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James 1:2-4:  Turning Trials ino Triumphs

“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”

You’ve no doubt heard the old expression, “When life hands you a lemon, make lemonade.” There were people in the Bible who did just that! They turned their trials into triumph.

Verse 2a: “My brethren, count it all joy…”

“My brethren…” The term is used here, not in a national sense but in a spiritual one. All true believers in the Lord Jesus Christ have God as their Father and are therefore brethren. Obviously it is one of the favorite expressions of James, for he uses it not less than seventeen times(1:2,9,16,19; 2:1,5,14,15; 3:1,10,12; 4:11; 5:7,9,10,12,19).

“Count it all joy…” The Greek word for “count” is in logizomai, it means to think, count, or regard something based on weighing and comparing of facts. It denotes deliberate and careful judgment stemming from external proof, not subjective judgment based on feelings” –Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament. This word also carries with it the meaning to be a leader, or have authority over. You’re in charge, not of your circumstances, but of how you respond to them. You have the control and authority to choose whether the trial or testing will rob you of your joy in Christ or not. You can't stop bad things from happening in this life, but you can stop it from bumming you out.

Roger Miller recorded a song that said, “You can’t roller skate in a buffalo herd…but you can be happy if you’ve a mind to…” It’s up to us as to how we respond to trials…”You can be joyful if you’ve a mind to…” Paul writes: “I’ve learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances” (Philippians 4:11 MSG).

“Joy…” is different from happiness in that it is internal, and it seems that joy is something we can attain by having the Holy Spirit in our lives. It is the second ”fruit of the Spirit," according to Galatians 5:22 “But the fruit of the Spirit” The word “joy” comes from the Greek root word chara and means "to be exceedingly glad.” Joy, on the other hand, is true contentment that comes from internal factors like our faith in the Lord. True joy is everlasting and not dependent upon circumstances. The book of Philippians is a great study in the difference between joy and happiness. Depending on the translation, the Bible uses the words “happy” and “happiness” about 30 times, while “joy” and “rejoice” appear over 300 times. If we look at some verses it will help us understand why joy is different from happiness.

Romans 15:13 NLT, “I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.”

So the Bible teaches that happiness is fleeting because it often depends on things outside of ourselves, but true joy is eternal because it is based on our relationship with Jesus Christ, which is itself an everlasting source of joy.

Verse 2b: “…when you fall into various trials…”

“Fall into…” This does not refer to some accidental falling. Notice the wording, “when” you fall… Not “if” you fall! Some trials like, accidents, sickness, or disappointments come just because we are human. Much of our sickness is a result of how we have treated our bodies. Smoking, overeating, overwork, stress and family history are just few of the factors that produce, heart attacks, cancer, and other ailments. You can’t blame God if you are a smoker and you are dying of lung cancer! You can’t blame God for the trial if you are driving 100 miles an hour and lose control of your car and crash. You can’t blame God if you are dying from an illegal drug overdose.

“Trials…” The Greek word is used in its noun form, peirasmos in verses 2 and 12 and its verb form, peirazo in verse 13. The root word of these forms has such meanings as “test,” “try,” and “prove.” The significance of the verb peirazo is that it is used in both a good sense and a bad sense It can have the idea of testing with the purpose of bringing out that which is good, or it can have the idea of testing with the purpose of bringing out that which is bad.

Some trials come because we are believers. “Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy” (1 Peter 4:12,13). “But it is no shame to suffer for being a Christian. Praise God for the privilege of being called by his name!” (1 Peter 4:16).

Verse 3a: “…knowing…”

“Knowing” in Greek is ginosko meaning, experiential knowledge, not merely the accumulation of known facts. To know from personal experience, by an active relationship between the one who knows and the person or thing known, is far superior to book knowledge. Stephen Charnock said “A man may be theologically knowing (Pharisee-like) and be spiritually ignorant… Knowledge in the head is as money in the purse; knowledge in the heart is as money for our use.”

