2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials [temptations] of many kinds, 3 because you know the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4 Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (NIV)
2 My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; 3 Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. 4 But let patience have her perfect work that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing. (KJV)
2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (ESV)
Greek Transliteration of James 1:4 with [Strong #] and brief definitions:
ho  the (article or indefinite pronoun) de  and, but, now… (conjunction) hupomone  endurance, constancy, perseverance, patience while waiting ergon  toil, work, labor, doing, deed, act telieos  complete, full age, perfect echo  hold, accompany, count, next hina  in order that, because, lest, so that o  may, might, can, could, would should… telieoi  complete kai  and, also, even, so then, too holoklaria  integrity, physical perfection en  preposition denoting place: such as in, at, of, through… medeis  none, not, nothing leipo  leave, fail, absent, lack, destitute
1.4.0 Introduction to James 1:4
Verse 4 continues the flow again from the preceding verses. It instructs us to utilize what we gain from our adversities for maximum benefit and expounds with even more good reasoning. While studying this verse we will dig deeper into the concepts of patience, perseverance and steadfastness. That is followed by an extended look at maturity and completeness.
1.4.1 What are patience (KJV), perseverance (NIV) and steadfastness (ESV)?
Patience may be a virtue, but you don’t get it overnight. This isn’t fast food faith here, and we’re not going to rush patience. In the last verse we focused on testing. We saw, among other things, that the positive result of testing is patience/perseverance. As we move into this verse we’re going to explore a bit this concept of patience/perseverance. The definitions below are from http://dictionary.reference.com, the online interlinear resource I use is Patience may be a virtue, but you don’t get it overnight. This isn’t fast food faith here, and we’re not going to rush patience. In the last verse we focused on testing. We saw, among other things, that the positive result of testing is patience/perseverance. As we move into this verse we’re going to explore a bit this concept of patience/perseverance. The definitions below are from http://dictionary.reference.com, the online interlinear resource I use is http://bible.crosswalk.com/InterlinearBible, and an older Interlinear Greek translation (Dr. George Ricker Berry, 1943).
Patient (The definition of patient is required to fully understand patience):
1. Bearing or enduring pain, difficulty, provocation, or annoyance with calmness.
2. Marked by or exhibiting calm endurance of pain, difficulty, provocation, or annoyance.
3. Tolerant; understanding: an unfailingly patient leader and guide.
4. Persevering; constant: With patient industry, she revived the failing business and made it thrive.
5. Capable of calmly awaiting an outcome or result; not hasty or impulsive.
6. Capable of bearing or enduring pain, difficulty, provocation, or annoyance: “My uncle Toby was a man patient of injuries” (Laurence Sterne).
1. The capacity, quality, or fact of being patient.
2. Chiefly British. The game solitaire.
Synonyms: patience, long-suffering, resignation, forbearance These nouns denote the capacity to endure hardship, difficulty, or inconvenience without complaint. Patience emphasizes calmness, self-control, and the willingness or ability to tolerate delay: Our patience will achieve more than our force (Edmund Burke). Long-suffering is long and patient endurance, as of wrong or provocation: The general, a man not known for docility and long-suffering, flew into a rage. Resignation implies acceptance of or submission to something trying, as out of despair or necessity: I undertook the job with an air of resignation. Forbearance denotes restraint, as in retaliating, demanding what is due, or voicing disapproval: “It is the mutual duty of all to practice Christian forbearance, love, and charity towards each other” (Patrick Henry).
To persist in or remain constant to a purpose, idea, or task in the face of obstacles or discouragement.
1. Steady persistence in adhering to a course of action, a belief, or a purpose; steadfastness.
2. Christianity. The Calvinistic doctrine that those who have been chosen by God will continue in a state of grace to the end and will finally be saved.
1. marked by firm determination or resolution; not shakable; “firm convictions”; “a firm mouth”; “steadfast resolve”; “a man of unbendable perseverence”; “unwavering loyalty”
2. firm and dependable especially in loyalty; “a steadfast ally”; “a staunch defender of free speech”; “unswerving devotion”; “unswerving allegiance”
Synonyms: firm, steady, unbendable, unfaltering, unshakable, unwavering, staunch, unswerving, faithful The root word, stead, literally means fixed, as fixed in place.
