I began my study of James during the Thanksgiving holiday. This is one of my favorite passages (another Monday School post featured it) and I see it in a new way for a couple of reasons. For the first time I noticed who the letter is addressed to and the ESV uses different wording I like.
James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes in the Dispersion: Greetings.
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
James 1:1-4 ESV
James wrote the letter to the Dispersion, the Jew and Gentile believers, scattered throughout the region because of persecution and other hardships. James urged them to count their trials as joy. This wasn’t an easy thing. Many of the scattered Christ followers were threatened and lost loved ones. Some were slandered and betrayed with no material resources. The trials were severe, and still, James told them to count it as joy.
Then James told them why. Because the testing of faith will produce steadfastness, but let the steadfastness have its full effect. I love the wording. Let the steadfastness have its full effect.
Have you ever pulled a cake out of the oven too soon? The outside was done but the inside was doughy. The heat didn’t have its full effect on the cake. The oven didn’t finish the job.
Photographs used to go through a long developing process and required a dark room and special chemicals. The full effect of the dark, the chemicals, and the steadfast photographer were needed to put the images on paper.
Let the steadfastness have its full effect. One of the effects of the persecution of the church was the scattering of Christ followers and the spreading of the Gospel to every part of the world. Their hardships meant salvation for others.
We aren’t persecuted, but we do experience trials and James encourages us the same way – let the steadfastness have its full effect. He wants us to be patient within the trials. More than that, James wants us to consider them as gifts. But we’re tempted to ignore the trial if we can. Deny it. Control it. Fix it. Leave it. Hurry it. Numb it. Or forget it.
Instead, let us meet our trials with joy. Let us face them honestly, bravely, and humbly, asking God for the strength and courage to move forward. Let us surrender daily to whatever He brings, knowing He will use it for our good.
Make us steadfast, God. And let the steadfastness have its full effect.