Most of us do not like facing trials and tribulations in our lives. It is not as though we wake up in the morning thinking “I am so excited about the temptations, pain, and suffering I am going to experience today.” Yet, in all likelihood we will confront some trial or temptation every day, week, month, and year. Some of them seem to be everlasting, some feel suffocating, and most wear us to the very end of our rope. Tribulation is one thing but what about trials and what is the difference between the two? Both are part of life and Christians are given everything we need to meet them head on. Tribulation always assumes pressure, suffering, and pain brought on by living in a corrupt and sinful world. We need to persevere through tribulations in this lifetime while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus to receive the reward. Trials on the other hand refer to adversity, temptation, affliction, or trouble often sent by God serving to test or prove one’s faith, holiness, and character. Trials are actually tests to our faith and in them we are given opportunity to make godly choices in order to produce patience. Knowing this difference between tribulations and trials allows us to properly approach them God’s way. (To read more about tribulations go to the blog “What are You Doing with Your Tribulations”)
The Word of God reveals trials will surely come in this life and when we embrace this reality we can maintain the right attitude towards them – joy!
James 1:2-4 “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its’ perfect works that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”
Counting it all joy means that trials give cause or occasion for us to be filled with gladness. So… though we may not be excited about trials we most certainly can be joyful in the midst of them. Then notice the next phrase “when you fall into various trials” It does not say “if” but “when”! This is a guarantee that not only WILL trials be part of life but that we “fall” into them. You might take a moment to ponder that statement – as we walk out our faith in Jesus trials do not “come” to attack us, but rather we “fall” into them just as naturally as we breathe! In context, the phrase “falling into” various trials means being encompassed by them much like robbers assail their victims. This graphically illustrates the truth that as we go through life, robbers (trials) are waiting and we will fall right into them. But that should not deter or stop us from going forward. In fact, it should encourage us because understanding the purpose for trials gives us the fortitude to overcome.
There is another foundational truth hidden in this verse to be discovered and embraced before we can understand our position when trials come – Faith in God exists prior to trials! Friends, we cannot be tested on something we do not possess! First God gives His people faith, then trials! Romans 12:3 “…as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.” Recognizing our faith in God is a special gift that gets tested by going through afflictions, temptations, or different types and extremes of adversity causes joy to rise up in us because we KNOW patience is being produced! For the believer, trials are not just random things happening as a result of living in this world but rather there is a “knowing that the testing of your faith” is purposed by God. The Greek word for “know” in this verse is “ginosko” which means “to know by personal experience”. We need to know through the Word of God by personal experience that the testing of our faith is going to produce greater things in us. Do not rush too quickly through this truth – we must personally experience trials in order for us to ginosko that it is our faith being tested which produces a necessary quality in us, patience. When we ginosko this truth, we will count it all joy when we fall into trials. Though unbelievers will certainly experience trials as well, these would simply be considered hardships in life if there is not faith in our living God. This verse speaks of the value of trials for believers WHEN we count it joy because we are going to come face to face with our God given faith!
There is even more good news! We become keenly aware that because we have a loving God who has given us faith, lets us fall into various trials, and knows these trials test our faith, He also PREPARES us for the tests! God is the perfect teacher. John 14:26 “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.” With this truth established we are filled with joy knowing our Teacher has properly prepared and positioned us to learn everything necessary to pass each test. He gives knowledge, tools, preparation time, and clear expectations. A good teacher has a strong desire to see students flourish, takes great pleasure and satisfaction in seeing students master the tests which are placed before them, and aspires to finding alternative ways to help non-thriving students be accomplished in learning and test taking. Holy Spirit is very good at all these things and more.
“The testing of your faith” can be compared with test taking in school. Generally speaking, tests are not given until subjects are thoroughly studied and students have been given ample opportunity to learn content for the test. It then becomes the responsibility of the student to study, memorize, and comprehend in order to do well on the test. It is the same concept spiritually. The testing of our faith will come, so the question is, have we prepared? God has given us knowledge in His Word and through His Spirit who reminds us of all things. We need to apply ourselves to His Word, learn what He has to say, and be doers of the Word. When we properly prepare and trust completely in God, anxiety concerning trials takes a backseat, and we are driven in boldness and confidence in Christ when we fall into various trials! As Christians it is our privilege to take time with God, praying, worshipping, praising, and studying His Word to gain the knowledge and wisdom necessary for faith growth as we are tested. If we know what is “ours” when we pass tests perhaps we will be more willing to study up so we receive what is produced – PATIENCE. This patience is characteristic of a person who is un-swerved in their deliberate purpose to be loyal in faith and piety towards God no matter the trial. It entails the ability to endure and wait without becoming annoyed or upset and to persevere calmly when faced with any difficulty, trial, or matter of suffering.
Notice this Scripture says “But let patience have its’ perfect works that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” Once patience is produced, we need to allow or let it work in us. Please observe that patience has perfect works! Pause and calmly think of that! Patience works perfectly! Therefore we are to simply let it have its’ way in us rather than “making” it work. We do not need to “ask” or “pray” for patience because it is produced! Nor are we to pray for trials to come because we will fall into those naturally. Notice God’s process here. We take joy in the midst of trials “knowing” our faith is being tested and the result = PATIENCE. Once we possess patience as part of our character because it was produced in us as we were tested through trials and then PASSED, we “allow” or “let” it do something great to us! We are PERFECTED! Perfect means we have been finished, wanting nothing because we are complete in all respects and we lack nothing!
NOW! How about those trials in your life? Count them all joy! Perfection is the result!