"Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him."
James summarizes verses two through eleven with this statement. Doesn't it remind you of one of the Beatitudes from Matthew 5:3-11, "Blessed are ...?" In verses three through five, James explains God's purpose and process in the trials of life. His purpose is for His children to "be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." Paul says the same thing in 1 Thessalonians 4:3, "For this is the will of God, your sanctification." His process of accomplishing our perfection, completeness, and sanctification, begins with trials of various kinds. Life in a fallen world because of our sin and the sins of others is inevitably difficult. Jesus knew what He was talking about in John 16:33, "In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world." Just before that statement, He said, "I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace." So, trials and tribulation are our lot in life. How we chose to handle them demonstrates whether we are accepting Jesus’ instruction or not; accepting Him or not. He tells us peace in the middle of trials is possible in and through Him because He has conquered this fallen, sinful world.
For this reason, James can say "Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds." As Christians, we know God is sovereign. Therefore, nothing comes to us that has not passed through His loving, merciful fingers. These trials are designed to test our faith, not so He will know its strength or weakness, but so we will. In 1 Peter 1:6-7, Peter while discussing the same various trials, also says we are to rejoice even if for a short time we are grieved because of them. He describes the "tested genuineness of your faith" as more precious than gold that has been tested by fire.
James describes God's desire is for us to be steadfast in our trust of Him in these trials. In Romans 5:3-5, Paul provides a more thorough description. He also says we are to rejoice in suffering because suffering produces endurance, which builds character, which creates hope. The process of trusting the Lord in the middle of suffering, trial and tribulation ultimately provide a hope of our salvation in Him that does not disappoint. The reason for our hope is because in the middle of suffering He pours His love into us through the gift of His Spirit.
James, in verse five, gives us a fantastic promise. I find it humorous he begins with "If any of you lack wisdom." For me, when trials come, I always feel unprepared. In that moment of stress, trauma or grief, I must confess my first reaction is pain, not joy. God does not want us stuck in pain or sorrow. His desire is for us to look to Him and His purpose. So, He promises if we ask for wisdom in dealing with this trial He will generously provide what we need. I love the fact that He gives it without reproach or rebuke. He doesn't say "Well, I gave you this before. How did you lose it? I shouldn't have to keep doing this for you!" Psalm 81:10 provides the picture of His generosity, "I am the LORD your God, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt. (In our case, who brought us out of slavery to sin.) Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it." But James reminds us to ask without doubting. Have you ever asked God for wisdom and understanding, with the idea that if He doesn't provide, you will move on to plan B? James says never have plan B. If you do, it is proof of a divided loyalty between the Lord and the world.
The same Greek word James and Peter use for trial, in 1 Corinthians 10:13 Paul uses for temptation. "No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it."
Lord Jesus, as the founder and perfecter of my faith, You endured the cross because of the joy that awaited You. As You allow and bring trials into my life, please give me eyes to see the joy that awaits me.