Final thoughts on James 1:12-18
Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures. NKJV
Why should those of us who are Christians respond joyfully to the trials that God brings or allows in our lives (Jas. 1:2)? The Lord answers this question in our text.
First, a joyful response to trials is an evidence of our salvation. The Greek word translated “approved” in verse 12 literally means “to pass the test.” It is only the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit that enables us to remain joyful in times of severe trials (Acts 16:23-25). We read stories of Christian martyrs such as John Huss who died with hymns of praise upon their lips. How was Huss able to sing God’s praises even as the flames began to consume his flesh?—only through the grace and power of God operating in him (Phil. 4:7, 13). According to our text, the reward for suffering joyfully for cause of Christ is the crown of life (v. 12). The crown of life is given to all Christians who endure trials—sometimes even to the point of martyrdom—for Jesus (Rev. 2:10).
Second, our trials are a gift from God (v. 16-17). God never brings a trial into our lives to cause us to sin or do evil (v. 13). The temptation to sin or do evil comes from within, not from the trial itself (v. 14). This can be illustrated by a tea bag dropped into a cup of hot water. The tea flavor does not come from the hot water (the trial), but from within the tea bag. The end result of our sin is death (v. 15), but the trials we receive are gifts from God to make us mature and complete (James 1:4), and we can rest on this promise from God because of His immutable character (v. 17).
Third, God brings these trials into our lives for our profit (v. 18). Just as we are not “spiritually regenerated” or “born again” through any effort or desire on our part, but solely by the grace and power of God (Jn. 1:13, Eph. 2:1, 5), neither are we able to conform ourselves to the image of Christ (Eph. 2:10). Our trials are one of God’s tools for transforming us into Jesus’ image (v. 18). The Lord Jesus Christ is the first of the firstfruits into which we are being transformed (I Cor. 15:20, 23). The purpose of our trials is to change us into what Jesus is—to produce in us Christ like character.
Understanding that our trials are a gift from God to conform us to Jesus’ image and that we have the indwelling Holy Spirit to strengthen us in our trials, how do we respond when those trials come? Have you truly repented of your sins and trusted the Lord Jesus Christ as your personal Savior? If so, do you respond joyfully when God brings trials into your life?