

As we look to the Lord with trust and faith and with a desire and willingness to obey and please Him, He will give us the strength and perseverance we need to carry out His will. “So we have not stopped praying for you since we first heard about you. We ask God to give you complete knowledge of his will and to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding. Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and your lives will produce every kind of good fruit. All the while, you will grow as you learn to know God better and better. We also pray that you will be strengthened with all his glorious power so you will have all the endurance and patience you need.”  (Colossians 1:9-11; also see Isaiah 40:29-31)                                                                                                                         

Until He comes again,

Len and Kristen                              

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