“Ginosko...refers to intelligent comprehension with an emphasis on the process or act of knowing. Throughout John’s literature, “knowing” and “obeying” are inseparable (as they are in Old Testament literature). In the Upper Room, Jesus placed great emphasis on His followers knowing the mind of God so they might become integral to His redemptive plan. The disciples struggled with lack of understanding until they received the Holy Spirit.” –Charles Swindoll

Verse 3b: “…that the testing of your faith…”

“Testing…” the Greek word, dokimon, means, “proved, tried as metals by fire and thus purified,” the verb form, dokimazo describes putting someone or something to the test with a view of determining whether it is worthy of being approved or not, the test being made with the intention of approving if possible. “Trial is not only to approve, but to improve.” –Thomas Manton

“When God tests us today, He puts us into the furnace. He doesn’t do that to destroy us or to hurt or harm us. But He wants pure gold, and that is the way He will get it. Friend, that is what develops Christian character. At the time of testing, the dross is drawn off and the precious gold appears. That is God’s method.” –J. Vernon McGee

“When God puts His own people into the furnace, He keeps His eye on the clock and His hand on the thermostat. He knows how long and how much. (If we rebel, He may have to reset the clock; but if we submit, He will not permit us to suffer one minute too long. The important thing is that we learn the lesson He wants to teach us and that we bring glory to Him alone.) We may question why He does it to begin with, or why He doesn’t turn down the heat or even turn it off; but our questions are only evidences of unbelief. Job 23:10 is the answer: ‘But He knows the way that I take; when He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold.’ Gold does not fear the fire. The furnace can only make the gold purer and brighter.” –W. Wiersbe

Just remember, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego in the fiery furnace. They did not go through their trial alone, the King said, “I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire; and they are not hurt, and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God” (Daniel 3:25). If you are a true believer, God will always be with you in your furnace of testing!

Verse 3c: “…produces patience.”

“While visiting an inlet of the sea that reached deep into land, leaving a sheltered bay, I noticed that the pebbles on that protected beach were rough and jagged—not smooth and polished. But out on the open shore where fierce waves break over the rocks, the pebbles were sleek and round.

The same is true of Christian character. Just as the harsh treatment of the ocean waves makes the rough stones smooth, our trials, difficulties, and testing’s can produce in us the luster of Christian maturity. When circumstances become difficult, we can rest assured that God has only one design in view—the perfection of our character. That's why the psalmist could testify, ‘It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I may learn Your statutes’ (Psalm 119:71). (Spurgeon’s note). Echoing that statement, Scottish pastor Samuel Rutherford declared that he “got a new Bible through the furnace of adversity.” The Scriptures took on fresh meaning for him when his faith had been tested and his character enriched.

The popular idea that bad things happen because we are being punished is contrary to what God says. The Word of God indicates that troubles can be a badge of honor for the Christian. Through them we can see that God is at work in us to produce the patience that James said would help us become mature, lacking nothing (James 1:4). Through the rough seas of trouble, God "rounds" the stone of our character and conforms us to the likeness of His Son. —P. R. Van Gorder, Our daily bread

“Patience…” in Greek is hupomone, “endurance” (NASB). The root idea of hupomone is that of remaining under some discipline, subjecting one’s self to something which demands the acquiescence of the will to something against which one naturally would rebel. It portrays a picture of steadfastly and unflinchingly bearing up under a heavy load and describes that quality of character which does not allow one to surrender to circumstances or succumb under trial. It presents the picture of being under a heavy load and resolutely staying there instead of trying to escape.

Chrysostom called hupomone “The Queen of the Virtues.” In the Authorized Version it is usually translated patience; but patience is too passive a word. Hupomone has always a background of courage.

Hupomone is victorious endurance. It is not simply the ability to bear things; it is the ability to turn them to greatness and to glory. Hupomone is not the grim, bleak acceptance of trouble but triumph. It describes the spirit which can not only accept suffering but triumph over it....As the silver comes purer from the fire, so the Christian can emerge finer and stronger from hard days. The Christian is the athlete of God whose spiritual muscles become stronger from the discipline of difficulties.

“Patience must not be an inch shorter than the affliction. If the bridge reach but half-way over the brook, we shall have but ill-favored passage. It is the devil’s desire to set us on a hurry; he knows his temptations will then work best.” –John Trapp

The thing which amazed the heathen in the centuries of persecution was that the martyrs did not die sadly, they died singing. One smiled in the flames; they asked him what he found to smile about. “I saw the glory of God, and was glad.” Hupomone is the quality which makes a man able, not simply to suffer things, but to vanquish them. The effect of testing rightly borne is strength to bear still more and to conquer in still harder battles.

Verse 4a: “But let patience have its perfect work…”

“Let…” implies submission to God in the trial. Submitting to God does not necessarily mean passively enduring it without praying for relief. Paul prayed that God would remove his “thorn in the flesh.” He stopped praying when God told him, “My grace is sufficient for you” (2 Corinthians 12:8-9).

“Perfect…” in Greek is, teleios, meaning, “wanting nothing necessary to completeness, full grown adult, of full age, maturity, attaining the full limits of stature, strength and mental power.

