In these few verses, we are commanded to do two things: (1) Count it all joy when you meet trials of various kinds and (2) Let steadfastness have its full effect. Although these commands are easy to read and agree with, they are much more difficult to obey. Joy and sufferings seem to be unlikely friends, but we are told to cultivate joy in the midst of sufferings. So, why is it that God calls us to "count it all joy" when we encounter suffering and trials? James gives us the answer: "for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness." If our suffering was useless and didn't produce anyhing, then I do not believe that we could be able to have joy. Yet, God who is rich in mercy and grace, has ordained that our faith to be tested so that He can produce something: steadfastness. In regard to steadfastness (perseverence), Simon J. Kistemaker writes the following:
The believer experiences a testing in the sense of a refining process. That is, his faith is being refined, much the same as gold is subjected to the smelter's fire (Prov. 27:21). As the goldsmith removes impurities that are foreign to the metal, so God purifies the believer's faith from sin. Gold, however, is an inanimate quantity that is and remains passive through the refining process. Man's faith can never be passive. It is active. Faith, as James points out in his epistle, must be accompanied by action; otherwise it is dead (2:17).
So, how can we have an active faith in times of testing? Not only must we "count it all joy" when we are faced with trials, but we must also "let steadfastness have its full effect." Over the last few months Amy and I have gone through a lot of trying times, and I began to think: "God, I know that You have used these trials to help us grow and mature, but don't you think we have went through enough for a while?" I have come to realize that my attitude was sinful. God is the One who knows how long we should suffer and go through trials. He is the One who brings trials in our lives, and He is the One who will determine when our trials should end. In reality, I wasn't trusting in God's sovereignty. God is in control, and I want for "steadfastness have its full effect" because I know that God is in the process of molding and refining me so that I "may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing."
So, how about you...do you have an active faith? Are you joyfully going through trials? Are you allowing steadfastness to have its full effect? Do you realize that God is doing something great in the midst of your trials?
May God strengthen each of us as we submit to Him.