The Perfect Work Of Patience

James 1:1-4


The 7 divinely inspired epistles found between Hebrews and Revelation are usually categorized as General Epistles. This designation does not occur in New Testament, but are the title which man has designated for them. The term “general” is given to these seven letters because it is believed that they were not addressed to particular churches or individuals, but to Christians at large.


The first of these seven epistles is the book of James, which is addressed to “the twelve tribes which are of the Dispersion, or those scattered abroad”   (James 1:1)  The most reasonable and accepted view is that this letter was written to Christians scattered widely beyond Jerusalem and Judea. This letter was written to strengthen those Christians as they faced trials and temptations, and  therefore the book is filled with practical instructions concerning the everyday duties of the Christian life.


James 1:2-4

2Count it all joy, my brethren, when ye fall into manifold temptations; 3Knowing that the proving of your faith worketh patience. 4And let patience have its perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, lacking in nothing.


Trials have been a tremendous problem for Christians in every age. It is not always easy to be patient and forbearing when undergoing difficult circumstances. Our first reaction when trials come is to ask “why is l this happening to me”?  To most of us trials are expressions of disapproval from God because of some sin. We question our own Christian lives,  as to whether they are acceptable or not.  But remember, Job who suffered tremendously, was presented to us in such a way that we know the things that befell him was not  because of any sin he was harboring.   Notice Job 1:1


1There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and turned away from evil.


Trials and temptations are common to God’s children – notice these words of 1 Peter 4:12-13

12Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial among you, which cometh upon you to prove you, as though a strange thing happened unto you: 13but insomuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings, rejoice; that at the revelation of his glory also ye may rejoice with exceeding joy.  


Trials are common, but trials have a purpose and James writes to provide a reason and motivation for patience.  James 1:2


 2Count it all joy, my brethren, when ye fall into manifold temptations; 3Knowing that the proving of your faith worketh patience. 4And let patience have its perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, lacking in nothing.


Following a brief greeting, James begins immediately to address one of the great themes of his letter. He begins by addressing them as “brethren,” a word that carries the understanding of being fellow-believers in Christ Jesus.  “Brethren” also signifies the equality that exists in our relationships in Christ. 


As Christians, we are a part of the “household” of God (Eph. 2:19. Also, see 1 Tim. 3:15; Heb. 10:21; 1 Pet. 4:7), and we are identified as children of God (Rom. 8:16). The words of the apostle Paul, written to the Christians in Galatia, summarize the relationships of those who are disciples of Jesus.   Gal. 3:26-29


26For ye are all sons of God, through faith, in Christ Jesus. 27For as many of you as were baptized into Christ did put on Christ. 28There can be neither Jew nor Greek, there can be neither bond nor free, there can be no male and female; for ye all are one man in Christ Jesus. 29And if ye are Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, heirs according to promise.


James wished for his brethren to experience joy,  and proceeds to explain how joy  may be experienced notwithstanding the Christian is amid experiencing trials.  He pointed out that these various trials could be the very setting, in which joy may be found.


James told them  2Count it all joy, my brethren, when ye fall into manifold temptations” The word “count”  means to consider, reckon, think, regard. So, the Christian is to consider a trial as an opportunity for joy.  At work, we were taught to regard problems as opportunities. But, note: James did not say some joy, but all joy.  This divine instruction of how to count/consider the trials of life requires one to think and deliberate about the matter. Mental evaluation is essential.   We are to have the attitude regarding trials that our Lord Himself taught: from the Sermon on the Mount…..


11Blessed are ye when men shall reproach you, and persecute you, and say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. 12Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets that were before you. (Mat. 5:11-12).


James speaks of the occasions when a Christian would fall into “divers temptations.” The translators of the New King James Version rendered this as “various trials.”   poikivlo"  Literally various colored. A careful study contextually,  will lead to the conclusion that James referred to those trials that are of an external nature. Any difficult circumstance such as sickness, suffering, misfortune, or persecution, that tests us and tempts us to abandon our faith.  God has never promised his children that he would shield us from the trials and storms of life.  He has, however, promised that he will not permit anything to come upon us beyond our capability to bear. 1 Cor. 10:13-14


13There hath no temptation taken you but such as man can bear: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation make also the way of escape, that ye may be able to endure it. 14Wherefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.  


James said that these many colored, diverse trials “fall on” the Christian. They are not sought, neither are they desired. They are unexpected occurrences that fall upon us.  The word “fall” here is the same word used of the man who “fell” among thieves  (Luke 10:3).  The NASV surely has the meaning of James 1:2 with the words, “when you encounter various trials.  


James challenges us as Christians, to have the mindset that every trial will be viewed with a joyful attitude.  No, he did not say that the Christian must enjoy the trials of life, but he is to consider it with joy, because the Christians knows what the trials are capable of producing.


Continue with me in James 1:3

       3Knowing that the proving of your faith worketh patience.


James begins here with a key word to under standing this admonition   Knowing  γινώσκω [ginδskδ].   Its meaning in the Greek is to “know, to learn, to understand. from experience and observation..”    James uses the form in the Greek which is  (present active tense) signifies a “continuing process”,   continuing to learn and know.


