“For you know that the testing of your faith produces…” (James 1:3)
The apostle Paul spells out a maxim of personal fitness in his letter to Timothy. “Train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come” (1 Tim. 4:7–8).
We learn two things from Paul’s statement. One, the goal of spiritual training is godliness. Two, we are participants in achieving the goal. James might put it that we are to exercise faith with an eye to Christlikeness.
While we are the ones to exercise faith in obedience to God, in the manner of wisdom, it is God who provides the increase. Just like God blesses right diet and regular exercise for our physical fitness, so He blesses the diet of His Word and the regular exercise of faith for our spiritual fitness.
The workout stations for the exercise of faith toward these ends are trials. James directs our attention forward: “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” (Jas. 1:3–4).
James holds up for us the full effect of persevering faith. It is perfect and complete. Perfect speaks to the goal; complete to maturity. Like a jigsaw puzzle, the goal of formation will be realized and no piece or aspect missing. Christ will be formed in us.
It is as we approach trials with this knowledge in mind that we will capitalize upon them to cooperate with the purpose of God for us in them. We prepare ourselves for trials through the stretching exercise of faith in what God wants us to know.
“By Your grace, O Lord, may I decrease and Christ increase.”