The purpose of Trials

Our first study dealt with the purpose of trials from James 1:2-4

Rather than writing out the entire content, here are my (fairly raw) notes from the evening.  Questions I used to lead the discussion are in italics.  The answers in this guide are not comprehensive, they were meant to help me lead the study – so if you want more detail, ask in the comments or ping me an email.  Verses are linked so you can read them online.

Objectives in the text: to demonstrate from scripture:

  • That in a trial we choose between comfort and character

  • That in Gods eyes Character is commensurate with sanctification which is the will of God for believers

  •  the benefits of steadfast faith

Passage breakdown

James 1:2- Imperative instruction

James 1:3 – the reason the instruction is possible

James 1:4 – the result of obeying the instruction

Verses 2-12 the word  (trial/test/temptation) “as the basic meaning of trying, testing, as saying, or proving and can have negative or positive connotations, depending on the context”

In verses 13-17 the “idea is clearly that of temptation, of solicitation to evil. James is here dealing with an entirely different concept”

Study Material-Verses 2-4

What was the situation that the recipients of James’ letter were under?

These people had left their homes and families and fled to unknown places to live life in peace and safety, but as they fled the continued to be persecuted and followed by the Jews.

We spent some time discussing this — it is important that we understand the difficulty of life for the believers James was writing to.

These people had been scattered from Jerusalem primarily and in so doing they had walked away from their entire lives including:

  • Loved ones

  • Families (parents, children, great grandparents, etc)

  • All their worldly goods and resources

  • Jobs and businesses

  • Social contacts and status

  • Common locations and surroundings

  • Safety and comforts of home

  • Familiar culture

What are some common trials that we all have?

Trials are a part of our lives.  Common trials we have are difficult relationships, jobs, social situations, bad health etc  Our trials are generally petty and trivial in comparison to the situation of those the letter was written to.

How are some ways that we “get out of” trials?  Select one of the “common trials” and ask what do you do to try and get out of it?

If we don’t believe God is Sovereign we will try to control the situation somehow by stepping out of it (e.g. get a new job, walk away from a difficult family situation), or by manipulating the situation to ease the discomfort (this is often true of marriage  and children) or by deceiving our way out of it (e.g. large tax payments we may be required to make)…

Read James 1:2-4.  What are we commanded to do in trials?  Why?

We are commanded to count it all joy.  There are two outcomes of trials which are the cause for our rejoicing in the midst of them.  These are steadfastness/patience/endurance/perseverance and character.

Steadfastness means “to remain under” – trials teach us to stay under the weight or burden that we are under. 

What does steadfastness lead to?

Endurance leads to “perfect and complete” (v4) – what does “perfect and complete” mean?

The end result of sanctification: Rom 5:3-4 Suffering -> endurance -> character -> hope

Sanctification:

 – 2 Cor 3:18 – transformation from one degree of glory to another – explain

 – Tools for sanctification – 2 Tim 3:16-17,

Heb 13:20-21 – God is in the process of equipping us with what we need to do his will

1 Pet 5:8-10 – The Lord uses the devil for this purpose (cf Job 1:7-12, Job 2:1-6, Job 42:5-6 – examine the usage of Satan in the beginning and the result of this amazing trial at the end – what did it do to the character of Job?)

How do we get steadfastness/endurance/patience?

We are made steadfast by the testing of our faith (v3).  What then is the purpose of this testing?  It is to prove our faith, to refine it and purify it.

Compare to James 1:12 – Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial… to those who love him.  Remaining steadfast is how we demonstrate we love Christ. (Eph 6:24 – love for Christ is incorruptable – even by hardship). 

Steadfastness also results in the crown of righteousness – remember Abraham believed God and it was acredited to him as righteousness (Rom 4:3)

Why do we wriggle out of trials if they are for our good?

One reason – Sin.  Specifically we are self centered, self serving, Christ despising beings who by nature are inclined to trust ourselves and value ourselves before all else

What is the reaction of those who Christ has saved to trials? 

Rom 5:3 – we rejoice – how can we rejoice in trials?  1) knowing that God uses them to build us up and 2) because we are pursuing steadfastness (1 Tim 6:11) and we are making every effort to add this to our faith (2 Pet 1:5-7)

What makes the difference between an unbeliever and a believer? Knowledge of God – who He is, what His purpose is, His sovereignty.- Knowing that He is in control.

If we don’t believe the Lord is Sovereign we will try to control the situation somehow by stepping out of it (e.g. a job, difficult family situation), or manipulation (spouse/children) or deception…

2 Thess 1:3-12 – Perseverance under affliction is evidence of Gods judgement, both of those who are afflicting and those who are being afflicted that they are saved (Phil 1:27-28).

What is the reaction to the unsaved in trials, generally?

Remove themselves from it, manipulate the situation or otherwise escape the difficulty to make life easier.  Let us stop acting like unbelievers if we are saved.  If we are not saved, let us trust Christ to cleanse and save us from our sin!

How do we tend to respond when others are under trial? How should we respond when others are under trial?

2 Thess 1:11-12 – we should pray that God will make them worthy of His calling.

Col 1:11 – we should ask the Lord to make them strong through the trial

Generally we try to pray others out of their trials, which contrary to the purpose of trials and ultimately leads to disappointment when we don’t receive what we pray for.  This also reflects that we value comfort over character.

We should definitely sympathize with peoples pain and do our best to alleviate it, but we should value character and Christ-likeness above comfort in both ourselves and our brothers and sisters in Christ.