James 1: 3 – 4

faithChristians can face trials with joy because there are rich advantages from these testings. Trials, rightly taken, produce the sterling quality of endurance.

James 1_34

This is no new revelation. It is a simple reminder. James wrote, because you know, literally “knowing through experience” (ginōskontes). Everyone has experienced both the pain of problems and the ensuing profit of persistence. There is no gain in endurance without some investment in trials. It is the true part or approved portion of faith that produces perseverance. The testing refers more to “approval” than to “proving.” The word (dokimion) appears only here and in 1 Peter 1:7. Faith is like gold; it stands in the test of fire. Without this approved standard of faith, trials would not yield perseverance. There would only be ashes. True faith, like pure gold, endures, no matter how hot the fire. True faith therefore develops, or more literally “works” (katergazetai), perseverance or staying power. The noun “perseverance” (hypomonēn; cf. the verbal form in James 1:12) means steadfastness or endurance in the face of difficulties (cf. 5:11).

1 PeterPerseverance is only the beginning of benefits. There are more advantages to trials. Perseverance must finish its work. Just as tested and true faith works to produce perseverance, so perseverance must be allowed to continue its perfect or finished work to produce the ultimate by-products of maturity and spiritual fulfillment. This, of course, is the lofty goal that serves as this epistle’s unifying theme. James’ main point was to show how to achieve spiritual maturity. Two words describe the goal: mature and complete. “Mature” (teleioi), often translated “perfect” or “finished,” is coupled with “complete” (holoklēroi, from holos, “whole,” and klēros, “part”) to give the idea of perfected all over or fully developed in every part. Trials can be faced with joy because, infused with faith, perseverance results, and if perseverance goes full-term it will develop a thoroughly mature Christian who lacks nothing. He will indeed be all God wants him to be. James’ argument may seem logical, but it is still difficult to see how trials can be welcomed with an attitude of joy. Where does one turn for help to understand this paradox?

Blue, J. R. (1985). James. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 2, pp. 820–821). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.