Sometimes preachers make it sound like if you choose to follow Christ your life will suddenly become easy. When they say things like that, I’m never sure what Bible they are reading because if there’s one thing God’s Word makes crystal clear it’s that life is anything but easy.
The apostle James certainly doesn’t pull any punches. He writes, “Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial…” which implies that we will experience trials. And trials by definition are painful. If they weren’t painful, they wouldn’t be a trial.
When we experience pain, we often react by becoming bitter and complaining. James understands that. That’s why he writes in verse 2, “Consider it all joy my brothers when you experience various trials…” He has to command us to consider it all joy because he knows it is not natural to think of painful circumstances as an occasion for joy. Instead it is natural to consider them an occasion for complaining and grumbling.
Think about the last time you experienced something difficult. What was your first instinct? Most likely, to complain.
Perhaps you invited someone over to dinner, you made the meal, and they called at the last minute to cancel. How did you respond?
To consider that circumstance an occasion for joy or a reason to complain?
Or maybe you went to work and your boss treated you unfairly. Reason for joy or for complaining?
Sometimes our trials become so difficult we move right past complaining to escaping. That’s why James calls on us to persevere in James 1:12.
“Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial.”
Not just “Blessed is a man who has experienced some trials…”
Trials won’t do you any good if you fail to endure.
You could read this verse, “Blessed is the man who remains under the trial.” Or to say it another way, “Blessed is the man who doesn’t compromise and quit when he is experiencing a trial.”
When you are experiencing something painful you are going to be tempted to give up. To start thinking, “Why do what’s right? It’s too tough.”
You are going to want to “get out.”
Maybe it’s something as simple as going to church and being around other believers. Going to church is difficult for you because you are very busy, or the people at church aren’t as friendly as you’d like, or maybe you have another reason unique to your situation. But you know Scripture commands you to encourage other believers daily, and not to forsake the assembling together of believers. Many escape the ‘trial’ of going to church by giving in to their feelings, and not going to church when they don’t feel like it.
Or maybe it is something more extreme. You are in a difficult marriage. It’s not easy to get along with your partner. But you know you don’t have biblical grounds for divorce. Many have given in, and refused to endure. They escape through divorcing their spouse, having an affair or just isolating themselves. They know what the Scripture says, but they refuse to endure.
I don’t know what your circumstances are, but I am certain if you are interested in doing what is right, you are also going to be tempted to give up. It might not be today, it might not be tomorrow, but at some point, you will face this temptation to quit.
This is a powerful temptation because it often seems much easier to give in than to endure. That’s because as D. James Kennedy notes, “Every other temptation tries to lure us into something that will require some effort, but it takes no effort to quit. If you want to rob a bank, you would have a great deal of hard work ahead of you. How many people would be bank robbers, except they are too lazy. I am sure there are people who would become adulterers except for the fact that adultery takes so much work. Most sin requires us to do something. But to quit, we don’t do anything. We just stop. Sit down. Fold our hands. Give up.”
Although it seems easier to quit, when we do, we miss out on the blessing God intends for us. James writes, “Blessed is a man who endures…” It’s ‘good’ not to give up. In fact, it’s much better not to escape a trial than it is to do things God forbids or fail to do what God commands.
But this term endure means more than merely ‘don’t quit…’ It’s an active term.
Endurance is a joyous, steadfast, focused obedience. It’s not merely sitting the trial out, hoping for it to pass. Instead it’s an attitude that bears difficulties full of hope. When James says “Blessed is a man who endures,” he is saying, “Blessed is a man who joyously and steadfastly continues to obey God even in the midst of his difficulties…”
There will be times in your life when you don’t feel like pressing on, when you feel like giving in, when you feel like compromising, when you don’t feel like doing what is right. That’s called a trial. And James is saying, “Blessed is a man who when trials come into his life, doesn’t quit or compromise, but instead seeks to obey God.”
That’s hard work. And to do so, we need motivation.
That’s what James is giving us here. He motivates us by telling us how good it is for the man who perseveres.
“Blessed is a man…”
There’s no “is” in the original. This verse literally reads, “Blessed man…” This is not a wish. This is a fact.
Write it down in your Bibles, tell it to your friends, fix it in your minds, it is good to persevere. The man who perseveres under trial is blessed.
Sometimes the word ‘blessed’ is translated happy. That’s how it is translated in Romans 14:22, “Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves…” Thus, we could read James 1:12, “Happy is a man who perseveres under trial…” The world wants happiness and says the way you get it is by escaping the trial. James says, no, you want true happiness? Persevere.
The problem with translating blessed using the word happy is we often think of happiness in too superficial of terms. For example, we wouldn’t look at a person who was crying tears of sorrow and say he is happy. But we could look at him and say he is blessed.
The person who perseveres in doing what is right in the midst of trials is blessed by God. He’s a recipient of God’s favor which results in an inner joy and happiness that is not dependent on his circumstances. That’s what it means to be blessed.
“But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God.” (1 Peter 2:19) God smiles on you.
One of the reasons we give up in trials is because we think what is happening is bad for us. If we are going to endure we need to understand just how good trials are for us.
James writes, “Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial for…” Circle that word for. That’s the thought James wants to fix indelibly in your minds. It’s as if James is saying, “Listen, let me tell you why it’s so much better to endure trials, to steadfastly and joyously obey God during trials than it is to escape…”
We’ll look at some of those reasons tomorrow…