Trials are an inescapable experience in life. As you read this, you can probably reflect on painful experiences, watershed events, and significant disappointments or heartaches that have shaped your life. In the last post we saw that we shouldn’t be surprised. Jesus plainly taught that “in this world you will have tribulation.” James chapter 1 also makes it clear that various kinds of trials are an inevitable part of life.
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.
Maybe the trials you are facing over these last weeks deal with family relationships on the edge of conflict. Maybe you’ve become unemployed or your work schedule and expectations have been quickly changing. Maybe you’ve struggled spiritually to control your anxiety and belief that God is truly good. While trials distress us and challenge us in many ways – did you notice how James speaks of trials so positively? In fact, alongside the weight of adversity trials produce good things in our lives.
- Trials test our faith
Notice how James uses two phrases interchangeably in verse two and three. In vs 2 he talks about “encountering various trials,” but in vs 3 he describes that encounter as the “testing of our faith.” Commentator Douglas Moo writes:
“The two parallel Old Testament occurrences of this word testing (Ps 12:6; Prov 27:21) denote the process of refining silver or gold… The difficulties of life are intended by God to refine our faith: heating it in the crucible of suffering so that impurities might be refined away and so that it might become pure and valuable before the Lord.”
The Lord uses trials to help us understand our own heart and to help us honestly assess our spiritual walk with greater clarity. Trials become occasions to ask:
- How will we respond?
- What happens when we don’t get what we wanted or expected?
- What do we really truly love?
- What do we really truly trust in?
- How is our response to trial revealing our own heart?
With the challenge and inconvenience of trial comes opportunity. It is the opportunity to take internal spiritual audit of our own soul. It is a perfect opportunity to pray with the Psalmist “Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thoughts. And see if there be any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way” (Ps 139:23-24).
- Trials produce spiritual toughness
Look at Verse Three! It says that this testing of faith produces endurance. The Greek word for endurance is hupomene; It is a compound word from the preposition hupo (under) and the verb meno (to remain). Hupomene is the quality of bearing pressure underneath something or remaining under pressure. To have hupomene is to have staying power – to have spiritual grit. In fact, in various Bible versions this word is translated as “perseverance, steadfastness, patience, or endurance.” It is the quality of spiritual toughness. I don’t know about you but this is a quality that I want in my life. I don’t enjoy trials any more than the next person, but I’m amazed and encouraged that through the middle of trial, God is developing his good gift of hupomene in my life.
The amazing thing about endurance is that the more you endure, the more you are able to endure. It is like spiritual compound interest enabling us to walk with greater consistency and faithfulness in the face of challenges. But this wonderful quality of spiritual toughness is not something we automatically possess. God produces it – he builds stamina into our life and character in the school of adversity. I want to be the kind of Christian who presses on with the Lord despite what hits me, but I recognize I’m not there yet. As you cast your burdens upon the Lord’s caring heart – as you exercise faith to confess his goodness, wisdom, and power amidst calamity – don’t let the experience of trial pass you by without purpose. Lord refine us and produce spiritual toughness in us for your glory!