I love homes. Shopping for them, looking at them, visiting them, buying them. Yes, scrolling through Zillow brings me great pleasure. And as we all know, home inspections are required when buying a home. Following a detailed inspection report and a check for a couple of hundred dollars, the worry sets in – “should we buy this home?” The unsteady foundation, the increasing cracks, the aging roof. And yet, the home inspection is required to buy a home, it reveals all of the problems of a house, and thus is painful to observe, and yet, profitable if the end results in shiny house keys to your new home.
And so too, with trials. The beginning verses of James show us that trials are required, revealing, painful, and yet oh, so profitable. James exhorts us in our response to these trials in verse 2, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you face trials of various kinds.” The command to “count it all joy” (James 1:2) addresses how we think. This is not about how we feel. When the world is crashing in on you, how do you count it all joy? Think of John 11. When Lazarus died. Jesus didn’t say, “Count it all joy.” He comforted them. He wept with them (John 11:35).
Look at verse 2. “Trials of various kinds.” Various means – well, various. Small trials, big trials. Minor trials, major trials. Trials of course are not joyful in and of themselves. Depression is not a joy. Divorce is not a joy. Cancer is not a joy. But these trials can be joyful when we realize they are under the authority of a sovereign God who is accomplishing his purpose through them.
Friends, we can rejoice in trials not so much in what they are, but in what God sovereignly accomplishes through them. And what does God accomplish through our trials? The goal of shopping for a house is buying a house. The goal of trials is – well, look at verses 3-4; “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 1:3-4). The testing of our faith produces steadfastness. What is steadfastness? Endurance. And endurance must finish its work in you, so that you may be “perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:4). This is the goal. What does Paul say in 1 Thessalonians 4:3? The will of God is our sanctification. God’s goal in our life is our maturity in him, growth in his likeness – for our good and his glory.
Friends, consider a trial you are facing…whether major or minor, and now think of James 1:3. If James 1:3 was your chant – your lifestyle. If the goal in the trial is simply to fix the circumstances, it might not get fixed. But if your ultimate goal is to know God and grow in him, you will achieve the goal. Trials are joy when God is the goal. Trials help us to know God, love God, trust God.
And for these trials, we need wisdom. None of us are as smart as we think we are, right? And just as James does in verse 2, in verse 5 he gives us a command, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him” (James 1:5). So why can we ask God? He gives generously. This is a beautiful promise to us. God gives wisdom generously, abundantly. He pours out wisdom without hesitation.
Just as a home buyer seeks wisdom from a realtor, mortgage lender, and home inspector, we too are to seek wisdom from the Lord. God’s wisdom displays his grace to us. The trials we face have purpose. There’s purpose in the pain. May we humbly seek God’s wisdom in the midst of our trials. God is wise, and he is both for you and with you. Painful, profitable, required, and yet rewarding – are our trials. May the Spirit continue to grow us in godliness and give us wisdom. Here’s to the purpose in the pain in our trials – for our good and his great glory.