I started the year with a word from God: faith. Faith is defined in Hebrews 11:1. It reads, “Faith is being sure of what we hope for. It is being certain of what we do not see.” This verse tells me two things: faith is a mental state of certainty and faith concerns the ability to view our circumstances – what we can see – as temporary situations presented to prepare us for the future that we’ve hoped for.

In his pithy letter, James offers an indispensable facet of faith. He adds, to the definition above, clear instruction for those living by faith. His instruction has been my lesson for the year and I wanted to share it with you. In James 1:2, he writes,

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds.”

Pure joy. Of course, it’s one thing to have to endure “trials of many kinds.” It is another thing to be told how to consider or think about those trials. Merriam Webster defines consider as “regard (someone or something) as having a specified quality.” Synonyms with consider include: “deem, think, believe, judge, adjudge, rate, count, find; regard as, hold to be, reckon to be, view as, see as.” By asking us to consider trials in a certain manner, James understands that when we encounter trials we will try to interpret their meaning. That interpretation is what James is after. Essentially, when you encounter a trial, James asserts that, how you consider this trial will determine whether or not you persevere through it and ultimately receive the outcome of your faith.

We all face trials. And, we all have our own way of thinking about them. Some may blame themselves. Others may blame God. Still others will blame family, teachers or friends. Rarely will someone say, “This is pure joy.” Nevertheless, James says that when trials come your way, the appropriate response is pure joy. In verses 3 and 4, James offers reasons for this instruction, saying:

3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

In other words, the joy that we have in our trials is this: as we persevere in them, they will make us “mature and complete.” Thus, the ability to adopt James’ perspective of trials is the most important thing to finishing the work of faith.

Ease

Our society does not perceive trials as joyful experiences. In fact, one who is going through a trial is seen as one who is to be ridiculed. In our culture, going through a trial means that something is wrong. Specifically, something is wrong with you. Trials are seen as the evidence that you have done something wrong and need to change. Because of this, I would argue strongly that American society cannot comprehend faith. We despise trials. Rather than taking on the perspective of joy, we complain, fight, and bicker with one another. We shame the person or thing that we perceive as the cause of the trial and we actively work to avoid the trial and the test that James references in verse 3. Our avoidance of tests leads us to develop the opposite of perseverance: apathy. Our apathy in the things of God perpetuates a cycle of complaining and negativity that produces an unintended result: a perpetual state of immaturity and incompleteness. In this state, rather than “lacking nothing” we live in a constant state of lacking everything.

So, what is the solution? It’s back in James 1:2:

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds.”

This may seem counterintuitive. Trials are painful and hard. They cannot produce joy. Or, so we think. And, that is the problem. James is telling us that the problems that we face come down to our minds. He’s saying that we must decide how to interpret our difficulties. How we perceive a trial will determine whether or not we understand that, in the trial that God has presented, is the opportunity to gain more faith and perseverance through testing. And, those two things combined: faith and perseverance, will produce the completeness that we desire.

joy

Returning to the definition of faith makes it more clear that faith comes down to what we do when we don’t see results. Again, Hebrews 11 reads, “Faith is being sure of what we hope for. It is being certain of what we do not see.” Faith is, by definition, entirely separate from everything in the present world. It is our mindset towards this that take time. It is how we deal with seeds. The meaning of this is given by Jesus. In Matthew 13:18, Jesus explains the parable of the sower. It reads :

“Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: 19 When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path. 20 The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. 21 But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. 22 The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. 23 But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”

Verses 21-22, represent the kind of believer who denies the teaching of the apostle James. The first type of believer falls away because of trouble and persecution. The second type, in verse 22, is led away by worry and the deception of wealth. So, then, Jesus made it very clear. Trouble, persecution, and worry can destroy our faith. If we let them. This makes the teaching of James that much more urgent. If one who exercises faith in God cannot make up in the mind to be faithful to the end no matter what comes, they will not receive the aim of their faith.

Perspective

On Christmas Day, while I was getting ready, I reached for a scarf laying across a wooden chair in my room. As my hand reached for the scarf, my middle finger caught the wood and instead of a scarf, I saw, in the middle of my nail a chunk of wood. I began to pull the wood out of my nail slowly. As my finger began to bleed, I began to think about Jesus and his death on the cross. I thought of how he too must have had splinters all over his body fro the wood on his bare skin. Pulling out the last piece of wood lodged under my nail, I thought about how, on Jesus birthday, I got to share an experience of his. Though mine was totally incomparable to his, for that moment, I felt that I understood him a little better.

As my finger bled, I realized that the faith perspective is this: trials are necessary to the life of the person who walks by faith. Faith welcomes and rejoices in difficulty. Not because of what we see but because of what we know.

Finally, understand that faith is required to walk with God. Hebrews 11 goes on to read in verse 6:

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

Faith, perseverance, maturity, and completeness are all a matter of how we think about our trials. Choose how you will consider every circumstance in your life. Is this a trial that will lead you closer to the future you hope for? Or, is this an unbearable problem that you blame God for? James suggests that we have a choice. As I stood there, holding my finger under hot and cold water, I said to myself: “I’m not really in pain, it’s just a matter of perspective.” After I made that declaration, my pain subsided.

Sign up for our Sunday Newsletter for a message of God's love ♡

FORGOT PASSWORD ?
Lost your password? Please enter your username or email address. You will receive a link to create a new password via email.
We do not share your personal details with anyone.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This