Trials are an inevitable part of the human experience here on earth; suffering is a part of life. Despite our protests, it is sometimes God’s will that we suffer (1 Peter 4:19). But God doesn’t want us to merely go through trials; He wants us to grow through trials. Throughout the Bible, we find godly men and women who turned defeat into victory, trial into triumph. Instead of being victims, they became victors. The apostle James tells us that we can have that same experience today. No matter what the trials may be on the outside (James 1:1-12), or the temptations on the inside (James 1:13-27), through faith in Christ, we can grow through trials.
According to James, we should work to cultivate a positive attitude toward affliction: “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials… (James 1:2). In other words, our outlook determines the outcome. How we perceive trials will inevitably influence how they impact us. If we view trials as intruders, they will rob us of our joy, and negate the positive contribution God desires they make in our lives. James tells us here that we need to adopt a positive mindset toward the trials that assail us.
In addition, we must realize that God uses trials to develop endurance: “…knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance” (James 1:2). In order to view trials in a positive light, we must understand their intended purpose. Rather than obstacles to avoid, they are God’s choice opportunities for spiritual growth. Trials aren’t meant to destroy our faith, but to refine it. And the truth is, God is more interested in developing your faith than in prolonging your pleasure. When trials come your way, you need to realize that God uses life’s troubles to reveal the depth and genuineness of your commitment to Him. When we realize that trials are part of God’s program to develop our character, it becomes much easier to view afflictions positively and trust God, no matter how “hot the furnace gets.” We need to focus on the product, rather than the process, of our various trials.
Because trials are ultimately for our good, we should cease struggling against God and cooperate with Him in the loving process of developing our character: “And let endurance have its perfect result, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:4). God doesn’t develop our character without our cooperation. He wants to make us more like his Son, and a key component of Christlikeness is endurance.
As such, it follows that we must pray for wisdom in how to handle various trials (James 1: 5-8). James gives us two reasons that trials sometimes overwhelm us. First, we lack wisdom. When those unexpected blows bombard and confound us, we are unequipped to endure through our own wisdom; we must ask God for guidance and the ability to view the situation from His viewpoint. Second, we lack faith, which he contrasts with “double-mindedness” (the state of wanting your will and God’s will at the same time). A double-minded person trusts and obeys God part of the time, but not consistently. His allegiance is divided.
In verse 12, James goes on to give us God’s promise to those who choose to view trials from God’s perspective. For believers who strive to cooperate with God’s goal during trials, God promises genuine happiness: “Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial…” (James 1:12). You may not enjoy the process, but you will experience an inner joy and confidence because you have come to believe at a heart level that God is in control, and behind this trial is a good and loving purpose. God wants to use it to shape you, mold you, and make you more like his Son.
Further in verse 12, God promises a more abundant experience of life in the future “…for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life, which the Lord has promised to those who love him.” James speaks here of the “crown of life.” James’ readers would have instantly recognized the imagery from the Greek athletic games where the victors were crowned with a golden wreath. James is saying that if we will persevere through trials, in the future, God will reward us with a “crown of life” in Heaven. Those who endure them faithfully will be rewarded with a more abundant experience of life in the future kingdom than those who fail to pass the “trials test.”
And so when you find yourself under fiery trial, remember God’s reward. It can be a powerful motivation to endure.
Application / Challenge
Don’t resent trials when they come; rather welcome them as God’s instrument to develop godly character.