For a long time I have marveled at James 1:2-3—that we are to count it all joy when we fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of our faith produces patience. Now, just in the last month, I feel that God wants me to pay more attention to verse four—to “let patience have its perfect work.” I also like the way the RSV says it—“Let steadfastness have its full effect.” And also the way the NIV says it—“Perseverance must finish its work.” This gives the idea that there is a process of work involved that must be completed to achieve its desired effect. Well anyway, here are the four points that I have developed in my study.
Four Steps to Christian Maturity – from James 1:4
1. Know the goal. The goal for every Christian according to James is that we would be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing—like God. James, being the brother of Jesus, knew of Jesus’ teachings: that we are to be seen by the world as children of God, that we are to love even our enemies. Matthew 45:43-48 is a passage that teaches this:
You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? 48 Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.
2. Know the process. The way we arrive at maturity (to be “perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect”) is by a process through trials, which produces endurance and patience. This process is termed “the testing of your faith.” It is a process of putting our faith to the test; and its purpose is to prove and strengthen our faith. Note I said strengthen our faith—or our faith in God. The trials God brings toward us are not meant to make us strong in our selves—to be more self- reliant. In fact, they will do the opposite; they will cause us to look away from ourselves and up to God for His help (Read 2 Cor. 12:9-10).
3. Know that we must not hinder the process. The key word here is “let.” After James tells us that the testing of our faith produces patience, he says, “But let patience have its perfect work,that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” Therefore, we must let the trials do the work that they were designed (by God) to do (in us), so that they will produce the desired result—to make us patient and therefore mature.
Now why does James tell us that we should let patience have its perfect work?” Does James think that we have a tendency to hinder the process? Yes. That’s it. We aren’t happy with trails, or we don’t understand the process. Clearly we don’t like pain and suffering, and we don’t see the reason for suffering.
I like the way the Living Bible renders verse four. It says, “So let it [patience] grow, and don’t try to squirm out of your problems.”
Yes, this is what we tend to do isn’t it? But when we do that, our patience and maturity will not have a chance to develop.
Here is what Barnes Notes says about how we should not hinder this process of development:
Let it be fairly developed; let it produce its appropriate effects without being hindered. Let it not be obstructed in its fair influence on the soul by murmurings, complaining, or rebellion. Patience under trials is fitted to produce important effects on the soul, and we are not to hinder them in any manner by a perverse spirit, or by opposition to the will of God. Every one who is afflicted should desire that the fair effects of affliction should be produced on his mind, or that there should be produced in his soul precisely the results which his trials are adapted to accomplish.
4. Rejoice in trials. When we know the goal of trials, when we understand the process through which trials build our patience, and when we know that we must not in any way hinder that process, then we can sit back and relax, and even be joyful when the trials come—knowing full well that the result will make us like Christ.