It takes trials for believers to mature! “A smooth sea never made a good sailor.” One of the best tests of Christian growth and maturity is trouble. When a believer goes through personal trials, they discover the kind of faith they really possess. Trials not only reveal our faith, but they also develop our character.

We cannot be a mature and complete Christian until we learn to endure trials with joy (without complaining). Maturity simply means fully grown. God admonished us to grow up! The one thing that shows our maturity is the ability to face the trials of life! Grow up! Infantile Christian are a disgrace to the church, and our churches are filled with adult babies! Grow up!

I knew a family once with a boy who was about 30 years old, but he had never grown beyond infancy. Oh his body had matured to about the size of a 10-12 year old but he was still a baby. He had to be fed, changed and card for 24-7. What a sad thing to see. There is another disheartening situation, that is a person who claims to have been a Christian for many years, but he is still an infant! He has to be spoon-fed, coddled and requires much care. Perhaps they need some trials to mature them! Paul writes:

1 Corinthians 3:1-3 NLT, “Dear brothers and sisters, when I was with you I couldn’t talk to you as I would to spiritual people. I had to talk as though you belonged to this world or as though you were infants in Christ. I had to feed you with milk, not with solid food, because you weren’t ready for anything stronger. And you still aren’t ready, for you are still controlled by your sinful nature. You are jealous of one another and quarrel with each other. Doesn’t that prove you are controlled by your sinful nature? Aren’t you living like people of the world?”

Hebrews 12:12,13, “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. 13 For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe.”

Grow up!

Ephesians 4:14 NLT, “Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth.”

2 Corinthians 13:11, “Dear brothers and sisters, I close my letter with these last words: Be joyful. Grow to maturity. Encourage each other. Live in harmony and peace. Then the God of love and peace will be with you.”

Hebrews 13:20,21, “Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.”

1 Peter 5:10 NASB, “After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect (mature), confirm, strengthen and establish you.”

Verse 4b: “…that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”

This is James’ conclusion, the result of submitting to your trials to the Lord. He will perfect (teleios) and complete you through His grace and His Hoy Spirit.

“The word perfect in the Scripture does not mean, as applied to a saint of God, anything approaching to the usual idea of perfection, as implying spotless, sinless holiness, but one who is matured and ripened in the life of God, no longer a child but a grown man. As a tree grown to its full stature is said to have attained perfection; so when the Lord the Spirit has brought forth the work of patience in your soul, as far as regards that work you are perfect, for it is God’s work in you; and so far you are entire…possessing all which that grace gives, and lacking nothing which that grace can communicate.” –J.C.Philpot

Teleios (perfect, mature) used of a believer in the present context describes one who has attained moral/ethical maturity, wanting in nothing, having reached the goal, purpose or end for which he or she was created and which man possessed before the fall.

Teleios here in James...”indicates adult growth and maturity—the opposite of babyhood. Thus James is thinking of a personality that has reached full development. The word describes a maturity, a ripeness and richness of knowledge and character, such as might be supposed to mark the full-grown man, as contrasted with the babe in Christ."' Unfortunately, many believers succumb to spiritual infantile paralysis and remain in a state of childish backwardness in their spiritual life.” –Hiebert

“Complete…” in Greek is holokleros, meaning, entirely perfect in every part. It literally means the whole lot, having the entire allotment, complete in all its parts and in no part wanting or unsound. James is saying this man is the one who fulfills his lot, the one who fully attains to his high calling.

“Lacking nothing…” The Greek word for “Lacking” is leipo and it means “falling short, being destitute or being in need; the failure to reach a standard that should have been reached.” James does not want his readers to be deficient in anything that reflects Christian maturity.

In Christ we have all we need for life and godliness. 2 Peter 1:3 NLT, “By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence.”

Christ is all I need, All, all I need,

Christ is all I need, Christ is all I need,

All, all I need.

He was crucified, For me He died, on Calvary.

That He loved me so, This is why I know,

Christ is all I need

–Author unknown–

Our maturity is not complete until we are put through great trials. As a pilot’s skill is discerned in a storm, as sailor’s seamanship is proved by raging seas, so is a Christian’s grace proved in many troubles. And the trial must not be interrupted until it is “perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”

Unless otherwise noted, the New King James Version of the Bible was used. Also The New Living Translation (NLT); The New American Standard Bible (NASB); The Message (MSG); The New Century Version (NCV); The Amplified Bible (AMP); The King James Version (KJV), The New Life Version (NLV); English Standard Version (ESV); J.B. Phillips New Testament; Easy to Read Version (ERV); Common English bible (CEB); NET Bible (NET) and The Living Bible (TLB). Contemporary English Version (CEV).

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