Trials to Maturity(1)
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. James 1:1–4
What would hinder you from serving the Lord as considered in the verse 1? Trials! As soon as tough times come our way, the automatic response is, ‘WHY?’ Why do you face trials?
Undoubtedly we all are enduring some trials — you may be feeling very frustrated with your husband or perhaps you are very annoyed with your children. Or it could be that you are going through a season of serious financial challenges with unending demand for more. Or you are emotionally drained, lonely and depressed — you would like to be married but no one is coming your way. It could be that your friend has betrayed you. It may be that you’ve been jobless for long; or it might be you just lost your job or that your contract is about to come to an end. It may be you are battling a chronic illness, or you can’t have more children. It could be that you are dealing with what may look like unsolvable problem. This passage calls all these, trials of various kinds.
These and many other trials is what James is talking about when he writes of trials of various kinds. ‘Various kinds of trials’ means that they are ‘many-coloured, variegated… diversified, complex, intricate’, to describe. That is, ‘any and every kind’. Trials are sent by God in order to make a person stand. However the word used here carries both that positive meaning but it can also be translated ‘temptations’ — those trials that are sent by Satan to make a person fall. For this sermon we will use the positive sense but James employs the same word in verses 12, 13 which is translated temptation. Faced with all sort of trials, the question that seem to fill your mind is, “WHY GOD?” In these three verses, the Lord God, our loving heavenly Father provides us with the answer.
How are we to respond to trials?
Before James answers the WHY question, he addresses the HOW to face to trials question. It is noteworthy that this is where he begins with, for our problem is not that we lack the answers to the WHY question. Our great need is not lack of knowledge, our need is right response.
Our greatest need is HOW we are to respond. It is of primary importance that we respond Biblically and not simply emotionally. We more often than not simply respond as per the dictates of emotion — yet the two, emotion and Biblical objectivity are not mutually exclusive. Because the Biblical response here is both emotional and objective!
a) Respond with joy
When trials of any and every kind come, and they shall come, you should count it all joy. ‘Count’ refers to the importance which we give something — it is a well worked calculation. It is to consider and render a careful rational judgment. The significance and rational judgment of all kinds of trials by biblical standards is joy. A few examples here of how the Apostles of the Lord uses this word ‘count’ in comparing the significance of one thing to another — Peter encourages us to count the seeming delay of Christ’s return as the Lord’s patience that leads to salvation (2 Peter 3:15). Paul counts everything as loss in comparison to the excellence of knowing Christ (Phil. 3:7–8). In the same breath, you should appraise any and every loss, any and every pain, any and every frustration, any and every calamity, any and every pressure, any and every distress as pure joy! In other words, do not waste any trial, any cancer, any sleepless night, any frustration. This is what our Master did — who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross (Heb. 12:2).
All is joy is pure joy. James is emphasizing that Christians must consider their trials as wholly, completely, entirely and utterly joyful… it should not have even a drop of sadness mixed in their libation of joy. It is not to say that you just smile or employ worldly, temporal happiness, or administer the so called ‘holy laughter’ or other religiously coated worldly methods. On the other hand James is not calling us to seek and pray for trials as a means for our joy. Neither is James encouraging us to celebrate in our trials — something like what Kent Hughes describes:
James was not commending that we exult upon hearing that our career position has been given to our secretary, or that the neighbour’s children have leukemia, or that one’s spouse has become adulterous.
Instead, James is calling us to a spiritual, enduring and complete joy in the Lord who is sovereign over all things. It is to trust His Word that He is working out all things for good (Rom. 8:28) including all types of trials. This means you look at the trials in light of their eternal value for your life and that of someone else. We are to consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the eternal weight of glory that will be revealed in us (Rom. 8:18). We can only have joy in the midst of pain and loss when we know that God has not only ordained it but is in it! Yes, Mr. Selvaggio is right when says,
The tears of our trials are part of the divine ink God uses to write the glorious redemptive story of our lives. Our trials are evidence that He is working on us in His heavenly workshop.
Is this the way we respond when different types of trials come? I think, because we expect pleasant experiences only in life, we fail to appraise the experiences with the correct dose of joy. But we must never forget the wise counsel of John Calvin,
We certainly dread diseases, and want, and exile, and prison, and reproach, and death, because we regard them as evils; but when we understand that they are turned through God’s kindness unto helps and aids to our salvation, it is ingratitude to murmur, and not willingly to submit to be thus paternally dealt with.
Clearly, our gracious and loving heavenly Father is using our temporal earthly trials to make us meet for our heavenly home and so we rejoice with joy inexpressible! Yes, we rejoice and are glad even in the midst of severe persecution because we have an assurance from our Lord and Saviour that “great is our reward in heaven!” (Matt. 5:11–12). This is what the disciples did in Acts 5:21: Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name. May the Lord help us so that like Paul we may say, ”In all our affliction, we may be overflowing with joy”. (2Co 7:4)
b) Respond with patience
This will be considered later under chapter 5:7–11 but it is the second way in which we are to respond to trials. For now, I pray that trials will teach you more patience, and more patience as you wait a few more years for this passage to be considered!
On our next article we will consider, “Why do we face trials?”
 A. Motyer, BST The Message of James, (Leicester England, IVP, 1985), pp.29–30
 A. Selvaggio, The 24/7 Christian, (Darlington, Eng: EP, 2008), p.41
 R.K. Hughes, James:Faith that Works (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 1991), p.18
 A. Selvaggio, The 24/7 Christian, (Darlington, Eng: EP, 2008), p.42
 J. Calvin, Calvin’s Commentaries, vol. 22 (Grand Rapids, MI:Baker Books, 1989). Pp.279–280
This article was first published on The Reformed Pastor Blog and has been reproduced with permission.