3rd, To Perfect Your Faith. “But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing” (James 1:4, NKJV). “Perfect” here is not sinless perfection. It doesn’t mean that you won’t sin anymore. “Perfect” here is from teleios—“perfectly, completely, altogether” (BAGD); “pertaining to that which is fully accomplished or finished—‘complete’” (Louw-Nida). “Complete” is from holokleros—“a qualitative term, with integrity, whole, complete, undamaged, intact, blameless” (BAGD). We use the words, “whole” to mean completeness or fullness; and “wholesome” as moral blamelessness and integrity. Perfection and completeness are word pictures for the growing faith of a maturing Christian. God is in the growing and completing business. His goal is to make you mature in Christ. And sometimes, He will allow trials and troubles to develop Christ-like character in your life.
An imperfect, incomplete, and immature faith is a faith that believes in blessing without suffering. It believes in the favor of God without the perfecting trials of God. It sees the divine plan as a road to problem-free living. Yet this kind of faith confuses the favor of God with pleasure; and the trials of God with punishment. No, God’s favor may include pain; and His trials are meant to shape you more than punish you. The aim is to produce Christ-likeness, making all things work together for good in your life (Rom. 8:28).
The incomplete faith draws a wrong picture of God and frames it in a limited picture frame, with borders of our own making. (We must beware, lest we draw God according to our own image, which is idolatry.) This immature faith would trust God because of what it can get from Him; rather than serve God because He is God, regardless. It would treat God as a heavenly waiter on demand—one obliged to give them what they expect Him to give, because after all, doesn’t God want the best for me? But the best of God includes only those things that will develop virtues of faith, hope, perseverance, and Christ-likeness in you. Paul wrote, “We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope” (Rom. 5:3-4, ESV). God develops this Christ-like character only when you undergo trials. Trials then are divine interruptions in the journey of spiritual wholeness.
Sufferings are also God’s way of saving us from our innate selfishness. Haven’t you noticed that believers who go through troubles come out less selfish than they have ever been? Selfishness interrupts wholeness. But suffering interrupts selfishness and starves it. Through sufferings, God removes the self-centeredness of our hearts. He replaces it with a growing and enduring faith and hope in Christ.
Somebody sent me a text message one day. It read:
Our life is like a pencil. 1) Everything you do will always leave a mark. 2) You can always correct the mistakes you make. 3) What is important is what is inside you. 4) In life, you will undergo painful sharpenings which will make you a better pencil. 5) To be the best pencil you can be, you must allow yourself to be held and guided by the hand that holds you—God’s.
Trials perfect your faith. Troubles sharpen your character to make it more like Christ. They are part of growing spiritually mature in the Lord. It completes your Christian character. It accomplishes Christ-likeness in your life. It makes you whole and complete.
How then should we handle trials? The Bible says, “Count it all joy when you meet trials” (James 1:2, ESV). Paul says, “We rejoice in our sufferings” (Rom. 5:3, ESV). Did you get that? Count it all joy! Rejoice in your trials. How do you rejoice in trials? Know that it will make you persevere in Christ. It will make you steadfast in Christ. It is God’s way of burning the selfishness of your life and forming Christ’s character in you! It will prove that your faith in Christ is genuine. It will produce a growing faith and hope in Christ.
Maybe you say, “Pastor, I haven’t yet put my faith in Christ.” If so, I urge you to call on Christ today. He is just a prayer away. Ask Him to save you and forgive you your sin. Repent your sin and He will forgive you. He will come inside your heart and live there in you.
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Disclaimer: Every quotation or thought is diligently footnoted, but nobody is perfect. If there is any original thought which I failed to footnote, please call my attention. Once validated, it will be corrected immediately.
Bruce K. Waltke, Genesis: A Commentary
(Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2001), 216.