1 James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,
To the twelve tribes scattered among the nations:
2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.
The Greek word for trial and temptation is actually the same. The context of the sentence determines the meaning. Trials come from outward circumstances whereas temptations come from within.
Sometimes people are led to believe that their life will be easy if they become Christians. This is sometimes just a mistake or the new believer’s fault and sometimes it is the result of dishonest evangelists who pretend that this is the case. James tells us otherwise. He doesn’t say if you face trials, but rather when. And there won’t just be a couple of small trials but rather trials of many kinds.
There is good to come out of trials though. Trials are used to develop us and make us into better Christians. Difficulties in life are used to hone us and knock the rough edges off of us. Whenever I am in a counseling situation I tell people that they can go in one of two directions – they can either use this as an opportunity to grow closer to the Lord or they can use it as an excuse to drift further away from Him. This is what trials do; they make us prioritize our life.
Some people face trials with the help of God and they come through it as stronger Christians. Other people choose to blame God for their trials and thus move further away from Him.
Sometimes it seems like we face the same trial over and over again. This could just be coincidence or the result of a recurring health problem or a crummy car that keeps breaking down. But it could be that we haven’t learned our lesson from the previous trial.
I have a pastor friend that has trouble with his in-laws. I don’t remember all of the specifics but some of the things that his in-laws have done are right up there with sitcom level obnoxiousness. And he has openly admitted that they try his patience. And presumably because he had not developed a level of patience that he should, his in-laws came to visit him for five weeks one time.
This doesn’t mean that this pastor friend is doing anything sinful or wrong in regard to his in-laws but God may use such a recurring situation to continue to teach him patience or keep him humble or something else like this.
So if you have trials that keep coming back, it could be coincidence but I’d advise you to clearly ask God if there is something that He wants you to learn from the situation. And if you do, the trial just might go away.
Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
Perseverance is a sign of a mature Christian. It is very similar to patience or what some Bible translations call longsuffering. The goal of a Christian is to become a mature fruit bearing Christian. Paul details what a mature Christian looks like in Galatians 5:22-23:
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
James states that perseverance must finish its work. We need to realize that we are not finished products at the moment of our salvation. Our salvation is complete and secure at the moment that we place our faith in Jesus Christ. We are given the Holy Spirit at the moment of our salvation. But that doesn’t mean that we are perfect.
It takes time to develop into a mature Christian just as it takes time for a fruit tree to produce fruit. That is the point of trials and temptations however. If everything went easy for us in life, we would have no reason to develop. But because we are certain to encounter difficulties all throughout our life, it is to our advantage to develop perseverance early on so that we may more easily overcome trials and stand up against temptations.