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How Do Trials Make Us “Perfect and Complete, Lacking Nothing”?

CashCount It All Joy

James calls us to “count it all joy” when facing trials (James 1:2).

But he doesn’t just call us to have joy.  He also gives us reasons which help us do this.

The reason we can count it all joy is because this testing of our faith “produces steadfastness,” and this steadfastness will result in us being “perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:3-4).

What Does That Mean?

But what does James mean when he says trials can make us perfect and complete, lacking in nothing?

For a long time this puzzled me.  I knew that we would not be perfect, complete, and lacking nothing, until heaven.  So I wondered if James wasn’t talking about heaven.

But the word “heaven” isn’t found in this verse. And I had never heard anyone say James was talking about heaven.

What I had heard was that being perfect and complete and lacking nothing was something God could give us in this life.

Not that it meant sinless perfection. But I had heard that meant –

  • “a right relationship to God expressed in undivided obedience” (James Adamson, James, page 55);
  • having “all that is necessary for Christian life and warfare” (Matthew Henry, James, accessed through Bibleworks);
  • being “sincere,” or having “perseverance,” or that “nothing is lacking which is necessary” to be a Christian (Thomas Manton, James, page 34)

But none of those seemed to fit the strength of James’ language, which is that we would be “perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”

So I was confused.

Why Not Heaven?

But then I read Alford’s Greek Testament in which he said that “this perfection … will not be yet attained” (Volume IV, page 276), which means we will not experience it until heaven.

Then I read the ESV Study Bible Notes on this verse: “Believers grow in holiness but are not yet perfected in it; such perfection will be realized only when Jesus returns.”  Which means this verse is pointing to heaven.

So I looked back at James 1, to see if there were any clues in the context which showed that James is talking about heaven.  Here’s what I found –

  • Right after talking about us “lacking in nothing,” James mentions someone who “lacks wisdom” (James 1:4-5).  So it sounds like “lacking in nothing” is describing a time when we would not lack wisdom, when we would always have all the wisdom we need. But isn’t that more a description of heaven than of earth?
  • Eight verses later James says that anyone who is steadfast under trial will receive “the crown of life,” which is a description of heaven (1:12).
  • In James 5 he encourages us to be patient in trials “until the coming of the Lord” (5:7-8), which is a reference to heaven.

Maybe I’m missing something here. But I’m thinking that when James talks about us being perfect and complete, lacking in nothing, he’s referring to heaven.

And this helps me consider it all joy when I encounter trials.  Here’s how:

Trials Take Something

Trials are hard because they take something valuable from us.

  • The flu takes away productivity.
  • Slander takes away friends.
  • A crashed computer takes away time.
  • Death can take away loved ones.

So think about what trials you are facing right now – and what they are taking from you.

But James urges you to count this trial as joy. And not just to count it as joy, but as ALL joy (James 1:2).

It’s important to understand that this feeling of joy does not remove all sorrow (2 Corinthians 6:10).

But the battle is to feel this joy in the midst of the sorrow. So how can you count as joy something which takes away friends, or time, or loved-ones?

God Gives Something

It is because when we respond to trials by turning to Christ, setting our hearts on him, and relying on him to help us – God will give us steadfastness (James 1:3).

And God will use this steadfastness to keep us persevering all the way to heaven.  And then, when we enter heaven, God will mercifully reward us by making us “perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:4).

That’s why we can count as joy the trials which TAKE things from us – because in heaven, as a result of our steadfastness, God will GIVE us so much that we are perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

And of course, what God gives is the all-satisfying joy of fellowship with himself through Christ.  It’s when we are face to face with him that we will be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

What if a trial took a hundred dollars from you?  That would make you sad.  But if you knew you that as a result of this trial you would receive a hundred thousand dollars, you would consider it all joy.

So think about whatever trial you are facing, and whatever it is taking from you.  As you look to Christ, and fight to trust him, you can know that God will use this trial to give you even more of himself — forever.

That’s why you can consider it all joy.

Questions? Comments?

I’d love to hear them, although I might not be able to respond.  Leave a reply below — thanks.

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Category: Problems or Trials

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6 Responses

  1. I feel that as we mature in the knowledge of Christ…we can have perfection on earth also. When I realize to stress about something is actually sin…and stress also makes people sick in the end…I have not been sick now for over a year 😉 just to share one example!!!

    • Steve Fuller says:

      Hi Bernadette,

      Thank you so much for taking the time to share your thoughts. And I am glad you are stressing less, and that you have not been sick for over year.

      But I do not believe God’s word teaches that we can have perfection on earth.

      One reason is because of what John says in 1 John 1:8 – “if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves.”

      And note that even after Paul prayed 3 times, God chose to have Paul’s thorn in the flesh remain (2 Corinthians 12). And the most natural reading of that passage is that Paul is talking about a physical ailment.

      And I am not sure you are saying this,But Jesus was clear in John 9: 3 but not all sickness is caused by sin.

      In Christ,

      Steve Fuller

  2. Brian says:

    Steve,

    Here is another reason to count it all joy: Hebrews 12:4-11
    We are children of the King and not illegitimate!

    All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.

    Your brother,

    Brian

  3. Michael Lyle says:

    I take this verse to mean – consider it beneficial when you are going through challenging circumstances knowing that your faith (trust in God’s ability to manage your life) is being tested. The next verse says “let it (the testing) have it’s way (meaning do not try to escape it), knowing that the testing of your faith(challenging you to trust God to a greater degree) is what will ultimately perfect your faith”.

    To me the essence of faith is knowing that God is the All-Knowing, All-Powerful, Creator, and Sustainer of Life making all things work together for the good. And that He abides in me as the managing director of every aspect of my life.

    Exercising faith is being still (refusing to try to control anyone or anything).

    Perfect faith = complete trust in God’s ability to manage every detail of our life which = being perfect and complete and lacking nothing. Perfect faith is trusting God to manage our life to the degree that it is no longer us but Christ/God who lives through us – managing every detail of our life including our desires, our thoughts, our words, our actions and our circumstances as well as the lives of others and life as a whole.

    I am confident that God will accomplish the work He started in me as the author and finisher of my faith. And I find it comforting to understand how He is doing it.

    Food for thought.

  4. Kristina says:

    I think the first 3 listed above are the closest examples (“James” quotes) along with this: when I am in full on communion with the Lord, His Spirit fills me and everything looks different from His perspective, than my usual human perspective. It is actually having the mind of Christ. Now this doesn’t last long (for me anyway), it’s definitely temporary and soon enough I’m back to my own (silly) way of thinking. Some of the closest times I’ve had with Him are when I’m “going thru things”… when He gives us His peace and joy, His Love, His mind, His perspective, His Spirit, as we cry out to Him and cling to Him and acknowledge our complete and utter dependence on Him (often in the midst of deep trials), that is when we are complete in Him, lacking nothing, simply bc of Him in us, drawn closer bc of our suffering, as He is near to the broken hearted. It is momentary, it doesn’t last, we still sin and we are not perfect (never on this side of heaven), but the times that I’ve had that perfect communion with Him are hands down and by far the greatest moments of my entire life! There is absolutely no comparison. I am humbled and never more in awe and thankful. That is when my worship is pure and true, bc there is nothing of me/self in it. That is worship in Spirit and Truth! Words cannot describe the beauty of those moments which I believe are our little taste of heaven, a small and momentary glimpse.

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