And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. 5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. —James 1:4-5
James continues his encouragement for the believer’s joy in trials, because God is doing something greater and more wonderful than we imagined. He is testing our faith to give us steadfastness, and this steadfastness has the fruit of Christian maturity.
For our study of these verses, let’s examine some key words.
The Greek word is hupomoné and can be translated more fully as “patient perseverance with hopefulness.” This same Greek word is used in 1 Thessalonians 1:3, “remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” And in Colossians 1:9-11 we hear the echoes of James 1:2-5,
that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; being strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy…
How precious to God is steadfastness and patience in the life of the believer! He never ceases to work this in us. As trials test and prove our oneness with Christ, the desire to “count it all joy” also increases in us. “Patient perseverance with hopefulness” becomes a reality in our lives.
Perfect and Complete
The word perfect is translated from the Greek word teleios meaning "brought to its end, finished, completeness.” The word “complete” is translated from the Greek word holokleros meaning perfectly sound, whole. The emphasis is on our being steady and whole—one with Christ and thereby firmly established in Him with unwavering faith. It is only in Christ that we find wholeness. In love, God brings difficult circumstances into our lives so that we will grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ to maturity. We find that in Him we lack nothing, for by God’s divine power, He has given us everything pertaining to life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3).
The trials that come our way will reveal our sin, test our faith…and when in the fire, we can lose our ability to see the next step on the path of righteousness. There are perplexing situations where we find ourselves lacking in God’s wisdom. Questions arise in our minds about the most God-glorifying thing to do next. Should I speak or remain quiet? Run away or stand firm? Take bold action or devote myself to prayer only? Obey the government or practice civil disobedience? Accept this marriage proposal or not? Stay in ministry leadership or step down? Oh, how we need God’s wisdom! When wisdom is lacking, we must ask God to open the eyes of our heart to His Word. And through the Holy Spirit’s guidance, we learn how to apply God’s wisdom to all of life. The Bible is the holy treasure of God’s wisdom and He has given it generously without reproach (1:5). This is grace—He gives His wisdom lavishly, not withholding it even though we are deserving of His rebuke and severity.
The wisdom of God is not like the wisdom of this world and the Bible teaches us the differences. Test the wisdom you are trusting. In James 3:15-17 we read,
Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and so lie against the truth. This is not wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.
Our decisions, and the motives behind them, can be weighed against the clear definitions of earthly and heavenly wisdom found in God’s Word.
(Greek word translation notes taken from Spiru Zodhiates's The Complete Word Study New Testament ©1991 AMG International.)
Are you growing in Christian maturity or are you divided in your devotion to Christ? How does the teaching of James 1:2-5 help move you to steadfastness and wholeness?
Are you in a difficult trial right now? How might God’s wisdom be applied to your situation?
The Bible has much to teach us about wisdom. The book of Proverbs contrasts wisdom and folly. In his introduction to Proverbs, John MacArthur states, “Wisdom, which includes knowledge, understanding, instruction, discretion, and obedience, is built on the fear of the Lord and the Word of God. Folly is everything opposite to wisdom.” Are you practicing folly or seeking to obey God’s wisdom?