Live Wisely in Times of Trials
by Dr. David Jeremiah
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.
James 1:2–5 esv
James says that the testing of our faith produces patience. Patience is not a passive term but an active one. It is not a resignation to whatever happens but a strong and tough resolution in the midst of very adverse circumstances. It would be better translated as “steadfastness,” “perseverance,” or “brave endurance.”
This word is used of Job in James 5:11: “Indeed we count them blessed who endure. You have heard of the perseverance of Job and seen the end intended by the Lord—that the Lord is very compassionate and merciful.” Trials in the lives of believers refine their faith so that the false is stripped away and the genuine faith that continues to trust God can develop victorious positive endurance.
James uses two expressions here to define maturity in the life of the believer. When durability has done its perfect work, it causes the Christian to be perfect and complete.
First of all, mature believers are perfect. This word means “to be fully developed.” Without durability in trials, believers have not yet fully matured. They must learn to persevere in trials so that the work that God has begun in them will be brought to completion.
Three times Paul asked the Lord to remove the thorn in his flesh. While that request was not answered as Paul desired, God did answer him: “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9). The term perfect is the same word that James uses here. We are to persevere in our trials so that the work that God has begun in us may be brought to completion.
On one occasion, David prayed about this aspect of the Lord’s work: “The LORD will perfect that which concerns me; Your mercy, O LORD, endures forever; do not forsake the works of Your hands” (Ps. 138:8).
Second, mature believers are complete. This word refers to something that has all its parts and therefore is whole. It is possible for Christians to be fully grown or mature in most areas of life but be missing this ingredient of steadfastness in trials. Until this has been experienced, they are not yet complete.
The great theologian John Calvin was weak and sickly and hounded by persecution, and yet he brilliantly guided thousands of believers during the Reformation. Suffering from rheumatism and migraine headaches, he continued to write proliferously and preach powerfully, as well as govern the city of Geneva for twenty-five years. Said Calvin, “You must submit to supreme suffering in order to discover the completion of joy.”1
Most of us have found ourselves at the point of crying out for help at one time or another, but it’s usually our last resort. We commonly try every device known to man to escape admitting that we need help! James takes the word “lacking” from verse 4 and ties it to verse 5, reminding us that the prerequisite to obtaining help with our troubles is to realize that we lack sufficient wisdom to sort them out! The only way that we will be able to understand these trials and respond to them properly is to ask for the wisdom God alone can give.
When our friends and loved ones are going through trials, we may think we see what God is doing through the ordeal. But when we are the sufferers, when we are going through the fire, it is very difficult to be as wise. This is why we are to ask God for wisdom. And as James motivates troubled believers to seek wisdom, he describes God in such a way as to make us wonder why we wait so long to reach out for His help.
Paul prayed “that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom” (Eph. 1:17). This God who is the source of wisdom gives to all men. He is good and is not partial to any. He will always answer the prayer for wisdom. He never turns away a request. He may not always answer on our time schedule … but He always answers!
1John Calvin, quoted in George W. Sweeting, How to Solve Conflicts (Chicago: Moody, 1973), 21.
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