Here, James says something really astonishing. Don't reject what he says out of hand. He says that trials are useful. In verses 2 — 4, James is speaking of the usefulness of trials. He is saying that trials in Christians lives, all of them, serve God's purpose of maturation. In other words, trials serve to grow us up in grace. When he says that to you, that might sound astounding. It may sound unrealistic. Nobody around me.
I'm the only one who's struggling with this discouragement. I'm the only one struggling with this situation in my life that's never going to go away. James is not presenting in these verses a secret that he alone knows. In fact, if you look at the first word of verse 3, he's telling you here that he's going to teach you something that you already know.
He's calling us not to believe some new secret that he's discovered. He is calling us here to believe and act on something that we all ready know. And James probably has in mind here, especially the persecution that these Christian's were going to face, persecutions of various kinds. But he explicitly makes his words generally applicable here, when he says, consider it all joy when you experience or undergo what? Various trials. He's including all manner of trials and tribulations in his general counsel here.
And notice what James says we should do. If you follow verse 2 — 4, you will see James give a four part counsel to a person who's enduring trials. Go to verse 4 and work backwards, because in verse 4, he tells you the purpose of trials.
And that's where we start and then we work back to what we do in the presence of trials. In verse 4, notice what he says: he tells you what the revealed purposes of God are in trials. What are they? To make you perfect, so that you will be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. God is conspiring in trials to make you perfect, so that when you stand before Him on the last day, you are as sinless as His Son, Jesus. It's mind boggling isn't it? God's grand conspiracy for you is to make you perfect like Jesus.
James says, that's where you start in thinking about trials. Everything that is going on in your life is part of God's grand conspiracy to make you like Jesus, to present you before Him perfect. Then you work back to verse 3. Having told you the revealed purposes of God in verse 4, James tells you the revealed means of God accomplishing His purpose, the instrument that He uses to produce your perfection. What is it? Testing, the testing of your faith.
It produces perseverance or endurance in that faith.
So the goal is perfection. The instrument is testing. What is the proving ground, the setting, the terrain of that testing? He tells you in verse 2. The goal is perfection; the means is testing, proving faith to make it endure. What is the terrain, what's the testing ground, what's the setting for testing the faith? Affliction, trial, struggle, pain, suffering, that is the terrain the proving ground for God's test. And what is the response that we are then to have to that testing?
Charles H. Spurgeon: Did You Know?
You can't get to the response until you understand the end. You can't get to the end except through the means. You can't get to the means except on the proving ground. And you can't have the joy unless you understand the other three. James has set before you a formula that he wants to be worked into our hearts so that it becomes second nature.
Frankly, it's easier to deploy these truths in the difficult test of life, than it is in the mundane test, because we think that we can handle the mundane test, or we are not as reflective about the mundane test. But James says this is how we are to respond to trials.
Now, notice that what he says is exactly opposite of our instinctive response. Our instinctive response to trial, first of all, is to question the secret purposes of God.
A Command and a Promise
Why is this happening to me? Why are You allowing this to happen? There are stacks of books on the shelves of Christian book stores doing precisely that, asking questions that you and I will never be able to answer about the secret purposes of God. Now it gives a horrendously bad answer, I want to say right quick, but it's asking the wrong question to begin with.
- 3. Secrets To Joy In The Midst Of Trials (1 Peter 1:6-9);
- Being Happy: Part 1!
- Our Company Of Ruminates?
- How to Cover the Catholic Church;
You ask a question about the revealed purposes of God. What He's already told you in His word that He's doing in your life. You don't have to figure that one out.
C.H. Spurgeon Archives - Grace Quotes
God's told you in black and white. But, what do we do?
What's going on? We don't understand the details of God's counsel. The secret things belong to the Lord, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children and to our children's, children. James says don't try and work out the secret plan of God; go to His revealed purposes. The second thing we do in trial is that we immediately are tempted to doubt the goodness and wisdom of God.
It doesn't seem like a wise plan based on what is happening to me. Thirdly, we then respond generally by throwing up our arms and quitting, spiritually speaking.
Whereas, James says, remember that the affliction is the occasion of God's testing. It's not a time to throw up your arms and quit spiritually. It's a time to believe and then what do we do? Fourthly, we get bitter. James wants us to consider trial a matter of rejoicing, and you can only do that by following the words of verses 2 — 4, and you need wisdom, which is what he talks about in verses 5 — 7. You see, trials serve to test the genuineness of faith to produce endurance in our faith and to bring about the maturity that God desires in us. And so trials serve the purpose of Grace.