James 1:4, 12 “Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking in anything…Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him” (NIV).

Observation: This passage opens with James’s familiar paean to suffering and trials: that we should welcome them as “pure joy” (James1:2) because we know that “the testing of [our] faith produces perseverance” (v. 3). It is by persevering in the face of trials that we win the coveted crown of life.

Application: “Consider it pure joy!” Have any among us not at times dreaded arriving at this verse? The life circumstances it suggests are never in themselves joyous, but circumstances are not directly addressed. Rather, what’s addressed is “it.” Consider “it” pure joy, referring to the knowledge of what God wants to accomplish in our hearts as we persevere through hard times.

My problem with the phrase “consider it pure joy” is that it has too often seemed a quick cudgel, a too-cute-by-half retort when I have shared burdens with a Christian friend. Unless properly understood, it is too flip to be encouraging and too casual to be helpful to a heart under crushing pressure.

The reality is that the tough work of perseverance must finish its course if I am to receive God’s promised crown at the end of the day. This suggests not simply one big test at the end, such as passing one’s medical boards to receive a long-sought license. Rather, testings come daily, weekly, and at semester’s end. Ever-accumulating success must be remarshalled until failure is out of the question.

In that context, I begin to understand how fervently God is for me. His commitment is reflected in the seemingly unending exposure to trials He brings, akin to the I Love Lucy conveyor belt laden with chocolates rushing past Lucy and Ethel at increasing speed. The difference between Lucy and me is that the conveyor got the better of her; with pockets and cheeks stuffed with chocolates, she was overcome. But in God’s plan, even though tests continue, I can be confident that yesterday’s perseverance has equipped me to pass tomorrow’s trial.

Testings indeed keep showing up like Lucy’s conveyor carrying chocolates, but His purpose in them is that I learn to persevere, ultimately to lack nothing, including His crown of life.

Prayer: Father, from my human perspective I would love to go straight to the final exam, testing out of intermediate lessons. Thank You that Your vision prevails, that I would be made mature and complete, lacking in nothing.