Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.(James 1:2-4 ESV)
Yesterday we said that we can count it all joy in the trail because we know that God is working even when a situation is unwelcome. According to James 1:2-4, there is also joy in knowing a second truth in the trial.
We are most changed when we are most challenged.
If you have ever worked out in a public gym, scenes such as these should be familiar.
The problem is that most of the people who become the hilarious spectacle known as the epic gym failure are usually wearing the nicest gym clothes. They look the part – often a little “too much.” They speak the language. They drink the shakes. They have mastered “the grunt.” They sit on all of the equipment, but they have no idea how to use it.
What ensues is an epic demonstration of weakness, form, and ignorance.
Isn’t that often the case with our faith? We talk a big game when things are going great, but there is no real strength to our faith. Then, when life drops, we can’t hold up under the weight.
Throughout his letter, James will confront 6 versions of weak faith that talk a big game, but have no strength and are easily shattered when life drops.
a) 1:19-27 – the person who hears the sermons, but there is no noticeable life change. b) 2:1-13 – the church that is judgmental, prejudice, and partial. c) 2:14-26 – the guy who says he believes, but does nothing. d) 3:1-18 – the person who has the vocabulary of faith, but otherwise can’t control his tongue. e) 4:1-17 – the church that is full of infighting, division, and worldliness. f) 5:1-20 – the church that has real needs, but has no power because it is full of doctrinal error and greed.
If we were honest about our faith and honest about the modern church, especially in light of James’ 6 epic failures, we would say “it is not working” and that “it is now effective” and that “it is not powerful.”
We need strength. The trial is key to the development of our strength.
The word steadfastness means the ability to hold up under something. James says that in our trials that the longer we hold up under it, the stronger we will become. But strength is not the only goal. The ultimate goal is that we may be perfect, which means mature, complete, lacking nothing. That means in short, that we develop such a strong faith that it becomes LIFEPROOF.
And this is what we want, a strong effective faith. Look at what is happening at the end of the book. Someone is suffering and so they are called to pray, anoint the person with oil and confess sin. The effect is that the person is forgiven and healed. The paragraph says, “The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” It is a powerful, effective faith that works!
The Book of James is about saving us from gross error that when tested will shatter our faith. The book ends, “My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins (5:19-20).” In other words, we need to save them from being shattered. We need to encase our life in a faith that is real.