The Purpose of Trials
Category : General
James 1: 12 (KJV)
12 Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.
It was asked concerning the nature and purpose and function of evil is, and why it is permitted to exists. This question is one which has perplexed the minds of men ever since they used discourse of reason. It is, confessedly, the most difficult of questions, and many, even most, of the wise have given it up as, for the present at least, an insoluble problem. But the question, so difficult to us, seems to have presented no difficulty to the practical and an inquisitive intellect of James. According to him, the function of evil is to try men, to test them, to put them to the proof, to show them what they are and ought to be. Trials are said to bring us wisdom, and faith, and patience, we are not to avoid them, but to glory in them, however trying they may be, and even though they seem to put that which is good in us to jeopardy.
In v.12 James sums up all that he has previously said. As he has mused over his theme his heart has taken fire, and he breaks out into the exclamation, “Happy is the man that endureth temptation!” He admonished us rejoice when we fall into divers trials; now he pronounces us happy, because we have let patience have her perfect work, we have sought wisdom of God, we have risen to an unwavering faith. And, indeed, we may easily see that it is not enough for our welfare that we should simply be exposed to trials, or that we should suffer them.
The thought is that if we are to get the good of them, if they are to refine and complete our character, we must endure them, i.e., as the word implies, we must meet them with a cheerful constancy. I know how hard all this sounds, and is, to the ordinary man. And even if, as yet, we feel that we ourselves cannot endure heavy trials with cheerful fortitude, do we not count those happy who can? do we not wish we were as strong as they? We must admit, then, that James is simply uttering an obvious truth when he exclaims, “Happy is the man that endureth trial!” But why is he happy? The apostle hints at one reward in the words, “when he is approved,” and distinctly states another reward of constancy in the words, “he shall receive the crown of life.” For the phrase, “when he is approved,” points to a figure often employed both in the Old and New Testament Scriptures. Both the prophets and the apostles represent God as a refiner, who sits by the furnace, assaying and purifying gold and silver, and who, when He has purged them of their cross, stamps them as true metal of sterling worth. He has proved them, and He approves them.
This twofold reward we might deem sufficient. But God giveth liberally, with a full hand. To the cheerful who endure, He is a cheerful Giver. And hence James goes on to promise “the crown of life” to as many as endure. But what is this crown of life? It is simply a life victorious and crowned; or, in other words, it is a royal and perfected character. James tells us how we may attain it. Trials, he says, come for this very end, to make us perfect and complete men. If we endure them with steadfast patience, they will work in us a noble character, a royal dignity; they will put a crown on our heads, the crown of life. That phrase, “the crown of life,” is a figure, which indicates the royalty of character that makes a man lord of himself and equal to any fate. And if, at first, the promise sounds a little extravagant, is it not nevertheless a literal statement of fact? Look around you and mark who are the men of whom you are most sure, whom everybody trusts, to whom all are glad to run for counsel or succor. Are they not those who have been tested by divers kinds of trial, and have borne them with manly resolution and cheerfulness? Are they not those who are known to have long ruled themselves in the fear of God, who have governed their passions and cravings with a firm hand; men who, when need was, have planted themselves against the world, and have overcome it? Ah! happy and blessed men! They have endured temptation, and they are approved by God and man.
This is a blessing which the true disciple of Christ should never weary of holding in remembrance. At the very outset of his letter the apostle strikes this keynote: “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into divers trials, knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh endurance.” What the Christian needs is the power of patient endurance, and the apostle goes on to say how this may be secured. We want wisdom to learn the lessons of experience; and wisdom is given to those who ask for it in faith. It is the want of faith which causes instability. Our subject, then, is–The various trials which we meet in daily life, and which put to the proof our faith and power of endurance. Our true life in this world is a life of struggle, and our true wisdom is to learn by experience what is the real good of life.
Have a great and God filled day!