Jan 29, 2015
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.
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And here are some related posts you might find helpful –
- Why Bless God, If He Takes Things Away?
- Is This Trial from Satan or from God?
- Facing Problems or Trials?
- Facing Trials? Here’s Hope (“Be Still My Soul” Worship Video)
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