Dear Summit Family,
James has encouraged his readers to face their various trials with a spirit of joy, knowing they will result in the testing of their faith and produce perseverance. He knows that genuine faith, in anyone or anything, can only be demonstrated through perseverance. If a person’s faith is not strong enough to persevere through the trails of life, one should question if they really have faith?
Think about the trials and tribulations you have faced throughout your life. As a believer, it is hoped that you have seen the faith of God through those trials. The more often you have had a chance to experience the faith of God in your life, hopefully, the greater your ability to persevere grew, and the stronger your faith has become.
James is sharing with his brothers and sisters scattered throughout the world that they should: “Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete lacking in nothing.” (v. 4)
The first question that comes to mind is: when is the work of perseverance finished? Allow me to share an example. Virtually everyone who has ever been married promised during their wedding ceremony to love each other for better or worse, richer or poorer, until separated by death. At the inception of a marriage relationship, that promise, while genuinely declared has yet to be realized.
There are challenges associated with relating to in-laws; the realization that one’s likes and dislikes may be very different from his/her spouses’; the challenges of raising children; the stresses of dealing with job pressures; financial disasters; and unexpected health crises, all of which can put an extreme strain on a marriage relationship. And yet those whose marriages have survived twenty, thirty, or forty plus years are consistently sharing the testimony that the joint effort of both parties in the marriage relationship as they persevered through those trials is what has resulted in the strength of their “FAITH IN EACH OTHER!” Their faith as a marital partner has become “finished’ through those trials and tribulations. The trials they have faced have given each of those in the marriage relationship an opportunity to PROVE their faithfulness.
That testimony extends beyond the married couple. In my own marriage relationship with Kathy, I remember the time when our children shared with us that their fear of wondering if mom and dad would ever divorce disappeared. They had witnessed divorce way too often in the lives of others. Their observation of our relationship gave them the assurance that it was one that would last forever. If our faith in God has reached a point of maturity and completeness, that level of faith will be observed by others!
I am convinced James is sharing with his readers that the finishing of our faith comes when we reach a point that no matter what we face, we know God is going to be faithful. Which is why James says that: “We may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing.” And scripture plainly teaches that God is faithful. “Let us hold unswervingly (perseverance) to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful.” (Hebrews 10:23)
It is possible to reach a point of genuine faith in God that is so strong that no matter what we face, even a crisis like the Coronavirus, we KNOW God is on control and that God will be faithful. We can reach a point where we are lacking nothing.
The second question that comes to mind is: can we really reach a point of lacking nothing?!?!?! It is possible there are some who would struggle with the phrase, lacking in nothing. Few of us have unlimited financial resources. Few of us have absolutely no health challenges at all. Few of us have a life where we have everything we need socially, financially, medically, professionally, and personally. But James isn’t referring to those things. James is talking about completeness in our faith, having a faith that lacks nothing.
We should also remember that we will never be perfect. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Paul also reminded us: “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.” (Philippians 3:12) Paul is referencing the salvation he received in Christ. He is sharing that he continues to press on (persevere) so that he can take hold of that which he received in Christ – salvation! Think about this – if we cannot exercise genuine faith in God through all of life’s trials, can we ever reach the point of complete assurance of our salvation?
The good news is that James is sharing that it is possible to reach a point where our faith is mature, perfect, complete in every way and he is about to share with us what we should ask for in our journey to reach that completeness.
We’ll take a look at that tomorrow.