Study to Grow
By Randy Dillon
James 1:2-4 “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.”
In an earlier Study to Grow, we examined the topic of desiring wisdom. Preceding those verses, James, the half-brother of Jesus, spoke about “temptations.” By temptations James does not mean an enticement to do evil deeds. God does not tempt His own to do evil. He uses the term to indicate a trouble, trial, tribulation or testing. In the above scripture, James introduces the idea that in the midst of trials and testing Christians should not be discouraged but should instead be joyful. As a result of these trying events, our faith will be tested and, if we trust in and demonstrate faith in God, our reward will be the development of patience.
James continues that we should allow patience to “have her perfect work” that we who are tested may be “perfect and entire.” The word “perfect” requires some further consideration. We often consider perfect to mean “having no fault or sin or failure.” However, in the Greek the more common meaning is “maturity, growth, fulfillment,” and the like. Thus, the perfect work of patience is the maturing or growth of our spiritual being. While we may be burdened in the flesh by our sin nature, God’s testing of our faith, resulting in the increase of patience in our response, is meant to help us develop a spirit more akin to Jesus than the world.
In some sense it is like many other aspects of our lives. We study in school to gain knowledge. We practice sports to develop physical ability. We practice musical instruments or the voice to improve our natural talent. Likewise, when we are facing difficulties in the spiritual domain we should not consider these intrusions as God’s neglect of us, but rather as His training of our soul to bring about a more mature and wise person.
As we see an increasing growth of our spiritual life, we likewise understand the decreasing value of the things of this world. In this lies our joy: we do not seek the temporal things of this material world, but we see more and more the value of the eternal things of heaven.
And this understanding leads to wisdom as our patience increases in relation to our successful management of the trials set before us. And that success results from our faith in God to resolve every trial.
Lastly, we see that as we understand that testing brings patience we see also that it leaves us wanting nothing. Paul, in his letter to the Romans (5:3-5), says that “. . . we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience , experience; and experience, hope: and hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.”
Thus, from our trials and tribulations come patience, experience, hope, lack of shame and finally love. With these attributes Christians are “perfect and entire” that is mature, complete, fulfilled, lacking nothing that is necessary to be Christ-like in our personal nature and our interactions with others.