“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.” (James 1:2–4, AV)
Years ago, I began running to get in better physical condition. It began with dieting and then walking at a fast pace on a treadmill for 30-minutes every day. Eventually the walking turned into jogging for 30-minutes every other day. Then I decided to enter a 5K charity race then a 10K and then a half-marathon. I trained for 3 months to run the half-marathon. From the time when I began the dieting until the half-marathon was about 2-3 years. All along the journey, my muscle strength and cardio-vascular improved until I could run the 13.1-mile half-marathon without stopping in about 2-hours.
The point is that the training regimen I endured for this time, which included dieting and running, was quite difficult. I did not personally like the dieting and building up the mileage caused a strain on my body. However, gradually I got in better and better physical condition. Without all the conditioning, I could have never run the 13.1 miles.
Our journey in the Christian life has a distinct parallel to this training. In life, we encounter various trials that test our faith. These trials are difficulties that we do not enjoy. However, they have a tremendous benefit for us. They make us stronger in our Christian walk. For this reason, James tells us that we should count these trials as “all joy” because the cumulative effect of these is that of perfection. It is through trials that God works to sanctify us. James wrote that the trying of our faith worked “patience,” hupomone, which also translates as steadfastness. Moreover, this steadfastness, works to make us “perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:4, ESV).
It would be great if somehow, we could get it, I mean achieving perfection in our Christian life, without going through trials. However, our fleshly nature somehow gets in the way. Reading and studying the Bible absolutely helps and is essential in this process. However, we just will not mature in Christ without enduring the struggles of life. This is my thought, “I think we are just too thickheaded to get there through the intellect alone. We have to apply faith to grow in it.” Moreover, when our faith is tested by various trials, we do grow stronger in the faith.
Just as I endured the physical training regimen to be able to run a half-marathon, we endure the trials of life by faith. When we do so, we see that God does sustain us. We make it through the trial and become stronger. We become more solidified in God’s providence. We have greater confidence in His promises. We become greater witnesses of His grace at work in us. We grow to love Him more. Ultimately, through a lifetime of these trials, we become “perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
Then, when the work is complete and we enter glory, we realize this. “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;” (2 Corinthians 4:17, AV)