The interlinear transliteration of the word rendered patience (KJV), perseverance (NIV), and steadfastness (ESV) in James 1:4 is hupomone. The word appears 31 times in the NT. I don’t have a good resource to know about NIV without actually looking up each reference, but I’m not sure it really matters. The ideas conveyed by the word perseverance seem to be consistent with that of patience. Both terms speak to enduring a difficulty while remaining steadfast in one’s purpose and belief. In fact, my own interlinear bible actually translates the Greek word hupomone as endurance.
I think it is absolutely critical that we understand the words we are using if we what to know completely what this passage is really saying. That said, as we go through the next few questions I may use the terms perseverance, patience and endurance interchangeably.
1.4.2 Why do we need patience/perseverance/steadfastness?
Prov 14:29 Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly. The Proverb is a very practical reason for needing patience. The patient person isn’t seen as a fool. They are thought of as thoughtful and wise. Of course how God sees us and how people see us are different, but certainly if you’re going to be an effective witness to others you need to be respected.
Eph 6:13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. If you are wondering why I chose this verse as a reference, consider what it takes to stand up to adversity. Does adversity come quickly and leave quickly? Well, it may seem to come quickly but rarely are problems solved as quickly. It takes perseverance/steadfastness to see through a troubling situation to the end and come out standing tall on the other side. It takes patience to deal with all the crap along the way and not loose your cool, thus your footing, and become the man of folly from the Proverb above.
Ro 15:4 For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. I think this verse is both relevant and interesting with regard to our question. God is eternal and so His perseverance, steadfastness, and endurance are indeed perfect and eternal. If the Word of God is real, then it stands to reason that the Word is likewise eternally steadfast. It is unchanging and error free.
1.4.3 What can cause us to loose our perseverance/steadfastness?
James 1: 2-8 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. Doubt is unbelief. It makes you wishy-washy. Certainty of faith makes you steadfast – completely unshakable and stubborn for the Lord.
When I am certain of something, I’m very steadfast about it. Or, as my lovely wife will attest, I am stubborn. When I doubt, though, I am more easily tripped up. Both Paul (Ro 9:33) and Peter (1 Pe 2:6-8) reference Isaiah 8:14 speaking of Jesus as the stone which causes stumbling of the unbelieving, but is a cornerstone to those who do believe. The opposite of belief (and the killer of belief) is doubt! James explains very clearly and eloquently in 1:6-8 what the doubter faces. Just like Paul and Peter, James explains in his own words the critical importance of having a faith that is deep, sure, and true. It must be based on the Rock, Jesus Christ, and it must be devoid of doubt. If your faith is solid and you are sure of what it is you believe in, you will be very stubborn indeed about it, and you will not fall when you are pushed by the world.
1.4.4 How do we become equipped to persevere?
2 Tim 3:16-17 “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.” God’s Word seems to be a pretty good place to start.
1 Chron 28:9 (David speaking to his son, Solomon) “And you, Solomon my son, know the God of your father and serve him with a whole heart and with a willing mind, for the Lord searches all hearts and understands every plan and thought. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will cast you off forever.” (Emphasis added.) The carrot always seems to have a stick behind it, but key part for now is in bold. Start in the word, then go to the Lord in person (i.e. in prayer).
Lk 9:23 And he said to all, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.’ This verse impacts so many subjects, and here it is again. Once we learn, and we’ve gone to the Lord and we have that personal relationship, we must step out in trust and obey him. True enough: we are saved by grace; but we were also created to do good things (Eph 2:8-10). When we deny ourselves and take up his cross we are putting actively developing perseverance. Can you learn the piano by studying a book or speaking with the teacher? No, those are important steps and can’t be skipped, but they’re not enough to make you a pianist. You must practice. You’ll need the teacher’s help, and you will need sheet music, but you absolutely must put your hands on the instrument and play in order to truly learn and be good enough to play a real song. Oh, this is such a fine analogy, I hope I don’t need to go on.
If you go back and review the definitions from question 1.4.1 you will see that perseverance is developed over time through action. The action is guided by the Master, directed, and made possible by the Lord. Still, we are the performers. His stage, his audience, his “piano,” but we are the players. He will clap when we succeed, and lovingly correct us when we miss a note. As we get better we will be able to play beautifully for the most horrendous crowd and will not be distracted by the hecklers. Don’t fret, because God is holding the cue cards for the audience. Just trust him, and go out there and play.
