“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trails 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.”
We are to find joy in trials of various kinds, Scripture tells us. But 1) why and 2) how?
First, we are to find joy in trails for or because the testing of our faith produces steadfastness (cf. Rom. 5:3; 1 Pet. 1:5-9). What, then, is “steadfastness”? Steadfastness is endurance. It is continuing in something although it is difficult.
Why is steadfastness so precious? It sounds like something I don’t want; much like praying for patience. Steadfastness is precious because it preserves us. It ensures we remain loyal to the Lord until the end. This is vital.
We count it joy because our faith—continual faith, i.e. steadfastness—is more precious than gold because, though it is tested, it results in the salvation of our souls (1 Pet. 1:7-9). It is through this steadfastness, this continuing faith, that we obtain “an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading” (1 Pet. 1:4). It is faith that guards us (1 Pet. 1:5). It is through faith that our every longing is met in the beatific vision of our Lord Messiah (cf. Jn. 17:24; 1 Cor. 13:12; 1 Jn. 3:2; 1 Pet. 1:7-8; Rev. 22:4).
Second, how does it work? The athlete, at least the true athlete, will count it all joy when he has to do two-a-days, suicides, front-back-goes, and so on. Though, it is not the training itself that brings joy. It is the benefit of that training. It is the endurance that comes as a result that athlete is concerned with. For instance, Navy Seals go through rigorous training to become the elite but in the midst of it they set their mind on the prize. They remember that their training will result in them becoming a part of the elite and the training that is being endured could save their life someday. We show we are, not the elite, but the elect of God by are endurance.
So, in short, trials are like a workout regimen that keep us fit. They insure our faith will have endurance.
Trails, James goes on, will, if we allow them to, make us “perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:4).[i] I say, “If we allow them to” because we can choose to not make use of them. We can choose to grow bitter and not better, as my good friend Mike Wilson says. We see this in our text too. It says, “Let steadfastness [which is produced through trials] have its full effect.” If we are exhorted to “let” trials have their full effect then it is possible that we would not let them have their full effect. However, we should not do that. For one, it doesn’t make sense. If we are going through something bad we might as well get something good out of it.
So, how can we “count it all joy”? We can count it all joy when we realize that the LORD is working in the midst of our trials to persevere us. Our trials are a regimen that God is using to confirm us to the image of His Son.
Will you take joy in your trials? Will you let them have their full effect?
[i] Jesus, Himself, “learned obedience through what He suffered. And being made perfect [i.e. demonstrated His perfection], He became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey Him” (Heb. 5:8-9). This is a complex verse to explain theologically because it enters into conversations of how the incarnation worked as it pertains to Jesus’ deity. However, the point I want to make is that God even used trails in Jesus’ life. Jesus was tempted and tested (cf. Matt. 4:1-13; Heb. 4:15) but He persevered and thus when it was His hour of great temptation He said, “Not my will, but Thine” (see Matt. 26:19; Jn. 12:27; 17:1ff).