Trials and Maturity

James 1:4 “Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

When James writes about us becoming mature and complete, he is not saying that we stop sinning in this life. Only one thing is perfect in our lives. That is God’s work of forgiving our sins. That was perfectly accomplished by Jesus’ life and crucifixion. He completed it for each of us personally, and applied it to us individually when God called us to faith. It is true that we are perfect and sinless in God’s eyes, but not because of anything we have done. It is solely because of God’s gracious work.

Becoming mature and complete in the way James describes here is never perfect. It is always a process. It doesn’t mean we become the kind of person who has no weaknesses or failures. It means we become the kind of person whose weaknesses and failures are exposed by life’s trials, the kind of person who is willing to admit them instead of covering them up. Then our trials drive us back to the foot of the cross. There Jesus forgives our sinful failings. Then our trials drive us back to God’s promises. These provide the power we lack. Then our trials lead us to put our faith in him, not in ourselves.

I have always found the temptation to lie about my mistakes and shortcomings a powerful one. That temptation was never stronger than when I got my first job as a young teen. This city boy made a lot of mistakes working on a farm, suddenly working with livestock and all kinds of machinery. In a single moment, I could make the kind of mistakes that cost more than all the money I would make that summer.

But until we start admitting our mistakes, whether careless, lazy, or ignorant, we can’t work on correcting them and getting the help we need. Taking responsibility and admitting our mistakes is the first and most important part of being mature and complete.

In a similar way, when life’s trials expose our weaknesses and sin, they empty us of the idea that we will get along on our own. Then we have to admit we need help. We are driven back to God for his help and grace. We discover that this is the way to get through all of life. So we see that we must live life, all of it, by faith in God, not in ourselves.

Let the trials come, then. What do I care? I have my Lord and Savior to get me through! That is perseverance. That is maturity. That is the kind of complete Christian person who doesn’t live in constant fear of his trials. Maybe they aren’t enjoyable, but there is no denying the blessings they bring us now.

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