The Benefit of Trials

“Count it all joy, my brethren, when ye fall into manifold temptations; knowing that the proving of your faith worketh patience.” James 1:2, 3

These words sound like mockery to the man of the world, because they are true only for the born-again Christian. To say to a person that there is joy to be had from every experience of life only sounds like a pious platitude, until a persons heart is right with God; then it becomes a glorious truth, the genuineness of which is confirmed again and again. So lets try to see what James has in mind here.

James is not suggesting that we play the part of a hypocrite. His advice is not that we ought to smile in the midst of severe pain, or laugh gaily in the moment of deep sorrow. He is not recommending that we be pretenders, who put on a false act in the circumstances of life which are difficult and harsh and unyielding. It is quite untrue to reality to say that the scalpel of the surgeons hand applied to our body does not cause pain and discomfort, or that the death of a loved one brings no burden of sorrow to the heart, or that the failure of a business enterprise works no agony of the mind.


But James is saying that there ought to be no experience of life which we let pass without it making an impression on us. For there is joy to he had when the internal attitude of our heart is right, because the joy of which James speaks is not attached to things which come and go, but to the abiding presence of God who promises to work all things together for our good. The original word for “count it” has to do with this internal attitude. and really suggests “to think” forward, consider.” We live in the present to he sure, hut there is a future to think forward to. Things may he gloomv now, but there is glory in the future. In Psalm 30:5 we read, “Weeping may endure for a night, hilt joy cometh in the morning.” Let that joy, then, lead the way through the gloom. If that joy, which come’s from knowing God as our Father, leads the way, then every circumstance in life will be easier to bear.

There is a particular time, suggests James, when that joy becomes most real. It is when we fall into manifold temptations. We ought to note, however, that he is talking here about temptations that originate from without, in the sense of trials, in contrast to temptations that originate from within, as he uses that word in verse 14 of this same chapter. There is no way for us to escape the trials of life, even though we do not purposely and willingly “fall into” them. They simply “fall around” us in this world of sin, on all sides. Thats why James says “when” and not “if fall into these trials. The evil one is bound to use a variety of approaches to try to get us to sin, to slip and fall, to become discouraged, to lose our faith. It‘s not a joy to fight with or do battle with him while enduring the trial, but it is a joy to be victorious over him.

“Knowing that the proving of our faith worketh patience,” continues James. In other words, enduring a trial of faith does something to us. There is benefit in it for us. The point James is making is that we should he comforted by the fact that the trials of life leave us, if we have responded correctly to them, with something very valuable, namely, the virtue of patience.

“Patience” is a very interesting word. In its simplest etymology, it is composed of two words, meaning “under” and “to stay, to abide.” And it suggests that if we are under pressure from some burden or trial, rather than running from it, we stay there and stand fast. Rather than revolting, we let God work out His purposes in us, becoming more pliable to His will.

“Patience” also carries with it the connotation of “expectation, or waiting for somebody.” The Christian surely needs such patience, lest the pressures from the evil one should overtake him. We have a glorious future awaiting us, even though we often experience the brunt of Satan’s attacks in this life, for the Bible says that someday “we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him even as He is” (I John 3:2).

A patient who had just experienced a rather serious accident looked up from his bed and inquired of the physician: “Doctor, how long will I have to lie here?” Wisely, the doctor answered: “One day at a time.” That’s a precious truth for us as God’s people, isn‘t it? If we are faithful for one day at a time, the long years of the future will take care of themselves. May God give us the grace to count it all joy when we fall into numerous temptations, knowing that the proving of our faith worketh patience.