The Main Thing – James 1:2-4
“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.”
In these verses we find the first 2 commands in the book of James. Verse for verse James is the most practical of any book in the Bible. It has 55 commands contained in 108 verses. Let us look into the first 2 of these as we ask ourselves what is the main thing (no pun intended) that James is saying in these verses?
The first command he issues is that we need to, “Count it all joy,” when we face various trials. This is a call to respond. We need to intentionally view the world around us differently. It is important to remember that James is speaking to a group of people who were forced from Jerusalem because of persecution (most likely what we see in Acts 8). They are going to experience trials, (he says when not if), and when this happens they need to realize it is happening so they can be made more like Jesus. It is the testing of their faith that is going to bring about their steadfastness, which in turn will lead to their sanctification.
This leads us to the second command. We are to let steadfastness have its perfect work so that we will be perfect. James does an intentional play on words that is lost in the ESV translation. “Full” and “complete” are from the same Greek word that has to do with perfection. The idea is that we need to persevere through the trials that come our way and if we don’t cut them short then our sanctification also will not be cut short.
James is confident in his assertion that we can know that the testing of our faith produces steadfastness. How can we know this? Because God is in control and is working these things out for our good. God does not waste any opportunity to make us more like His Son. This is huge, because the Creator of the universe is taking time to redeem the commonplace moments of our lives so that we will grow into Christlikeness. We do not serve a wasteful God. Your trials and sufferings are not wasted. They are being used by a loving God to make us perfect, lacking nothing.
Finally, we need to ask ourselves, “How can I apply this today?” It is easy for me to get caught up in the grammar and creative play on words in this passage and forget to apply it (like a man who looks at his face in the mirror but then doesn’t do anything about it… but we’ll get there later). What this is requiring of us is that we must look at every part of our lives differently. We need to look at every moment of our lives in light of the fact that we have an all-wise, sovereign God who is intimately involved in redeeming these moments to make us like Jesus. Our situations aren’t going to change, but we must change if we are going to view them properly. Simply put, trials are coming and we need to use them to grow closer to Christlikeness. This applies equally to both the monumental and the mundane moments our lives. Everything from the death of a loved one to a screaming child in the middle of the night can be used or squandered depending on how we respond to them.
Read also: Rom 5:3-5; 2 Cor 4:17