Trials 4 - We need trials

“Count it all joy, my brothers and sisters, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.” (James 1:2-3)

Steadfastness – what’s that? The dictionaries I’ve consulted use words like “unfaltering, unshakable, unwavering, marked by firm determination or resolution.” It comes from two old English words: ‘stede’ meaning ‘place’ and ‘faest’ meaning ‘fixed’, which reminds me of Ephesians 6:13:
“Therefore take up the whole armour of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.”
How valuable is steadfastness? Is it worth the pain of trials? Well, look at this for a promise:
“And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:4)
Do I have your attention now? What an amazing offer: for us to become “perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” – that’s incredible! Don’t you want to be like that? Of course you do, and the way that happens is through enduring and growing through trials. God isn’t interested in you having an easy life, He wants you to have eternal life. So He gives you trials.

Consider weightlifting (something I rarely do): trials are not a written exam on weight-lifting theory, they are an actual workout with weights you might not have thought you could lift but that will actually show what strength you have, and make you stronger.

James keeps going with the good news:
“Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love Him.” (James 1:12)
The “crown of life” he’s referring to here is an allusion to the ancient equivalent of an Olympic gold medal:
“The reward for faithful perseverance is eternal life, with all its abundant blessings.” (ESV Study Bible)
So here is the answer to why we should consider trials all joy: they are essential to the process of making us more like Jesus and receiving the eternal crown of life. This is worth so much more than the temporary comfort of an easy life!

Another good reason
There’s another reason why trials are part of God’s plan for us. It’s not mentioned in this text but I think it’s important.

Have you ever seen a couple who have just started going out? They can be fun to be around (if a little toe-curling) because they’re so excited with each other and with this new relationship that they’re enjoying. But, however special it may be to them, what they have is actually rather small and ephemeral. Now consider a husband and wife who have been together for decades and still love each other. They hold hands tenderly – without the strength of previous years perhaps but with no less determination. They have been through good times and bad, and are glad for anything that brought them closer together. They know one another deeply, and love each other despite their flaws. They have been tempted to stray but have chosen faithfulness and discovered the lasting, grateful joy that it brings. They have something of a far greater magnitude than the young lovers because what they have has been tested, strengthened, and proved.

A new Christian is a delightful sight, a mature Christian is an amazing one.

As he faced execution for his belief in Jesus, Polycarp declared,
“Eighty-six years have I served Him, and He has done me no wrong. How then can I blaspheme my King who saved me?”
That is a depth of relationship that only comes with time, and with trials.