Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. James 1:12, NIV
I was alone one day, peacefully walking Lily, our dog, around the neighbourhood and musing about faith and answers to prayer. Subconsciously, I was aware of intense barking coming from behind a very high gate – not an uncommon sound – but at the precise moment that I asked God a soul-searching question, a dog’s head appeared at the top of the two-metre gatepost and in a trice it jumped over and belligerently flew at Lily.
Startled, I held up my hand and scolded firmly, “Go home!” as old Lily simultaneously turned and faced her aggressor. The dog turned tail and ran away, leaving us unscathed and rejoicing. I was filled with admiration at Lily’s courage and was so grateful that it hadn’t become something really nasty. I believe that God delivered us that day and helped me to respond without panicking – although my heart was racing – and gave me my answer, and insight into the nature of a trial.
Trials, tests and temptations are challenges of varying intensity which we encounter daily, causing us stress as we work through them – like exams – which call for faith, self-discipline and sacrifice to overcome them. But though trials come in many different guises, some brief, others ongoing, each one is life-changing.
James is so positive about this that he begins his letter with, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds”. (James1:2) He knows that trials make faith robust and develop perseverance, an essential ingredient in becoming mature and being spiritually complete. The Bible is full of examples of men and women like Job and Ruth who have endured extreme suffering and have been richly blessed; but also consider what Jesus endured, in love, for our freedom.
In our verse today James identifies trials as the means through which God tests the believer’s love for him through perseverance in faith. He sees this as an opportunity for blessing because faith needs substance, which action produces – no-one is passive through a trial. He encourages them to look ahead to the very great reward – “the crown of life” – for which Jesus died, that is, “promised to those who love him”, which lies waiting for those who overcome.
No-one likes trials, but with hindsight we so often see how God has graciously provided for us throughout, and recognise that we’ve grown closer to hm in the process, gaining a more mature faith.
“And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.” (1 Peter 5:10-11)
Prayer: Loving Father, give me wisdom to keep in step with you as I embrace the trials you give me, knowing that, “our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all”. (2 Corinthians 4:17 NIV) Amen