“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience” (James 1:2-3). Apparently, James was not afflicted with technology. Nevertheless, “there is nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9, ESV) and what James’ generation encountered is only different in manifestation. So, how do you look at temptation?
In order to capitalize on our trials, we must lay the groundwork for successful resistance. In battle (and we are Christian soldiers, 2 Corinthians 10:4), much thought goes into a plan of action. The contemplation of various “what if” scenarios must be considered in order that there are no surprises; surprises can be really bad things (e.g., Custer, Napoleon, et al.).
The groundwork for a Christian begins with a soldier’s armor (Ephesians 6:10-17). We cannot expect to be victorious in personal trials if we rush into the spiritual fray unarmed and unprotected. Every soldier recognizes the importance of the protective vesture and takes great care to don it before the fight, giving attention to detail, checking each piece of armor and being careful to ensure a proper fit. With Satan blasting “fiery darts” in debilitating barrages, aiming at every chink in our armor, having our battle attire fastened securely and fitted soundly is a must. Further, we wield the “sword of the Spirit” in this fight and we must be skilled in its use. During WWII, supplies were so scarce and weapons so hard to acquire that Russian soldiers were often sent in the second and third wave of attack without a rifle with the instructions to secure a gun from a fallen comrade in order to defend their position. Can you imagine running into battle without a weapon? Yet, many do just that as they meet the fray without consulting God’s Word. They give an answer for the hope that is in them without the benefit of divine guidance. Those who survive the battle have increased their odds by learning to use their sword effectively.
Then, “add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity” (1 Peter 1:5-7). The Christian life is dynamic, one of constant growth. We continually increase in our maturity (Hebrews 5:13) in order to become battle wise. Every victory is another reason to trust God.
Finally, “But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof” (Romans 13:14). Only when we prepare for temptation will we overcome it. And, only in overcoming it will there be any benefit toward patience.
Trials are a pain but battle scars are evidence that God’s providential care cannot be threatened. The joy in these various trials is not in their inconvenience, it is not in the pain; it is in the conquest of self. The battle is the Lord’s and our greatest challenge may be patience itself. “Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD” (Psalm 27:14).