DID YOU EVER hear anything so strange? “Consider it pure joy,” James said, “whenever you face trials of many kinds” (1:2). To some that sounds about as sensible as stepping in front of a speeding Amtrak train. Is James being serious? Is he being realistic when he commands us to rejoice in trials?
You’ll notice James is not telling us to go looking for trials. But he is being very honest. He wants Christians to realize that they have no special inoculation that keeps all trials away. In fact, besides sharing in the sorrows and sufferings common to all people, Christians must often endure additional trials because they are connected with Christ. That’s how it was with Christians of James’ day—and still is today. With interest, therefore, we listen as James speaks to us about how faith acts when facing trials.
What trials do for us
James encourages us “to consider it pure joy” not because trials come, but because of what they can develop. Trials can produce “perseverance” (1:3). You might even call it “Christian staying power,” the ability to hold up under life’s bitterest blows. Such staying power is not ours by birth. It needs to be developed in the crucible of life’s crises and fired in the furnace of everyday living
When troubles come, our reaction is all-important. We dare not let trials become wedges to split us loose from our gracious God. What trials do for us is the important point, not what they do to us. In the stormy waters Christians develop their “sea legs.” When the waves of trouble crash over us, we learn that Jesus is both present and precious. When we learn to view our trials as tools used by God to mature our faith, we can find joy even in them.
What our Savior provides during trials
Do you feel like saying, “I don’t have what it takes to view trials in this way”? You’re right. We need to go to someone who does, to our God “who gives generously to all without finding fault” (1:5). Our open-handed God gives wisdom to all who approach him in faith. On his part, there will be no “finding fault,” no scolding about our lack of wisdom or childish requests. On our part, there will be no wavering in doubt, no wondering, Will he or won’t he help? We will just have simple confidence that he who has given us our Savior will also give us wisdom to understand our trials in life. “Ask God . . . and it will be given to you” (1:5), James assures us, echoing the words of our Lord himself (Matthew 7:7).
When trials smash in the front doors and sneak through the back doors of life, we need to deepen our prayers. Sometimes in answer God will show us the why for a particular trial. Usually, though, there’s another answer he gives: the wisdom to trust him in the dark until the light of eternity reveals all. Such wisdom God puts within our reach in his Holy Word. On its pages we find wisdom. From its words we get answers also for the trials of life.
- What does Romans 5:3-5 tell us about the benefits of trials? Though we might not always understand, Romans 5:4 reminds us that trials bring several blessings. Chief among them is “hope.” Trials raise our eyes heavenward to a God whose love would never let anything “hurt” us. One of my favorite sayings is, “We trust God, not because of what he does, but because of what he is.” He is love, and hope relies on that love.
- What do 1 Corinthians 13:12 and 1 John 3:2,3 tell us about understanding the trials in our lives? We wait for the time when we stand at our Savior’s side in heaven with perfect understanding of how he led our lives in his love. In heaven when we have perfect knowledge of his will and ways, we can throw away our list of questions that we accumulated during our earthly journey.
- What confidence do Mark 11:24; John 16:23; and Matthew 7:7,8 offer when we ask for patience in trials? Prayer is a blessed privilege that God gives the believer. Coupled with that privilege is the confidence that God hears and answers our prayers. When trials hit, the best outlook is up to a loving Lord, who will give us the patience we need to endure.
This is the second article in a series on the book of James.
Author: Richard Lauersdorf
Volume 107, Number 08
Issue: August 2020
- Psalm 103: When you count your blessings
- Psalm 91: When God lifts you up on his lap
- Psalm 4: When you draw nearer to the end
- Psalm 42: When you ask, “Where is God when I’m hurting?”
- Psalm 32: When you need forgiveness
- Psalm 130: When rocks fall
- Bible study: Freedom in service
- What does this mean for me? Article 6
- Bible study: Spiritual gifts
- What does this mean for me? Article 5
- What does this mean for me? Article 4
- Bible study: Rejoice in your status!
- Bible study: Baptismal blessings
- What does this mean for me? Article 3
- What does this mean for me? Article 2
- Bible study: Gifts of tongues and miraculous healing
- What does this mean for me? Article 1
- Bible study: Jesus is everyone’s Savior
- Bible study: Love one another
- Bible study: Above all things!
- Bible study: The comfort of God’s providence
- The book of James: Waiting for Christ’s return
- Bible study: Precious grace
- The book of James: Active in using prayer
- Bible study: Rewards of grace
- The book of James: Active in showing love
- The book of James: Correctly evaluating riches
- Bible study: What’s going to happen on the Last Day?
- The book of James: Avoiding loveless judging
- Bible study: Interpretation practice
- The book of James: Taming the tongue
- Bible study: The Bible’s attributes
- Bible study: The importance of the family altar
- Bible study: God’s attitude is grace
- Bible study: The Bible’s account of Easter morning
- Bible study: Different types of sin
- Bible study: God’s inspiration
- Bible study: Giving God glory
- Bible study: Judge for yourself
- The book of James: Using the Word of Truth
- Bible study: The need for the Bible and worship
- Bible study: Citizens of two kingdoms
- The book of James: Active in good works
- The book of James: When battling temptation
- Bible study: God cares
- Bible study: God made the world
- The book of James: When facing trials
- Bible study: A loving God saved people from hell
- The book of James: A blueprint for living out our life of faith
- A Bible story just for me: Guilt
- Bible study: God provides victory over death!
- A Bible story just for me: Anxiety
- Bible study: God forgives and refuses to remember our sins
- A Bible story just for me: Grief
- Bible study: God helps those who cannot help themselves
- A Bible story just for me: Depression
- Bible study: God has not grown soft on sin
- Bible study: Only one path leads to God’s presence
- A Bible story just for me: Trauma
- A Bible story just for me
- Bible study: God wants me in heaven
- Bible study: The incarnation of our Lord