The Christian comes to understand through his experiences with trials, that they prove his faith, and  the way he views and handles them can produce something that is good.  Peter wrote about in   1 Peter 1:6-7:


6Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, ye have been put to grief in manifold trials, 7that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold that perisheth though it is proved by fire, may be found unto praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ:


Since trials put the Christian’s faith to the test it must be strong to endure.  Metal is subjected to fire to test or prove its value.. Trials are like a fire to which the Christian is subjected, proving if one’s faith is genuine.  Faith that is genuine will be demonstrated by how one handles the struggles of life.


The next part of verse three tells us that the trying of faith “worketh patience.”3Knowing that the proving of your faith worketh patience”.


 “Worketh”  again continuous action,  signifies, to accomplish, to produce an effect.  The word “patience” again needs to be carefully studied and understood.  The word, as used and understood in our daily usage, often signifies the ability to wait, to submissively wait. However, it means far more than that in this text. Here, it signifies the ability to bear under uJpomonhv, to persevere, to endure. And it is so translated in the New American Standard Version:  (James 1:3).   NASV


2Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. 4 And let endurance have its perfect result, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.   


The apostle Paul wrote something similar to this, in his letter to the Romans.  Romans 5;1-4


1 Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: 2through whom also we have had our access by faith into this grace wherein we stand; and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3And not only so, but we also rejoice in our tribulations: knowing that tribulation worketh stedfastness; 4and stedfastness, approvedness; and approvedness, hope:      


Note carefully the work in progress as Paul linked four things together. From the NASV , he said:

 Tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope”. 


It should be noted that the problems and trials of life do not automatically produce endurance. Rather, they must be “counted” in the way that James instructs, and faced with a positive attitude. The outcome that James and Paul picture in these scriptures requires a determined effort.


We turn now to:  James 1:4

4And let patience have its perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, lacking in nothing. 


The instruction here is to “Let”   allow, patience have its perfect work, perfect” in this verse is  completeness. Patience, or endurance, has a work to do. It is called the “perfect work,” meaning the completed purpose, the intended end of persevering through the trials.


The meaning of this may be further comprehended by the words of Hebrews 5:8-9

8though he was a Son, yet learned obedience by the things which he suffered; 9and having been made perfect, he became unto all them that obey him the author of eternal salvation;


In other words, Christ’s sufferings were a part of the completion of the work, the mission for which He came to earth to do.  

Heb 2:17-18  states:


17Wherefore it behooved him in all things to be made like unto his brethren, that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. 18For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succor them that are tempted.


This patience is not a passive acceptance of circumstances. No, we face them with a strong determination to do what is right even when life is hard!  This patience must be allowed to have its complete effect, making the one who exercises the patience to be “perfect and entire, wanting nothing.”


Quickly look at Some Application to Our Lives. What is the proper response to these things?  What do these things teach us regarding our daily Christian lives?   Perhaps the best conclusion of the practical meaning of these verses is,   “when a Christian faces trials with the right attitude he will find that there are spiritual benefits that come from successfully handling the trials of life”.


Throughout the Word of God are examples of people of faith who faced trials successfully, Jesus is always our example. Here, in James 1:2-4, we are told that we can achieve the same thing. But this text teaches us that,   “if we are going to face trials correctly and handle them successfully”,  there are three things that are essential. These three essential things are drawn from three key words in the text:


(1)- We must count(James 1:2).

    2Count it all joy, my brethren, when ye fall into manifold temptations;


We must view our trials correctly, “counting them as an opportunity for spiritual growth”.  Trials come to everyone.  Some trials come because we are apart of a sinning human family: diseases and accidents even death are all common to the human family. Other trials come upon us  because we are Christians, and as such are discouragements.  The Christian is warned not to bring suffering upon himself through ungodly behavior.    In 1 Pet. 4:15-16 the apostle Peter warns:


15For let none of you suffer as a murderer, or a thief, or an evil-doer, or as a meddler in other men’s matters: 16but if a man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God in this name.


(2) We must  know(James 1:3).

2Count it all joy, my brethren, when ye fall into manifold temptations; 3Knowing that the proving of your faith worketh patience..


We must have the understanding to realize how we handle the experience  can produce something that is good. The Christian has the assurance that “all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28).


(3) We must let(James 1:4).

4And let patience have its perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, lacking in nothing


We must have a surrendered will, realizing that trials provide the circumstances in which the strength of Christian character is developed. 


 Concluding Thought: It is a fact that: We must go through difficulties in life. No one gets through life without troubles and trials.  When hard times come, we must do what is right, and trust God to provide what is needed in order to bear the burdens that we encounter. We know what trials can do for us, and we know that the end result will bring glory to our Father.


An appropriate scriptural conclusion to this study is the following admonition from the divinely inspired writer of Hebrews: Hebrews 12:1-6 NKJV

1 Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  3 For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls. 4 You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin. 5 And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons:

             “My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord,

             Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him;

                   6For whom the Lord loves He chastens,

             And scourges every son whom He receives.”