James has been described by some as the book of Proverbs in the New Testament. It is a book filled with wisdom. Wisdom concerning how one is to think and act in this present age as a believer in Jesus. An age in which the believer could be described as one being in ‘exile’ – scattered amongst a pagan people and in a world that is not their ultimate home (James 1:1). This challenging context for faith in Jesus Christ is the context for everything in this letter and the context for every believer in Jesus.
Realistic expectations are wise. Climbing into a steel cage with a cage fighter with no expectation of danger or the need to defend oneself – is unwise. Going fishing on the beach and not expecting to smell like bait and fish – is unwise. Being a new parent and expecting to have broken sleep for several years – is wise…
So what is the wise expectation of a Christ Follower in this age?
James says; ‘expect to meet trials of every kind in this age’! That’s a wise expectation. To believe that life and the journey of faith in Jesus in this age will be easy – is unwise. The New Testament is clear that in this age we have an enemy who is bent on undermining our faith, robbing from us & even devouring us. We live in an age where temptations & struggles abound. To have any other expectation leaves one unprepared and prone to wrong conclusions and even a crisis of faith.
So, James prepares us with a realistic expectation in these verses, but then goes beyond mere counseling the Christ Follower to have a reasonable expectation when he writes that we ought to ‘consider’ (NASB) it ‘all joy’ when we encounter such trials! This is more than having a reasonable expectation, this is ‘embrace trials’.
How can this be? Only because we know something.
Knowing the endgame can fortify one to press through incredible hardship or pain. They say it takes two months to climb Mt Everest, two months out of normal life, living in compromised accommodation and discomfort and at an average cost of R600k-R800k! Why do people do it, endure it? Because they know they want the endgame of standing on the peak and being one of just a few who have done so.
James says; ‘you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness’ and he says that steadfastness produces something else in us; ‘that we may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing’ (vs4).
So do you know what James assumes you do?
Is your expectation of life as a Christ Follower a biblical one or unrealistic in some way? And do you believe Scripture, which says that the road to the goal of a complete life that lacks nothing is through suffering and trials?
Trials test the genuineness of our faith. Are you a ‘fair-weather’ believer who believes but only when life is rosy, and God seems to be blessing us and answering all our prayers? Or are we robust believers whose faith under fire results in endurance/perseverance, consistency in our faith whether life is rosy or really hard?
In this present age as exiles, the road following Jesus can be hard and long. The call on us is to remain steadfast when startling, unexpected trials come, and to endure through them and then to go on enduring. We know the destination towards which we are headed, because James tells us – it is that we may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing in our life and faith.
So, wisdom is to arm yourself with a biblical expectation & to arm yourself by knowing that God wastes nothing and that any and every trial you will face has a God-ordained purpose. So be strengthened & remain steadfast when you meet any and every type of trial.
We tend to reach for the eject button, tend to pray for God to remove us from trials. Yet the prayers of Scripture inspire us to pray that we (or those we love)
- might know God’s will in the midst of trials,
- that we might walk in a manner worthy of God in the midst of these trials,
- so that we might be fully pleasing to Him
- and in order that we might bear much fruit
- that we might be strengthened by God’s power in the midst of trials
- so that we would remain steadfast (see the prayer in Colossians 1:9-14).
And when we do this, we become more like Jesus who did the same when he endured the cross scorning its shame because he knew what was the endgame (Hebrews 12:2) and so he was steadfast! May I, may we be like Him.