“Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. But endurance must do its complete work, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing” James 1:2-4.
When we read this passage with our translation this seems like a nice thought but an impossible task. As we assign the original meaning to the verses this morning it seems more attainable. The word experience translates to fall into and was also used in the story of the Good Samaritan as he fell into the hands of robbers. The Samaritan neither caused that trial nor brought it on himself. He was simply walking on the side of the road and trouble found him. Through that trial he was shown different graces of the Spirit from His rescuer – love, goodness, kindness, gentleness and patience to name a few. We must remember that the Samaritan was beaten, battered, bruised and left for dead. After his trial he certainly would have been a changed man…a man whom had a heart of gratitude…a man whose priorities surely would have changed…a spirit of kindness to give back to humanity as it was given to him…a complete change of heart. You can even say that the experience worked in his heart in ways that could have never been accomplished by just a nice walk on a nice day. Most likely, through that deep trial, he was shown the graces he might have lacked, developing him into more Christ-like character. He would never again be that man who woke up that morning deciding to take a walk.
I believe this is what James was encouraging us to do when we face our trials. He had lived enough life to expect troubles and pain. He doesn’t ask us to feel joy but to consider and reflect upon the joys or graces that we receive and develop within the painful circumstances that we experience. We can respond in 1 of 4 ways as we face our deep trials. We can rebel in our spirits…we can lose heart and give up…we can grumble and complain…we can indulge in our self-pity…or we can be spiritually exercised by the difficulties of life. We are going to experience pain and suffering in this life. Will we allow it to do its work in developing our graces of the Spirit or will we choose another response, falling into the hands of robbers on another road on another day? Let’s make our trials count by using them to exercise our graces, working towards spiritual completion in Christ.
‘The fruit of the Spirit cannot be produced when all is sunshine; there must be rain and dark clouds.’ The Believer’s Commentary, p. 2219.