Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. 3 For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. 4 So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.
James reminds us that there are many different kinds of troubles and that while trials and test can come in a variety of shapes and sizes they can often be placed in one of three categories.
- Trials of the marvelous
There will be trials and test that are the result of mountain-top experiences of great successes. These are some of the toughest tests because it takes special grace to respond rightly and not grow proud and drunk on the sweet wine of winning. 2 Chronicles 26:14-16 tells us about Uzziahs startling success and how he let it go to his head. “Uzziah provided the entire army with shields, spears, helmets, coats of mail, bows, and sling stones. 15 And he built structures on the walls of Jerusalem, designed by experts to protect those who shot arrows and hurled large stones from the towers and the corners of the wall. His fame spread far and wide, for the Lord gave him marvelous help, and he became very powerful. 16 But when he had become powerful, he also became proud, which led to his downfall. He sinned against the Lord his God by entering the sanctuary of the Lord’s Temple and personally burning incense on the incense altar.” The trial of success is so often overlooked, but success can position and propel us toward pride, setting us up for failure. Success can be profitable or pitiful because when we are permitted to prosper, there is a tremendous trial of faith hidden away in this condition. While adversity has slain its thousands, prosperity has slain its ten-thousands. We often pray when people encounter problems but when was the last time you heard a request for pray to preserve someone experiencing prosperity?
- Trials of the monotonous
These are the tough trials of the daily grind of life. It takes great grace for the weeks and months when nothing much happens and life sinks into a routine. It takes grace to remain faithful in the humdrum. Monotony, the same old same old disease derails more Christians than problems and persecution. These are the trials that test whether or not we will remain faithful. When I think of routine, that which we are used to, I am reminded of a guy in a taxi who wanted to speak to the driver so he leaned forward and tapped him on the shoulder. The driver screamed, jumped up in the air and yanked the wheel over. The car mounted the curb, demolished a lamppost and came to a stop inches from a shop window. The startled passenger said, “I didn’t mean to frighten you, I just wanted to ask you something.” The Taxi driver said, “It’s not your fault sir. It’s my first day as a cab driver. I’ve been driving a hearse for the past 25 years!” There will be the trails of the monotonous and the mundane and third:
- Trials of the mysterious
These are the trials that don’t make sense, times when it seems like God has forgotten us and all of our plans seem to end in problems. Job experienced this time of trial, where he struggled to understand what was going on. The apostle Paul knew all three of these types of trials. He had the heaven exaltation, the constant daily care of the churches, and the thorn in the flesh to try him. But James doesn’t just tell us that there are many types of trials he reminds us how to respond rightly in the trials as he says in verse 4 “let it grow.” To let speaks of a surrendered will. God is calling us to cooperate with Him and let Him build our character. He could push, pull, or prod us but He prefers to call us to cooperate. When we refuse and resist we experience the natural consequence that come with His chastisement. Are you submitting or stiff arming God? Why does He want us to submit because His plan is perfect. God’s goal for our lives is maturity, and He often uses trials to move us toward maturity. When we submit to him, He can accomplish His work. It would be a great tragedy if our kids never grew up and matured but remained little babies their whole lives. We love to watch them grow and learn as they move through the various stages of life and there are times when we are tempted to try and shelter them from the difficulties of life. But there are times when we need to let them struggle through the storm so that they can grow up and learn to stand on their own. Unfortunately many Christians make the mistake of trying to shelter themselves from the trials of life, and as a result, they never grow up. How can you tell if you are not moving toward maturity? Because you keep experiencing the same trial over and over again. When it comes to our growth Ephesians 2:8-10 tells us that God has three tasks He wants to complete: “God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. 9 Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done so none of us can boast about it. 10 For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago”
- For us –– This is salvation which is the gift of God given through His Son, Jesus Christ as He conquered sin and death on the cross of Calvary.
- In Us –– This is sanctification, we are His workmanship which literally means his masterpiece. God builds our character and we become more like Christ.
- Through us –– This is service. He has created us anew so that we can do the good things He planned for us long ago.
God wants to do His work in you and through you which means that you need to surrender your will to His. When we face trials without a surrendered will, instead of growth there will only be groaning and we will remain immature infants. Trials and testing have a way of leveling us all and helping us to realize that it’s not our material resources that are going to get us through the trials of life, but our spiritual resources. Trials help us to discover what or who we are really trusting in. What about you are you submitting and trusting God in the midst of the storms or are you resisting and running from Him?