From the Saturday Night
Trials of Life and Spiritual Growth
James begins his letter by saying “Consider it pure joy when you face trials of many kinds.” The word “consider” comes from a Greek word that means “to lead” and it communicates the thought of commanding with official authority. It is translated elsewhere as “count, think, esteem.” Basically, what it means is to take control of your thoughts and emotions that have naturally fallen under the influence of some sort of trial and tell yourself the facts. With the knowledge that you have from the Word of God you should be able to conclude that the result of this trial will be good. In fact, the result, though it can’t be seen, will be very good. If you can get your thoughts and emotions under control, you should be able to sit down and do the “spiritual math.” When you have finished doing the “figuring” (or, to stay with the NIV translation, “considering”) you will have given yourself reason for great joy. The opportunity for growth during trials far outweighs the difficulty.
The word “trial” is from a Greek word that has two completely different meanings. Like our word “jam.” (You could eat the “strawberry” jam or you could get in a “traffic” jam. The one you can eat and is good, the other has nothing to do with food and is bad.) If you just read the word “jam” and did not refer to the context of the writing to see how it was used a listener would hear some strange traffic reports if they were thinking jam was a good thing and could be eaten. In the same way, we can get some strange doctrine when people grab the Greek dictionary and select any of several meanings for a word.
The word we are talking about is used in both James 1:2 as a noun and in James 1:13 as a verb. The words are the same but they are used with two different topics, two different sources, with two different ways to deal with the results. The first is translated “trials.” The second is translated “temptation.” Even a systematic study of the Bible will tell us that we are to handle these two things different. We are to “persevere” trials; but we are to “flee” temptation. Some believers get their doctrine twisted around and they try to “flee” the trials and “persevere” the temptation. We were designed and empowered by God to “persevere” in trials. But, have you ever noticed how weak you are when it comes to “persevering” temptation?
The key word is “testing” in 1:3 and refers to a process by which silver and gold are refined. The testing that occurs through trials will rid your faith of impure motives and beliefs (doctrines). This is done by God to the believer in Gen.22:1; Ex.15:25; Dt.13:3; 2 Ch.32:30-31;Jer.6:27-30; Dan.11:35. Jesus did this to Philip in John 6:6 by presenting him with a problem Philip could not solve. “The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but the Lord tests the heart.” -Pr. 17:3