Lenten reflection for Friday, March 8, 2019: The Value of Trials (1:2-4)

Prepare
How would you respond to someone who tells you that good can come from the trials which you are experiencing?

Read James 1:2-4
2 Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. 3 For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. 4 So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.

Explore
Consider it an opportunity for great joy (1:2). There is a big difference between “joy” and “happiness”. We are happy when things go the way we want; joy can only occur when we see things from God’s perspective. The verb “consider” is a command that means to “think, regard, treat” something in a certain way; the idea is to make a mental decision to embrace the situation from God perspective. James takes the view that from the viewpoint of eternity we can face any trouble with a confident joy.

1:3 The testing of your faith produces endurance. NRSV Dokimion is the Greek word translated testing; it means “approved after testing.” Although we tend to think of testing as a way to prove what we don’t know or don’t have, testing ought to be seen as a positive opportunity to prove what we have learned. Testing is an important term because it is positive rather than negative. This is the exact term used in 1 Peter 1:6–7 for “proved genuine” and means that the trial is God’s attempt to prove our faith genuine. It is a test that has a positive purpose. The person being tested should become stronger and purer through the testing. In this case, the trials do not determine whether or not believers have faith; rather, the trials strengthen believers by adding perseverance to the faith that is already present…. Endurance is faith stretched out; it involves trusting God for a long duration. In the context of the rest of the New Testament, it is important to see that James is not questioning the faith of his readers—he assumes that they trust in Christ. He is not convincing people to believe; he is encouraging believers to remain faithful to the end. James knows that their faith is real, but it lacks maturity.
…. We cannot really know our own depth until we see how we react under pressure. Diamonds are coal, subjected to intense pressure over a period of time. Without pressure, coal remains coal. The testing of your faith is the combined pressure that life brings to bear on you. Perseverance is the intended outcome of this testing. Other words that could be used for this outcome include “endurance,” “steadfastness,” “fortitude,” and “staying power.” The word endurance has a particular connection with this diamondlike quality created by testing, since the Latin root of this word means “to harden.” Perseverance is not a passive submission to circumstances—it is a strong and active response to the difficult events of life. It is not passive endurance, but the quality of standing on your feet as you face the storms. It is not simply the attitude of withstanding trials, but the ability to turn them into glory, to overcome them.Barton, Bruce B., David Veerman, and Neil S. Wilson. James. Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1992. Print. Life Application Bible Commentary.

Apply
What is it about outward trials that makes them difficult?
Read Romans 8:28-29. What kind of person do James and the Paul want you to be?
James describes endurance as somethings that must be given a chance to grow, over a long period of time. What are some the signs in your life that God is helping you grow and mature to become more Christlike?
Consider a difficult situation that you currently face; how does God’s word here help you respond to it?

Pray
Praise God that he wants you to keep growing to Christian maturity and completeness.
Thank God that he even uses the trials of life to develop the necessary perseverance in us.
Ask God to help you rejoice in that knowledge and to sustain you in faithfulness all the days of your life.

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