Whether you are a person of faith or not you will experience trials of various kinds. It’s just the nature of life. But how you “go” through them or if you “grow” through them is up to you. Life will test you, but God gives you the material needed to pass the test!
The book of James (actually it’s a letter) is one of the most practical letters written. In his opening remarks, James instructs us how to navigate trials in life and why we can go through them with joy.
James was not one of Jesus’ original disciples but was later given the title and responsibility of an apostle, as noted by Paul, Galatians 1:19. He is also the half-brother of Jesus… say what?? Yup, you heard that right. Jesus had brothers and sisters.
Yet when James identifies himself in his greeting he makes no mention of his family ties to Jesus. Why? His birth relationship to Jesus gave him no advantage or greater authority. Instead, he identifies himself as a servant.
From the inception of the church, Christians adopted the title of a servant because they found a master worthy of their complete service and obedience.
When it comes to leadership, leading is less about titles and more about serving others. How many of us have worked under a boss who has led with an iron fist? They use pressure, fear, and manipulation as a means of motivation.
“25But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 26It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant,” Matthew 20:25-26
Being an effective leader starts by serving those you lead.
- Bring out the best in people by setting them up for success.
- Give them the tools they need to succeed.
- Speak with affirming instructions and not just a threat of consequences.
- Create an atmosphere where failure is the forerunner of success.
After his quick greeting, James gets to his first point of instruction.
“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds.”
- Faith isn’t a shield from testing.
- Faith doesn’t make us immune to testing.
- Faith will be tested.
To exercise faith means we apply God’s promises to our circumstances. This is what it means to live by faith and not by sight.
It’s not the test we are rejoicing about, but the results produced by passing the test. Joy within trials only happens when you have faith because faith is the only way of passing the test.
The word joy in this passage is charis, and it’s derived from the root word grace. Joy is enveloped in grace. Like grace, joy arrives in a moment when it seems like that would not be an option based on our situation.
The test provides us an opportunity to exercise faith which produces a critical discipline for spiritual living, steadfastness. The Greek word translated as steadfastness is, hypomone and is defined as to remain under, to persevere.
As Christians, we are not to avoid trials or pray for God to remove the trial, but to stand under it so that the discipline of steadfastness is developed in our life. But steadfastness is just one result of the test.
The full effect is that you become perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. The phrase perfect and complete means that steadfastness adds more ‘parts’ of righteous character to our life.
Righteous is a crucial ingredient to a life of faith. Righteousness can be defined as “the condition of being acceptable to God as made possible by God.” The antithesis of righteous is self-righteousness, where we set the lowest standard possible to achieve.
We pass life’s test by responding by faith and in doing so develop righteous character. By faith, you can pass every trial and every test you encounter. When you face trials and don’t know what to do, James instructs us to ask God for wisdom, who gives generously to all without reproach.
God doesn’t reprimand you for not knowing and will not be critical towards you for asking. He’s not judging or rolling His eyes at you! He gives generously!
Facing circumstances beyond your familiarity is a sign that God is preparing to show you another side of His faithfulness and power.
You can pass every test life throws at you by faith by trusting God to fulfill His promises in your life. Don’t doubt God’s willingness or ability to do what He has said, trust Him! View trials through the eyeglass of joy, because God is at work in your life!