Has your faith and patience been tested over the last week? Our expectations for travel, for summer, and for daily and weekly rhythms have all had to shift. And while we don’t want to nurse selfish discontentment or disappointment, it’s fair to say that these recent weeks have brought trials into your life. Trials test us, shape us, and refine us for God’s glory.
1 Pet 1:6-9 In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
Because gold is deemed a precious metal, we subject it to pressure and refining. So also Christian faith, precious in the eyes of God, is lovingly tested for His final glory. But that does not mean that trials are easy to walk through or joyful in our moment by moment experience. So how should we think about trials? Over the next couple weeks, we will consider this question from the wisdom of James Chapter 1. James’ letter is almost like a New Testament “book of proverbs.” It is full of practical wisdom and explores the theme of “faith in action.” James opens the body of his letter addressing trials:
James 1:2-4 Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
You’ve probably heard these verses. Maybe you’ve ministered these verses to other believers. But these timeless truths are an anchor to the soul!
- Trials are inevitable
Notice that James uses the little word “when.” The question of trials is not if but when. They are an inevitable part of life and James is saying, “Count on it!” On the night before His own death Jesus said “in the world you have tribulation…” It has been well said that we are all in one of the following three boats: we just come through a trial, we are in the midst of a trial, or we are just about to enter a trial. This is true in all seasons of life – but especially as of lately. COVID-19 has led to economic strain, new restrictions, sickness, death, and many anxieties. It has forced us to deal with our lack of certainty and lack of control. Perhaps God has graciously exposed your heart as He has mine over these last weeks. The encouraging part in all of this, is to know that trials and adversity do not mean that God is absent. The fact that our earth groans with the pains of earthquakes, pandemic, and sorrow is evidence that a better day still awaits us in the future (Rom 8:22-23).
- Trials come in all shapes and sizes
James indicates that there are “various” kinds of trials (vs 2). It’s true isn’t it? Trials vary in their intensity degree, and duration. Some of us face intense temptations; We face and must deal with bursts of anger, grief, or lust. Some trials are demonic opposition (Job 1; 2 Cor 12:7-10). Many deal with infirmities and physical limitations. Others are trials resulting from the reaping of sin and foolishness (Gal 6:7-8). Reproaches and reviling refer to the trial of ridicule and rejection on account of faith or holy living (Matt 5:11-12). Many of our brothers and sisters around the globe face persecutions – harassment and oppression due to religious convictions (2 Tim 3:12). In our imperfect world there are legitimate lack of necessities. Trials can be emotional, situational, relational, or spiritual; indeed there are “various” kinds of trials.
Pandemic and pestilence are yet another kind of trial before our eyes in the COVID-19 crisis. It is what we might call “calamity.” Calamity is an event causing great and sudden damage or distress. In our present world things break, natural disasters hit, storms come, and disease claims lives. But living in a world of calamity reminds me of two encouragements. First, a day is coming when there will be no calamity: no more war, no more sin, no more disease. O let us strain the eyes of faith to hope for this better day! Second, we’re not alone in facing hardship. One of the “lies of adversity” is that we feel like we are facing it alone. But James clearly teaches that diverse trials are an inevitable reality of walking through the valley of the shadow of death on the path to glory.