As we continue to work through James, we will see many of the ideas Jesus spoke of in the sermon on the mount. But there is a theme of trials that Christians will go through in life. And if you have not gone through trials yet, just speak to another Christian and you will learn that it is something everyone will go through at some point. These trials are far reaching on every aspect in life, in the home, at work, with health, and financial.
We will return to the joy that James speak of, but first lets look at the outcome of trials. We live in a world that sees Christian trials as evidence of lack of relationship, faith, or belief. While we can create trials based on our sin, that isn’t what James is speaking of here. These are trials that are just a part of life.
The word used by James is “know” that trials lead to growth. This is a knowing that is found through experience. This means that in trials you have to answer the questions “who do you believe?” and “what do you believe?” He doesn’t say that you have to be happy about your trial, but to be happy on how God is working through the trials.
When you lift weights, you know that the load has to get heavier to be able to lift heavier at a later point. In the same way, God allows hard trials so that you are able to handle the tougher trial later. And while muscles might be sore, soon that same weight becomes easy to bear, and soon your muscles crave larger weight. I’m the same way our faith will find growth in the resistance of trials.
So that the ultimate goal is the complete maturity in the faith in Jesus. This then leads to joy. Joy is a settled thought, and not a feeling in itself. Happiness is a feeling that leads from joy, but even when we are not happy, joy stays as an attitude of who we are. That we have a settled thought of joy even when trials pile up one after another.
Next week we will see how to work through trials as they happen. But until then, we will begin to realize that the trials in life are to lead us to joy in the finished work of Jesus and the truth of what God has for our lives. Our prayer isn’t to see the trial taken away, but to see where God is leading us through the trial.
I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33 ESV)
2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. (ESV)
4:1 I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. 7 But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. 8 Therefore it says,
“When he ascended on high he led a host of captives,
and he gave gifts to men.”
9 (In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth? 10 He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.) 11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
17 Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. 18 They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. 19 They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. 20 But that is not the way you learned Christ!— 21 assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, 22 to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
25 Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. 26 Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and give no opportunity to the devil. 28 Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. 29 Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. (ESV)
4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (ESV)