James 1:2–18 begins with a challenging command for Christians. We are to classify hard things in their lives as ”joyful,” because those ordeals help us develop a deeper trust in God. Christians who trust God also seek wisdom from Him—and not from ungodly sources. We continue to trust Him through difficult experiences, in part, to receive the crown of life promised to those who don’t stop. We don’t blame Him for our desire to sin, but we do credit Him for every good thing in our lives.
Verses 2, 3, and 4 need to be considered together in order to fully grasp the point James is making. In the previous verse, he has written that believers must call it joy when trials come our way. Or, to put it more bluntly, we should see the good side of bad things happening to us. Verse 2 uses an accounting term, which has nothing to do with our emotions. We might feel sorrow or anger over our trials, but we can still tally them under “joy.”
Here in verse 3, James gives the beginning of his answer to why God would ask us to do that. In short, it’s about faith. It’s about trusting God. God wants us to respond to trials—to the hard things in our lives—in a way that demonstrates our trust in Him. A major theme of the book of James is that God cares deeply about our faith in Him. Faith, a trusting, humble reliance on God, is how we came into relationship with Him in the first place. That is how we come to trust in Christ for our salvation. And a Christian’s growing faith in God is evidence of a growing relationship with Him.
So, James says that when a trial or hardship comes our way, we should label that moment as joyful because it will test our faith. By definition, a trial creates a moment where we don’t know how things will work out. A trial wrecks our plans. A trial takes away our ability to see the clear path to getting what we think will make us happy. It is in those moments that we make life’s most critical choices. Either we will decide, “If God let this happen to me, I will not trust Him. If He will not prevent days like this, I will find someone else to trust.” Or, the struggle will push us to turn to God for more help, to trust more deeply that He is with us and for us, to believe that He will carry us through.
When we choose to trust Him, He provides. Our endurance—the ability to keep trusting Him while trials continue unresolved—grows. And since our faith is the most important thing to our God, that is worth rejoicing.
And we read:
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, Who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from The Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.
Believers in humble circumstances ought to take pride in their high position. But the rich should take pride in their humiliation—since they will pass away like a wild flower. For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich will fade away even while they go about their business.
Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love Him.
When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.
Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from The Father of the Heavenly lights, Who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the Word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all He created.