So, I’m going to be honest.
I really didn’t want to write this post.
You know when you read something in the Bible and it’s just too much to handle? It’s just too much to face the reality that you don’t want to live by the truth of these words…that the Word of God really is a double-edge sword piercing through the joints and marrow and soul and heart of a person. It’s irritating to know the truth and not live by it.
So you kind of just skim over those parts. Push the dust-bunnies into the corners of the room (oh, you don’t do stuff like that??). It’s like how I’ve always covered my eyes on any of the Jesus-being-crucified movie scenes from when I was a child (and yes, I still do it to this day). I know it’s the truth, but it’s just too painful sometimes to come face to face with the gory, offensiveness of it all.
The emotions behind the real-life story of how James went from being an unbelieving half-brother to a bond-servant of Christ is inspiring (read part one of the series on the book of James here). It’s provocative. It’s how we all want to live for Jesus. We all want to encounter Him and be transformed into a wholehearted follower of Christ. We so yearn to be the best version of our destinies in Christ today, right now.
But then we read on to verses two, three, and four (emphasis added)…
“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing…”
And then that’s where we start skimming. Or we just close the Bible and never crack open the book of James ever again.
I get why. I mean, James ain’t packaging it up in cotton candy and unicorns. He says straight up, “…when you fall into various trials…” Translation – Living as a Christian does not mean we’re neatly bubble-wrapped from all pain, humiliation, defeat, despair, hopelessness, brokenness, injustice, you-fill-in-the-blank. Those things will happen and in fact, they may seem to escalate and come at you like a sledgehammer in some seasons. You somehow manage to peel your face off of the floor and boom. Down you go again.
So then fear comes rushing in like a cold, winter front. Doubt begins to build it’s foundation into the deep cracks of your weary soul. Disillusionment becomes a nagging, constant companion. Every person, every circumstance, every word disturbs your emotional balance. Just please…when will it stop?
Before we can even unpack the offensiveness that is “count it all joy…” in regards to facing trials, we first have to dig into the “why.” Why the trials?
It’s like James can read our minds because he answers the question right away. Verse three says, “…knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience (steadfastness).”
Because the truth is that nothing tested ever truly stands. Whatever belief system you and I build our lives upon, it will be tested so that it can be proven to be true or not. You say you believe God is sovereign and good. But then the gravest of injustices is committed against you, against your will, against your humanity. Then what does your soul cry out and say?
But in that honest flash of a moment…He’s giving you an opportunity.
See, it’s not God’s reputation or character at stake. He doesn’t need human validation to affirm who He is. No, friend. He’s after your raw heart. Do you and I truly believe what we say we think to be true? Whether He orchestrates the injustice/hardship/difficulty, allows it, or you’ve just plain brought it upon yourself (or an interesting balance of all of the above), we ultimately end up facing the reality of our words.
And we often find that we fall short of them.
So James gives us this sound advice in verses five and six…
“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting…”
We are to humbly ask the good Father for His wisdom. It brings us back into relationship and dialogue with Him. Which then brings us back to faith…which then cycles back around to the reality that faith is only proven to be true as it is refined in the fire. This refining then produces patience. A clearer understanding of the Greek word used for patience in this verse is “steadfastness.” As this steadfastness is developed within the deepest recesses of our hearts, we are then made “perfect” over time, or another way to see it is that we are made “mature and complete.”
Thus, trials become the refining fire through which our lives are proven to align with what we say we believe. And when we fall short, we find ourselves back to that simple truth – will I humble myself and pray, asking for His wisdom to guide me through the flames?
As we look back on the history of how He has walked us through those various trials, when we remember where we once were and we look at our feet and realize where we are now, our hearts bubble forth in gratitude. We cannot help but stand in awe that something so utterly painful could somehow bring us joy.
It’s a joy that may offend the human mind. But it’s a priceless joy that roots us and grounds us deeper into the truth that is worth both living and dying for.
Read part three on the book of James here…