Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Do You Want to be Spiritually Mature?

We are currently looking at what James says about trials. So far we have heard his call for a joyful attitude and an understanding mind. He says in verses 2-3 of chapter one, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.”

As we consider this subject again today, I want to focus on the last phrase of verse 3. He says again, “knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.” We said that trials test what we really love. Notice that they also produce endurance. Thomas Manton said that “while all things are quiet and comfortable, we live by sense rather than by faith. But the worth of a soldier is never known in times of peace. One of God’s purposes in trials is to give us greater strength. As you go through one trial, your spiritual muscles (faith) are exercised and strengthened for the next one. That means you can face greater foes and endure greater obstacles, thus becoming more useful to the Lord. And the more useful you are, the more you will accomplish His will in the power of His Spirit for His glory” (James, 19).

The word that James uses for “endurance” is the Greek word hupomone. This word is composed of the preposition hupo, “under,” and the verb meno, “to stay, abide, remain.” It presents the picture of being under a heavy load and resolutely staying there instead of trying to escape. The reference here may refer to the act of endurance or that frame of mind which bravely endures the trails and pressures encountered. James Ropes calls this “staying-power.” D. Edmond Hiebert says “It is the virtue of steadfastness, constancy, and endurance. It is a virtue that grows under trial and testing.” Mayor notes that Philo called it ‘the queen of virtues.’ Hiebert again says “It is not a passive attitude of quiet submission or resignation, but rather, a brave manliness which confronts the difficulties and contends against them.” Joseph Thayer calls it “the characteristic of a man who is unswerved from his deliberate purpose and his loyalty to the faith and piety by even the greatest trials and sufferings.” Whatever you call it, it is “that tenacity of spirit which holds up under the pressure while awaiting God’s time for reward and dismissal” (Hiebert). Herbert Lockyer adds to our understand by saying that “Noble patience is the cheerful bearing of what is inevitable and unavoidable. It implies the willingness to endure uncomplainingly the different forms of sufferings, wrongs, and evils that surround us and the determination to bear injustices which we cannot remedy and provocation we cannot remove.”

We are to “let endurance have it’s perfect work” or result in our lives. That means we are to allow it to work out its intended effect in our lives. Arndt and Gingrich, in their Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature translates this as “Let endurance show itself perfectly in practice.” We must understand that the development of endurance under trial is not in itself the final goal of the Christian life, it is maturity of character. And that is not the result of the number of trials encountered, but the way in which those trials are met. In the words of the apostle Paul in Romans 5:3-4, he says, “And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance, and perseverance, character, and character, hope.” He told the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 10:13 that “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.” Peter told his readers to add to their self-control, “perseverance” (Gr. Hupomone) (2 Pet.1:6). We are to “be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” This is a double purpose clause. It states the final outcome they must realize: “that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” “That you may be” points to the intended outcome as in the realm of character development. “The present tense indicates that this is not merely a future ideal but a present progressive attainment” (Hiebert). The intended outcome is stated both positively and negatively. Positively, that they may be “perfect and complete.” “Perfect” (teleios) does not imply absolute perfection (cf. 3:2) but the ethical character of the mature believer. It denotes that which has attained its proper goal. When this word is used in connection with animals or people, it indicates adult growth and maturity—the opposite of babyhood. James is thinking of someone who has reached full development. Johnsone says “the word describes a ‘maturity,’ a ripeness and richness of knowledge and character, such as might be supposed to mark the full-grown man, as contrasted with the babe in Christ.” Vernon Doerksen says, “It speaks of completeness, maturity, full-grown, brought to its end, finished. Impatience, complaining, or bitterness would not be a ‘perfect’ result” (James, 17). Hiebert agrees when he says, “Unfortunately, many believers succumb to spiritual infantile paralysis and remain in a state of childish backwardness in their spiritual life” (James, 77).

The word “Complete” (holokleroi), is a compound form of holos, “whole, complete,” and kleros, “a lot, a portion received by lot.” It denotes “that which retains all that was allotted to it. “It was used of that which is complete and intact in all its parts, such as animals that were sound and possessing all their parts and thus acceptable for sacrifice on the altar” (Hiebert).

Negatively, “lacking nothing.” This is the counterpart of being complete. Literally it means, “in nothing being left behind.” “To lack is the exact opposite of being complete. All areas of the personality need to grow, and these testings provide a means whereby growth will take place. No area in Christian development will be in want” (Doerksen, James, 18).

How do you view trials? Do you see them as a “testing of your faith?” Are you letting endurance “have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing”? Trials are given to test the genuineness of our faith. You can either crumble and become bitter under them or you can rejoice at what is being produced. We are to have a joyful attitude, an understanding mind, and a submissive will.

No comments: