“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.” James 1:2–3
James begins his letter by referring to himself as a bond servant of God and Jesus Christ. A bond servant is a person that is bound to another because of debt. Either they, or another, usually a family member, has accumulated a debt they were unable to pay so they satisfy the demand for payment by submitting to serving as a slave to the one they owe. In James case he feels they he is indebted to God and Jesus. And indeed, we all are. Our sin and heavens choice to save us have indebted us beyond any reckoning.
Abruptly James abandons his greeting and makes his first assertion, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials.”
James isn’t the first to counsel Christians that the presence of trials and difficulties in the life is a blessing rather than a curse. And it’s easy to imagine the need for such counsel. It was a constant possibility that the tranquility of life would be interrupted by persecution merely because of their faith Jesus Christ. This might be merely needing to endure insults and other comparatively minor injustices, but it could also mean that life as totally disrupted. Property could be vandalized or confiscated. They could suffer imprisonment, exile and death. And these were realities suffered in addition to the ones every person experiences as result of the clash between our sinful nature and the workings of the Holy Spirit as he brings us into conformity with the claims of the kingdom of God.
Trials and difficulties have hidden within their painful exterior the opportunity for us to grow in the spiritual graces of patience and faith. Truthfully, long suffering, patience, and faith cannot grow without the testing of difficulty. Anyone might be able to maintain a peaceful demeanor while life is tranquil. Remaining faithful, loving and kind under such conditions might be expected. But continuing to possess the Christlike graces of love, joy, peace and patience when injustice tears into the life, and life itself is in jeopardy, this shows positively that we are recipients of the workings of God’s goodness in our hearts.
We want life to be smooth and easy but if we’re to become perfect we need to learn to hold fast to faith, and joy, and patience whether life is as we think it ought to be or whether it feels like our lives have been turned upside down.
As the apostle says, “the testing of your faith produces patience.”