James Chapter One verses 1-4
The letter seems aimed at converted Jews with the reference to James' "brothers and sisters in the Diaspora [dispersion]" According to tradition [history?] the early church in Jerusalem was lead by James the brother of Jesus - a book written by a prominent Messianic Jew to others in their worldwide dispersion.
Perseverance: verses 2 - 4
James doesn't start by saying "if you face trials", it's more a given fact that people will face trial and persectution. This trial and persectution is thought of in a positive context in that it brings about growth in a believer, leading them forward toward maturity ["perfection" in some versions, maturity in others. The more "literal" [KJV, NASB] use perfect as does the Amplified whereas the NIV & NRSV use "maturity" in its place]
Perfect seems unattainable. Almost intimidating in fact. James' call to "consider it pure joy" that we are tempted, persectuted and face the trials of life comes over as, uhhh, "tough"!
Matthew 5:48 says, "Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect." [NIV] or, "You therefore must be perfect [growing into complete maturity of Godliness in mind and character, having reached the proper height of vitue and integrity], as your heavenly Father is perfect." [Amplified]
Fusing the various bits of these verses together to form the "Hawke Version" we get the following:
And let perseverance grow you into complete maturity of Godliness in mind and character, reaching the proper height of vitue and integrity so that you may be perfect and complete (lacking in nothing), as your heavenly Father is perfect.
The goal of perfection is God. Perseverence is the "fertilizer," the external driving force, that grows us and propels us forward toward this point. Without trials we have no need of perseverance - it's easier to believe in God when everything is going right. When everything starts crashing down it is perseverance that holds onto what is known about God and that fertilizes the growth process of our faith. Someone has said that faith isn't faith until its all we are holding onto!
We are told to let endurance work fully. Ouch! There are no quick answers or shortcuts through these God ordained trials. To be obedient to God's call is to actually go "the whole nine yards" facing the trials clinging to Him and Him alone. (personal note: I've found that God often "shakes the tree" so that the fruit that is not ripening properly will drop off. It's a painful process but it does strip out the deadwood from among the fruitful).
by Paul Hawke