1.4.5 What are we persevering against?
1 Tim 4:1-2 Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared. If you were thinking ahead I bet you were expecting me to quote Eph 6:12. And that would be another great verse to use, but I like what Paul is telling Timothy because it is so very practical. It illustrates exactly what the passage in Eph 6 is talking about. The point is, we are persevering against the lies and the liars. Of course the first, greatest, and father of lies is Satan, but we also oppose the natural man living in his sinful selfish nature. The sins of Adam carry down to us all, so we ought not get haughty and think ourselves above our flaws or we become the hypocrite. We must persevere against the lies and the liars. When we persevere, we stand and are not pushed or fooled by the world and its lying liars.
1.4.6 How long must we persevere?
1 Thess 4:15-17 For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.
Until then. That’s how long.
This passage is one of great mystery and beauty to me. It identifies clearly (if not plainly) what we have our hopes set upon. Rev 21:4 also speaks to me of what it is I am hoping for. I can’t explain the form and function beyond the scriptures, I can only trust God to keep his word about all the other stuff he says in his instruction manual. He will keep his word about what we are looking forward to.
1.4.7 What is meant by ‘mature and complete’?
Mt 18:3-4 Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. This verse wouldn’t seem to be describing maturity or completeness, but it does. It is the very most essential aspect of spiritual maturity. It is the utter acceptance of those who know that they don’t know anything, that they are just a babe, and that they look with awe and wonder and absolutely devoted trust and faith to their loving father. God said he would confound the wise. Are you confounded?
1 Cor 13:11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. In this passage Paul is speaking of childishness, not the characteristics of being childlike. Childish and childlike are utterly different concepts. When we first believe we are spiritual newborns, thus in our faith we are childlike. As our spirituality matures, we grow in faith and wisdom.
1 Pe 2:2 Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up to salvation — This verse talks of craving milk as a newborn (new convert). Hebrews 5:11-14 expounds on this by telling believers that you can’t remain a babe in the spirit: About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. Just as your flesh matures, your spirituality is expected to mature. Verse 14 even tells you why. Mature so that you can tell good from evil. If you can do that, it is much easier to endure the pushing of the world and remain standing. When you mature the opportunities for doubt diminish and you are less likely to be blown about, and you will be stable. Maturity means you will be able to earn rewards (fulfilled expectations) from the Lord (Jas 1:7)
1.4.8 What are some benefits of maturing?
Maturity is the absolute faith and loyalty of a child, but without the childish (selfish) behavior that goes with being a literal child. Okay, so what’s the big deal?
Heb 5:13-14 for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. I know we referenced this in the previous question, but this time it’s the primary answer. When you become more mature you get solid food. If you’re a baby then maybe you only want milk. Is that the kind of faith you want to have? Do you want only the soft stuff? I want to grow and be strong. I want meat and potatoes. I want to chew, and grow tall. I want to be able to stand. The rain falls on the just and the unjust alike. The wind blows in the same fashion. The world pushes. The liars lie, and the lie is the same whether you are strong are weak. Better to be strong so as to endure, and at the end to be standing. If you can’t tell good from evil, you probably won’t be standing when the wave rolls back.
1.4.9 How are maturity and completeness demonstrated?
Maturity: Gal 5:22-25 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. A lot of people can quote v22-23, but how many have v24-25 memorized as well? These are much more challenging words to accept and hold dear, but they are no less important. The fruit demonstrate maturity, to be sure. But foundational is the crucifixion of our natural selves, the selfish people who we were as when unregenerated. The old man was crucified when the seed was planted in us, but if we are actually walking in step with the Spirit then we must surely enjoy the benefit of our carnal passions and desires being displaced by the Holy Spirit.
Completeness: Jn 15:4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. We are complete when we are grafted into and remain in Christ. The sapling doesn’t bear good fruit, but the mature plant is complete and it bears fruit. If grafted to the good vine it bears good fruit. That’s complete.
