James 1:2-8 - Trials of Faith
James encourages us to remember that trials of faith help us stay the course that leads to maturity, wholeness, wisdom, stability, and focus.
This is the second of an 18-part devotional series. Sign-up here to have these devotionals sent straight to your inbox.
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.
For many of us, the events of January 6th in Washington, D.C. fall into the category of “trials.” It was a national trial in that the visuals of our national Capitol being breached by lawless rioters affected the whole country. It was a very personal trial for those elected officials who were forced to flee the scene. It was also a trial for ordinary citizens who work, vote, and strive for “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
How should a Christian respond to such gut-wrenching trials? How can any of us consider such trials with “joy”?
James is encouraging a scattered group of new Christians to think about what a very personal and loving God was doing in their lives. As a group, they had experienced persecution, strife, anxiety, and frustration with the powers-that-be. Those Christians lived in a culture not exactly favorable to their faith. How could they even consider such trials “pure joy”?
James answers that question by simply reminding them that God is engaged in all the trials of life. As my Reformation Study Bible notes, “Trials can be considered pure joy only when there is knowledge that they are designed by God for a purpose. They are tests of faith in order to develop perseverance.”
James goes on in this passage to encourage us to remember that trials of faith help us stay the course that leads to maturity, wholeness, wisdom, stability, and focus.
Another writer explains that James is implying that “we should enter our hardships as deposits into the checkbook of our life, not withdrawals. He's not talking about our immediate emotional response to a flat tire, or an illness, or the loss of a loved one. He's talking about how we categorize that moment when assessing our life as a whole.”
As the new year opens its doors to us, unexpected kinds of trials will surprise us as well. A good tip for coping with such surprises is to be quick to pray, “God, help me persevere in this for Your Glory. Help me see joy in all this.”
Scholar Matthew Henry reminds us, “A mind that has single and prevailing regard to its spiritual and eternal interest, and that keeps steady in its purposes for God, will grow wise by afflictions, will continue fervent in devotion, and rise above trials and oppositions.”
God is at work in his people no matter what. We can count on it!
Chaplain (Brig. Gen.) Doug Lee, U.S. Army (Ret.) is the Chief Operations Officer of Ministry to State.