by Mike Ratliff
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, 5 who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, 7 so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; 1 Peter 1:3-7 (NASB)
When God saves a person, he/she is changed forever. However, they are not at the spiritual maturity level that God desires for His people. Therefore, from that point until they go home to be with their Lord all genuine Christians will go through a series of tests and trials that put pressure on their faith. This pressure is spiritual, but the circumstances applying it come from all directions and sources. The Apostle Paul had a thorn in the flesh that put his faith to test to the point that he implored the Lord to take it away.
7 Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me—to keep me from exalting myself! 8 Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. 9 And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. 10 Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 (NASB)
We do not know what Paul’s ‘thorn’ was, but it resulted in him being in a severe test. This test caused him to plead with the Lord three times to take it away. However, notice that God’s response was to allow the ‘thorn’ while sustaining Paul by His grace in the midst of it. What was Paul’s response to that? I know that when I was a younger Christian that I would read this passage and wonder where God’s grace was in my tests and trials. However, nowadays things are different. I still do not like suffering, but I have learned that I am a Christian for God’s glory and for my Lord’s sake, not for myself at all.
2 Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. 4 And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. James 1:2-4 (NASB)
The Greek word for “consider,” ἡγέομαι (hēgeomai), can also be translated as “count” or “evaluate.” We are to examine our circumstances, but according to James, no matter what our trials consist of, we are to respond in joy. We are commanded here to make a conscious commitment to face them with joy. The Greek word for “trials” here is πειρασμός (peirasmos). The KJV translates this word here as “temptations.” In this context, James is giving us the word picture of circumstances that breaks the pattern of peace, comfort, joy, and happiness in one’s life. The verb form of πειρασμός means, “to put someone or something to the test.” The purpose of doing this is to discover a person’s nature or the quality of their character. God allows or brings these tests to bear in our lives to prove and increase the strength and quality of our faith and to demonstrate its validity (James 2:12).
The Greek word James used here that is translated as “testing” is δοκίμιον (dokimion). It literally means “proof” or “proving.” The word “produces” here is the Greek word κατεργάζομαι (katergazomai). This present, indicative verb in middle voice gives us the picture of a craftsman finishing a work or fashioning something to completion. This verb structure tells us that the “producing” happens at the same time as the “testing.” The middle voice tells us that the action is being applied to the one experiencing it. In other words, our suffering is working directly on our own character and faith so how we react to it is vital in this process. What is the desired product of this “testing?” The Greek word for “endurance” is ὑπομονή (hupomonē). It is often translated as “patience.” Other good translations for this context would be “steadfastness” or “perseverance.”
As we learn, as Paul did, that God’s grace is sufficient for us in our trials, we acquire the ability to withstand tenaciously the pressure of a trial until God removes it according to His timing. We also learn to cherish the benefit or outcome within as Paul did. We will no longer, as the world does, resent problems, tests, and trials, but will submit to the Lord’s will within them knowing He is working in our weakness to produce eternal treasure within us. This is ὑπομονη having it full effect, which is that we become more “perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” What does this mean? This isn’t perfection as we understand in English, but spiritual maturity (1 John 2:14). This is accomplished in Christians as their testing drives them to deeper communion and greater trust in Christ. This, in turn, produces those qualities that people see in us that they cannot understand, unless they also know our Lord. We will exhibit stable, godly, and righteous character in the midst of trouble. We become whole in Christ.
5 But 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. 6 But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. 7 For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, 8 being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. James 1:5-8 (NASB)
Let us never forget my brethren, that God wants all of His people to know Him, to have knowledge of Him and His ways. He wants us to know good doctrine, to know His Word. This will develop the mind of Christ in us and then He will give us wisdom and discernment based on that knowledge as we ask Him and learn to understand this life according to His Word. He liberally gives wisdom to His people who ask Him and pursue the truth according to His Word. Notice that Christians can ask for wisdom from God with wrong motives. I believe that this was my problem for many years until God turned me around. I had a lot of Bible knowledge, however, my focus was backwards. Therefore, I did not ask in faith, but in doubt. When I learned that my role in God’s Kingdom is to bring Him glory, everything changed.
9 But the brother of humble circumstances is to glory in his high position; 10 and the rich man is to glory in his humiliation, because like flowering grass he will pass away. 11 For the sun rises with a scorching wind and withers the grass; and its flower falls off and the beauty of its appearance is destroyed; so too the rich man in the midst of his pursuits will fade away. James 1:9-11 (NASB)
This boasting is actually rejoicing or glorying in ones high spiritual standing before God by His grace and the hope that it brings. Yes, we should rejoice in this. It puts our circumstances in proper perspective. On the other hand, rich people are brought to this state by experiencing trials that bring them low. God does this to help them understand that their possessions cannot bring eternal fulfillment like standing in humility before the Lord. True riches are God’s grace, not mammon.
12 Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. James 1:12 (NASB)
This word “blessed” takes us back to Matthew 5:3-11, the Beatitudes. Believers who successfully endure tests and trials are “blessed.” He or she will be steadfast, or patient and be able to endure to the end. When this life is over and we stand before our Lord, those of us who have endured to the end will receive the ultimate reward, eternal life, which has been promised to us. Again, the mark of genuineness of Christians’ faith is that they endure to the end.
My brethren, rejoice in your tests and trials because God’s grace is sufficient for us. What we are going through is only short, light affliction that will end, but we will spend eternity with our Lord. On the other hand, think of those who do not know Him. Their eternity will be continual affliction and suffering unless they hear the Gospel, believe, and repent. Therefore, let us rejoice in our suffering as God uses us to show the world the truth about His grace and genuine Christianity.
Soli Deo Gloria!