1.4.10 Perfect or Mature?
Telios: The Greek word is telios is defined as: 1. brought to its end, finished; 2. wanting nothing necessary to completeness; 3. perfect; 4. that which is perfect: 4a) consummate human integrity and virtue; 4b) of men: full grown, adult, of full age, mature
The term translated “mature” in NIV is translated “perfect” in every other version I’ve looked at including KJV, NASB, and ESV. Given the context and the definition of the Greek word provided by my online Greek lexicon, “mature” is at least a possible rendering. As such, the study of maturity from the last few days is not completely out of place. In context with the balance of the paragraph and the chapter as a whole, I’m okay with the word mature.
The word “perfect” is also a very acceptable word and is likewise suitable in context. To those of us steeped in the English language, however, the word “perfect” tends to have a different atmosphere to it. Perfection is something unattainable outside of God, therefore it stands to reason we need God in order to even approach perfect. To me, maturity implies seniority. Perfection implies being utterly and completely remade and new, whole, and complete. Is it just me, or does maturity not seem to be something less than perfect?
I then looked up the word translated “complete” (holokleros). This word is translated complete in every version except KJV, which uses the word “entire.” Okay, I’ll buy that. Combined with telios, holokleros adds emphasis to the concept of fullness of being.
Finally, the phrase “lacking in nothing,” or “not lacking anything,” or “wanting nothing” all mean pretty much the same thing. It means you don’t need anything else in order to be complete, whole, mature, or as I like to say: in the fullness of being.
In context with the balance of the passage, James is talking about how God uses the challenges we face to show us how to persevere, which refines us, thus making us whole and complete. When we are made whole, through life experiences walking with God, through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, through study of God’s Word, and through the shedding of what is worldly within us, we are purified, perfected, made whole, we lack nothing, and have nothing extra which is unnecessary.
It is this last concept I want to dwell only a moment longer. We talked earlier about the refinement process, how God uses trials and tests to refine us as gold or silver. These elements are found in the earth as ore. Most of the time the ore, while it contains what is pure, also contains a lot of other rock which must be burned away in order to obtain a sample which is only made of the pure elemental substance. Being whole, entire, complete, mature, and perfect all imply that the debris (all the impurities) have been removed. Please do not let this aspect be lost on you when considering what James is telling us.
The perfecting work of God is not only to add all that which is good, but to remove all that which is bad.
1.4.11 Summary of James 1:2-4
James 1:2-4 2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (ESV)
James begins his letter by consoling the believers about the difficulties they face. He explains that God uses those difficulties to make us stronger in faith, more mature as believers, and pure. These are things to be happy about in spite of the hardships involved with attaining those qualities. He encourages the reader with a message of joy, even in the face of it all. He lets the reader know that while yes, we are tested, that testing is a good thing and has good results. Steadfastness, perseverance, and patience - whichever word you prefer - are all good an noble qualities, but most importantly they are qualities that make it possible for the believer to endure hardships through the course of life and to be able to lay hold of the eternal life which they’ve hoped for all the while. As for me, I think stubborn might be just as good a word. I want to be stubborn for God.
By examining and comparing different versions we were also lead to study and gain a better understanding of the nature of temptation, trials, discipline, and tests. While these terms seem on the surface to be nearly equivalent, we learned by looking deeper into scripture and seeking a better understanding of both modern English and ancient Greek that there are some very important lessons to be taken from the nuances. Satan is the father of lies and God cannot lie. Satan tempts, God does not. Discernment is needed, and it is a gift from God to be discussed in the study of upcoming verses.
Another fine nuance found in the forth verse is “let.” It is a very important word and one of two direct and specific instructions given in this paragraph. The first is “count.” They are both verbs, both direct, both commands. We must let (i.e. allow, not prevent) the stubbornness (e.g. steadfastness / perseverance / patience) take over. That’s when we are pure. In other words, James is saying we need to stubbornly let the Holy Spirit do its job and we reap the reward of purity and joy.
The question has come up about what appears to be a doctrine of works held forth by James whereas Paul preaches a doctrine of grace by faith. I see no difference. In fact, I see perfect agreement - albeit with complimentary (not counter) instructions. As we progress through the balance of James, particular when we someday get to the part about “faith without works is dead” we will come to understand the deeper meanings and if you stay with us that long, I believe we will together come to a much deeper appreciation of what the Holy Spirit does through us, that we are incapable of doing it ourselves, and that no works of human hands are worthy. The works James speaks of are those performed by the Spirit, not our hands alone. Ah, but I don’t mean to spoil the joy to come...