James wrote these words 1900 years ago to Christians whose patience was being tested by a variety of hardships (5:11). Inspiration counseled them to wait for the coming of the Lord to sort everything out and to administer justice that could be neither bought nor bartered.
Job was a prosperous man with a happy family and a strong faith, not unlike the greater number among us today. While not many are as wealthy as Job, most all of us are participating to some degree in this nations boom. Yet the devil, ever mans adversary, perceived that Jobs faith was not so much spiritual as physical. He asserted that Job only had time and room for faith because God had built a hedge around him with things. Satan believed that faith would fail if this hedge were trimmed.
God permitted the devil to try Job, stealing his property and killing his children. By Satans theory, Job should have cursed God and never dropped to knees of prayer again. Instead Job fell to the ground and worshiped, conceding he was no worse off now than when he was born and everything was within Gods prerogative anyway.
Defeated but undeterred, the devil begged the Lord for another opportunity, attacking Jobs person with painful boils. Now even his bed of mourning was unbearable to his flesh and yet Job still refused to curse God and die, as his wife foolishly advised.
After Job persevered a long time and endured the attempts at comfort his three friends made, the man had clearly resisted the devil and the tempter was made to flee from him. God restored what he had lost and then some and Job lived until he was full of days.
Is there anyone among us who would volunteer to repeat Jobs ordeal, who would be willing to test his faith against such trials? Of course, Job himself did not volunteer, but when the test fell in his lap, he proved himself the devils better.
Surely none among us will ever be challenged as severely as Job was and yet we will face our own trials. Our finances will become a distraction as the job market or stock market turn down. Our family will provide sleepless nights when we fight with our mates or our children begin testing their limits. Even our own bodies will wage war against our faith when illness strikes or disease threatens. What will become of our perspective on God when the devil is permitted to afflict us with just one of these?
The devil was compelled to believe in Jobs faith after the man endured, but the tempter still has hope that your faith only thrives because of that hedge that God planted around it. In the end, what didnt kill Job only made him stronger, and in any ordeal, you have the same choice. Every trial can make you stronger if you endure it with grace and overcome it with integrity.
Satan afflicted the apostle Paul numerous times in his ministry, seeking to find that one trial or temptation that would make the man doubt his commission and indulge a little iniquity. He was afflicted physically and emotionally, left penniless at times, homeless at others and burdened with the affairs of churches all over the world each day. The man who had seen Jesus on the Damascus Road and even glimpsed Paradise in a vision had these great blessings tempered by the awful things he had also witnessed.
On top of all this, he was pierced by some unidentified thorn in the flesh. Some surmise it was a physical malady or a series of persecutions that Paul discussed in 2 Corinthians 12, but whatever, it was a messenger from Satan. The devil believes that if he aims enough fiery darts in our direction, eventually one will deal the fatal blow, but Paul took that dart that thorn and by deflecting its evil intent, turned it into something useful (Ephesians 6:16).
Far from making him doubt Gods power and love, this infirmity caused him to seek out God all the more and realize how much he needed divine help. He pleaded with God three times that the thorn might be removed before realizing that it was actually to his benefit. So long as that thorn existed, he would not be overcome with a sense of pride over the great things he had seen; he would always be reminded that he was just a man with the same date before the eternal judge as every other man (Philippians 2:12-14).
Suddenly, Paul begins to look at trials in a different light, taking pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christs sake, understanding that when one is weakened a little by the devil, he can be made stronger by God.
Today we see faith destroyed when a child is killed, when a job is lost, when cancer invades. Messengers from Satan are hitting their marks and the patience of Job and insight of Paul are nowhere to be found. It is purely up to you whether or not your faith is going to be increased or decimated by each trial that comes along. Paul and Job both dropped to their knees, put their fates in Gods hands and trusted that, come what may, the Lord would keep them (Jude 21).
James wrote, Count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work (1:2-4). Gods grace is sufficient to help us endure any trial, if we are willing.