The Trials Of Life

The Trials Of Life

Earl Miller

James 1:1-12

Are you sometimes overwhelmed with trials? Does some pressing burden strike you? Are you overcome with grief at the home-call of a loved one, and your bleeding heart succumbs to the empty loneliness of life? Does adversity compel you to cry out, “Why did this have to happen to me?”

Why The Righteous Suffer

Why do the righteous suffer? This question has been asked from antiquity. Many has tried in every age to answer this annoying question, but the reasoning of the finite mind is but a surface reflection of the infinite. James, the brother of our Lord (Galatians 1:19), who calls himself a servant of God and of our Lord Jesus Christ, can speak out with more unreserved candor on this subject than anyone else for he speaks by divine inspiration.

James wrote to the twelve tribes, the believing Jews, who were scattered abroad by the persecution instigated by Saul of Tarsus. This man, Saul of Tarsus, was so embittered against Christianity that he wrought havoc with the church at Jerusalem, scattering abroad, except for the apostles, the Christians who were there. In the course of time some of these scattered Christians came back to Jerusalem for visits and told of the sore trials some of their companions were enduring in the dispersion. James may have had opportunity to hear those reports with his own ears. His heart bled for his beloved brethren, and his first concern was to write them a letter of encouragement. He reasoned that some of his brethren, since they had faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, might wonder why these trying circumstances should come to them. Therefore he proceeds to show them why the righteous suffer.

Testing vs Temptation Immediately after his greetings to the twelve tribes in the dispersion, James launches on his treatise on the trails of life to encourage and strengthen his brethren who were going through them. He says in the second verse, “Count it all joy, my brethren, when ye fall into divers temptations.” The Greek word, translated “temptation” in English, has a double meaning. Primarily it means “to prove by testing,” and then secondarily it means “to solicit to evil.” The context in which the word is used determines which meaning to put on the word, and the context here plainly points to testing rather than temptation, for the meaning of the word. The same principle applies in Genesis 22:1, where it says, “God did tempt Abraham.” The thought is, “God did test Abraham.” God tempts no man, but He does test men.

The word “divers” is now Archaic in the English language, being replaced by the word “diverse.” The word means “various kinds of testings;” testings marked by distinct differences. Satan does not bring the same kind of trial to all these believing Jews because individuals respond differently to trials. What may be a sore trial to one person, may be a light trial to another person. So the testings are marked by distinctions that the trials may be made more effective to the different kinds of persons.

The word “count” has in the original Greek the meaning of “look forward, consider, or regard.” So James asks these scattered Christians to look forward to the trials of life. And how are they to look forward to them? It is with all joy. What a paradox! Look forward with all joy to the trials of life!

All Joy

Now with what kind of joy should these Christians look forward to the trials of life? It is with all joy. The word “all” is quite inadequate to express in English everything that is inherent in the Greek word. The word is a collective pronoun gathering into itself the entirety of the noun with which it agrees. The noun, of course, is joy. So, joy in its entirety, in its most complete form is inferred by the word “all.” In other words, James is saying to these Christians. “Look forward, my brethren, to that complete, all-embracing joy, when you fall into diverse testings.”

Trials Achieve Patience

Why should we look forward with such heartfelt joy to the trials of life? The joy certainly does not lie in the trials themselves, but in that which the trials achieve. James continues, “Knowing this that the trying of your faith worketh patience.” The idea inherent in the word “knowing” is, “recognizing, discerning, distinguishing.” One of the crying needs of Christians today is to recognize, or to discern the value of things. James had just been talking about trials, pressing burdens, testings, or whatever we may call them. When they do come, we are to discern some inherent value in them. They do not come simply for the sake of coming; there is infinite value dormant in every trial, and it is our prerogative to recognize that value.

Etymology of Patience

What is this value James asks us to discern? It is patience. It is the purpose of the trials of our faith to produce this priceless Christian heritage. The etymology of the Greek word translated “patience” in the English is extremely interesting. The Greek word is “hupomonee.” It is a compound word composed by prefixing the preposition “hupo” to the verb “menoo.” The preposition “hupo” means “under,” and the verb “menoo” means “to stay, to abide, to remain, to stand fast.” It also carries with it a derived meaning of “remaining alive.” So, putting things together, the word “patience” means “to remain alive under.” But under what are we to remain alive? Well, under pressure, under testings, etc. One who has faith in Christ will not run away from pressure, but will stand fast under it. Pressure comes from the outside world and is always the lot of Christians. But, having faith in Christ, they remain alive permanently no matter how long it continues.

Reaching A Goal

The word “trying” has the value of “proof, test, probation.” So the trials of life are but instruments by which our faith is proven genuine. And the word “worketh” has the value of “to work out, to achieve, to accomplish.” Therefore the word “worketh” simply means to bring about a desired end, to reach a goal. The trials of life are, therefore, designed to accomplish a desired goal, and that goal is patience. With this priceless Christian virtue in view, we can begin to understand why James admonished these persecuted Christians to look forward with all joy to the diverse testings that are coming upon them.