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Are trials worth it? – Part 2


Are trials worth it? – Part 2
Posted on January 21, 2022  - By Sujay Thomas

Trials are various, they are inevitable, and on top of that, they are unexpected. We just need to look around us at the havoc the pandemic has caused. And yet God, through James, demands that we rejoice. What do we make of such a God?

[In case you missed Part 1 of this series, you can find it here.]

Thanks be to God for conjunctions—specifically the conjunctions in His Word. Most specifically, the conjunction at the start of James 1:3; the conjunction “for”.

God cares enough to tell us His reasons. In other words, God is not merely commanding us to “rejoice”. He is telling us why we ought to, and in doing so, we also understand how to do so. He is showing us the vantage point to view trials from.

James says we ought to account our trials as profitable and thus, occasions for great joy because we know something. In other words, he is laying out a basic financial principle: right accounting stems from right knowledge. Right knowledge is the basis for right accounting. But knowledge about what?

The immediate result

God wants us to know the immediate result of the trials that accost us. And this can be developed further:

Knowing that trials are perfecting our faith is the first step to seeing them as occasions for joy

  • Trials involve the refining of faith
    James wants us to know that trials are actually testing and perfecting our faith. Knowing this is the first step to seeing trials as occasions for joy.
    If you observe verse 3, you see that James changes the way he describes trials and now uses the phrase the testing of your faith. Testing, here, is not referring to a mere examination, but a refining of existing faith (Psalm 12:6; Proverbs 27:21).
    At a refinery, impure gold is heated until all the impurities fall off, leaving pure, proven gold. James says that trials are like that—a refining fire that burns away all the impurities, leaving pure gold for faith.
    Brothers and sisters, we need not pretend that the heat of our trials does not hurt us. Trials are a fire, and fire burns, even if our faith is strong. Nonetheless, if our trials are a refining test, then our trials are not random or pointless; instead, they come from a Tester. And not just any Tester, but the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ—the good God, the kind God, the God who works all things for the good of His children. And so, as James will say later on at the end of his argument in verse 17: Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.
    These good and perfect gifts include the trials. They are good, and they are perfect, because God—the Giver—is good and perfect. And though they are painful for so many of us, we need to know that they are gifts from a loving Father. We need to know that trials are God’s means of refining our faith.
  • The refining of faith produces endurance
    James’ readers did not know a lot of things. They did not know why these trials should be happening now. Nor did they know how long their trials would last. But they did know something else—a simple promise, filled with power: “…for you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance”.
    When we understand the power of the three words “Testing…produces endurance”, we understand why God is a loving Tester and we begin to understand how to meet trials with great joy. It might help to contrast endurance with its opposite. When the flame of my faith doesn’t endure, it flickers out. So if we truly care for our faith and don’t want our faith to flicker and die out, then we need some trials. Because James says it is trials—the testing of faith— that “produces endurance.”
    For a while, I used to say that faith endured despite trials, not because of trials. I presumed that when trouble comes faith is threatened, not strengthened. But James says faith lasts, faith is strengthened— faith endures—precisely because it meets trouble and threat—be it financial strain, relational struggle or lifelong pain.

A long-lasting faith

So what is so great about endurance? What is so valuable about long lasting faith? Why would knowing that I will endure be a matter of joy? The short answer is that it is only genuine saving faith, genuine faith that endures to the end. In the parable of the sower/soils, Jesus portrays four kinds of people, and there is one kind of person that Jesus regards as the opposite of enduring. “As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, yet he has no root in himself, (observe) but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away” (Matthew 13:20–21).

Biblically, if I do not endure or I fall away, I was never saved. If I do endure, if I abide in Christ, the true Vine, there is much fruit. The writer to the Hebrews repeatedly shouts out: “You have need of endurance…so that you do not fall away!” Enduring faith is truly worth it because with endurance, we don’t flicker out; we don’t fall away. 

If you and I want to endure in our faith, we need our faith-muscles strengthened and our stamina stretched

Several men in our church have biceps that make my arms look like matchsticks. How do they get there? They heap weights on those hands of theirs. They force their arms to resist more and more and more. Repeated trials, again and again, are brought on those arms. And over time, their arms get stronger. And so, if you could imagine, at a gym, while I will be pumping the incredible weight of two kilograms, with sweat pouring from my forehead, my beloved brothers will be playing with a pair of twenty five kilogram dumb-bells to warm up. Why? Because they have endurance after all the trials they put their arms through. And if you and I want to endure in our faith, we need our faith-muscles strengthened and our stamina stretched. 

In accounting terms

Often in suffering, we have eyes only for what our trials take away from us. We watch as the fire swallows up so much that we desired and dreamed of. But underneath what we see, we need to know that our trials are producing something of tremendous value. Trials are worth it precisely because testing…produces endurance. If we will trust, if we put our faith in our God and His promise, we see our trials will give us far more than they take away—a purified faith that does not perish like hay in the fire, but endures like gold. We lose a little, we gain much—i.e. profit. So we can account for our trials as worth it because we know that these trials involve a purifying of faith and a production of endurance.

Do we, then, trust God’s promise in the midst of our trials? Are we content with losing some of our petty plans and pointless pleasures for the sake of permanent perseverance? Do we want to finish our race of faith and bear much fruit, however unseen?

Allow me put it in accounting terms: Is enduring, genuine, refined faith truly profitable to me? Is the immediate result of enduring faith worth it?

Sujay Thomas

About Sujay Thomas

Sujay sees design as a means to reflect the beauties of Christ. An architect, he enjoys practising design with his wife Soumya, while their daughter Atheera runs after fish, stray dogs and cows. He is very passionate about the Biblical ideas of vocation and the glory of God.



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