The past two days the kids and I have been discussing verses 1-18 of chapter 1. We have especially sought God's wisdom & grace on verses 2-4. This morning we discussed various trials that the Lord has brought us through . . . Nana T's death, Abby's sickness (when she was hospitalized), our last church situation, losing Miriam, Mommy's health, etc. We then discussed how James tells us to consider these trials as “joy”. What?! Those trials are/were some of the hardest and most painful we have had to bear as a family. How can we count them as JOY?!
We returned to verse 3. It says, “the testing of your faith produces endurance.” What exactly is endurance? How does the testing of our faith produce endurance?
In Merriam-Webster's Dictionary, endurance is defined as, “the ability to withstand hardship or adversity; the ability to sustain a prolonged stressful effort or activity.”
So, going through trials gives us the ability to withstand hardship? But that still does not explain how we can count it as joy. We looked to verse 4 for help. Verse 4 reads, “And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” Obviously, we can't be perfect this side of heaven. Now what? Who is the only perfect man to walk this earth? “Christ Jesus, it is he!!” (My mind automatically went to the hymn, A Mighty Fortress is Our God.) The children were quick to put this point together . . . “Enduring trials makes us more like Jesus. And Jesus helps us endure trials!”
“Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial.” (v12)
We discussed many trials (big and small). What happens when a sibling hits you and calls you a name? Or a friend tells a lie about you? It is easy to react quickly with anger and to unleash our tongues. But does that bring honor to God? Are we “enduring” and shining the light of Jesus when we react in anger? Absolutely not. We seek God for help & grace so that we can respond in love & wisdom. Endurance is putting on Jesus.
Our faith will be tested. That is inevitable. How we respond to trials is important. Our response to these trials reveals what we treasure the most . . . It reveals where our desires truly lie. As I sought to apply this to our family, I reminded the kids that their response to sin (whether or not they are truly sorrowful over sin) and their reactions in the face of trials/hardships reveal whether the Lord has truly given them new hearts. James tells us that a “new heart” is not a heart the merely believes in Jesus (2:19) but a heart that is sorrowful over sin and esteems Christ (and his work at the cross). Trials are a sure way to reveal what is hidden in our hearts.
“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him . . . Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.” (James 1:5, 17)
Thank you, Heavenly Father, for making us more like your Son, Jesus Christ, through “various trials”. Help us to endure with great hope, joy, and faithfulness.