You know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness (James 1:3, esv).
If you could have anything you wanted in life, what would it be? What would make your life just perfect?
People have been dreaming up answers to that question for centuries, and have either been doing their best to pursue it or bemoaning the fact that they missed it. But if they knew their Bible well enough, the answers to that question would all be the same.
“God intends for your trials to transform your conduct and character.”
What would make their life perfect would be “steadfastness” having “its full effect” (James 1:4).
Different versions of the Bible use a range of synonyms to try to capture the heart of this word used in James 1:3–4. Some call it “endurance” (nasb). Some call it “perseverance” (niv). Some call it “patience” (nkjv). The original Greek word—hupomeno—is consistent, and it represents the most awesome thing God can give to a Christian. It’s everything you could ever want in life.
Hupomeno is a compound word made up of two parts: hupo (meaning “under”) and meno (meaning “remain”). It’s the idea of remaining under; staying put; not wriggling away from the many pressure points in life.
Our lives are overrun with things that exert pressure. Our marriages can cause pressure, just as singleness can cause pressure. Managing work and family demands creates pressure. The effects of aging add additional pressure. And when not strained enough by these routine forms of pressure, here come those extraordinarily unpredictable forms of pressure, like health problems, children in trouble, car breakdowns, and those seemingly random weeks when a string of household appliances goes out, one after the other.
And the greater the pressure, the more you’ll wish for any way to get out from under it. Run, quit, bail. But getting out from under is not really what you want . . . because hupomeno is the funnel through which all Christian virtue flows. Every good thing that God wants to infuse into your life comes through growing your ability to “remain under” the pressure.
If pastors would remain in their churches when the challenges become heaviest, they’d experience the best thing God wants to give them. If spouses wouldn’t decide they can’t take it anymore, or if parents would stick it out with their prodigal kids, they’d experience what only hupomeno can produce in their lives. As James said it, “Let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:4).
There’s not nearly as much scholarly debate on what the word for “perfect” means. It means “perfect.” And it leads toward being “complete”—so that when someone asks what you need, you can honestly tell them, “Nothing.” When others are complaining about what’s missing in their lives, you already know you’ve got everything that matters. God has given you the ability to remain steady when under pressure—to remain confident in faith, in Him—and nothing can stop somebody like that.
The worst decisions you’ll ever make in life are quitter decisions. (I should know; I’ve made my share.) Your best decisions, however, will be the ones God enabled you to make, where you stayed bolted in place when the trials were pressing down on you the hardest and you refused to walk away. Because God intends for your trials to transform your conduct and character. And when you persevere . . . when you endure . . . when you grind out with patience what’s required in handling those moments maturely . . . you’ll come away with the greatest thing in the world. “Steadfastness.”
And trust me, it will be “perfect.”
Father, thank You for wanting me complete, where I don’t lack for a thing. And thank You for creating and allowing those environments where You can perform this level of work in my heart. This is what You’ve made me for—to bring you glory by what You alone can produce in my weak, fragile, sinful self. Lead me to surrender my desire for comfort and relief so that I can stand strong in You. Make me “perfect and complete, lacking in nothing,” through the steadfast name of Jesus, amen.