Trials to Maturity (2)
Why do you face trials?
a) To test your faith
The first reason why God sends us a package of trials constantly is to test our faith! Remember that as far as our spiritual lives are concerned, there is nothing more important than our FAITH. God has to keep on keeping it on check through trials. And so James in this letter is very concerned that we may have a real, genuine, living faith. As much as testing is necessary to establish the quality of gold that perishes, so is the testing of our faith which is far more precious than gold so that this faith may be found to result in praise and glory of honour at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (1 Pet. 1:7). Simply put, James is saying here that God will neither reduce nor remove the testing of your faith because He is interested in a glorious, praiseworthy and honourable faith — our faith must be proved genuine!
You have seen Christians who have gone through terrible times in their lives. Some have as a result of these trials ended up rejecting God and so shipwrecking their faith. Others have successfully waded through trials, and have endured to emerge even stronger Christians. The trials of Daniel left him a better servant of God and of men in three different governments. The trials of his three friends made the seeming power of idolatry nothing. The trials of Nehemiah left Jerusalem a better city. What legacy will your trials leave behind?
Trials are a very effective means of testing our faith. When under trial our faith is somewhat shaped — so that our experiences confirm what God has said about Himself and His creation including ourselves in His Word. This is what Alec Motyer says,
“When circumstances seem to mock our creed, when the cruelty of life denies His Fatherliness, His silence calls in question His almightiness and the sheer, haphazard, meaningless jumble of events challenges the possibility of a Creator’s ordering hard. It is in this way that life’s trials test our faith for genuineness.”
b) To cultivate your steadfastness
… the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. Steadfastness is the same as endurance, fortitude or perseverance. The picture here is of a person successfully carrying a heavy load for a long time. This is the intended fruit of trials. It is the very quality expected by God when He sends adversity our way.
As one drinks from the cup of trials and eats the bread of adversity, growth is to be seen through the continued persistence and continuance in the faith. The progress in faith in the midst of calamity is a mark of tested faith and an improving faith. Faith that gives up on the way is no faith at all. The marathon of a believer running through His Christian life is the indication that there lives a faith, a genuine faith. So we are to run with perseverance the race that is marked out for us.
Imagine a pastor whose wife goes crazy. Surely, this is a terrible burden to bear for them both. The faithfulness of the pastor to care for his wife and to keep on doing it for as long as they are both alive is the mark of steadfastness. If the man gets tired on the last month of her life, and marries another woman to be his wife, he has fallen into sin and this disqualify him from the ministry!
Trials have a way of revealing what we are really made of. Are we vessels of honour or of dishonour? Trials will shortly reveal. They show us how weak or strong we are as we carry on. Trials show if our zeal is sloth after all. Trials reveal if our wisdom was only a wrapping over folly. How true that, “Innocence is best tried by iniquity” (Tertullian). You have to melt the rocks if you want the metal…the hard experiences actually stimulate a deeper commitment and a growing personal holiness. Perseverance is that willingness to keep running the race that is generated in the course of the race at precisely the moment when the muscles are hurting and the lungs are bursting.
But as we carry on under the burden of trials in faithfulness, the richness of the grace of God in keeping and guarding the elect through faith is displayed. There is no doubt that the more weight of trials we have, the more we are trained to pray and to keep our focus on the Lord. This is how trials force us to depend on the Lord for grace, strength and wisdom in the midst of trials which is for our eternal good.
c) To ripen our spiritual maturity
And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing (v.4). Perseverance is not the final goal of our trials but it is the bucket of milking more benefits from the trials. Clearly the benefits of trials can only come to the believers who respond appropriately to them. Steadfastness has to have its full effect, that is, it has to do all its intended work first. In other words, steadfastness has to perfect its work so that you become perfected or matured which is the ultimate goal of the trials. This is how Moo puts it,
“When endurance is allowed to run its course and attain its goal, believers will be mature and complete, not lacking anything… the word “complete” suggests the idea of wholeness of Christian character that lacks nothing in the panoply of virtues that define Godly character. This concern for spiritual integrity and wholeness lies at the heart of James’s concern, and he will come back to the matter again and again.”
A mature, ripe Christian is one who, having gone through the diverse trials of life is proved to be meet for glory. Blanchard is right when he asserts that;
God’s desire for the Christian is not that he should stagger through life in a series of spiritual fits and starts, flashing out with the odd bright spot here and there and then sinking back into dullness and defeat. God’s desire for the Christian is nothing less than that expressed by Jesus: ‘Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect’ (Matt. 5:48).
This means that our love for God is growing steadily as our faculties are constantly being tuned to conform to His holy will so that we love Him with our whole heart, soul, mind and strength and we love the neighbours He brings our way as ourselves. But even more important, is that we be conformed to the image of Christ (Rom. 8:29)
 D. Moo, The Letter of James, (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2000), p.55
 G. Keddie, The Practical Christian, (Darlington, Eng: EP, 1989), pp.28–29
 D. Moo, The Letter of James, (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2000), p.56
 J. Blanchard, Truth For Life, (Darlington, Eng: EP, 1986), pp.24
This article was first published on The Reformed Pastor Blog and has been reproduced with permission.