James 1:12 says, “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial,” and James 5:11 says, “We count as blessed those who have persevered.” Read or listen to this chapter of Enduring Trials God’s Way to learn why the one who perseveres under trial is blessed.
Table of contents
- According to James 1:12 and 5:11 Blessed Is the One Who Perseveres Under Trial
- A Persevering Saint Who Was Blessed
The text in this post is from Enduring Trials God’s Way: A Biblical Recipe for Finding Joy in Suffering, and the audio is from the accompanying audiobook. I am praying God uses the book and audiobook to strengthen your faith and exalt Christ!
When I was experiencing a trial, this is part of a message one of my heroes, Dave Zumstein, sent me:
It may seem glorious to you to be a mighty man leading mighty men into battle. I think it is glorious to God to see a man quietly, but strongly, striving to fight the good fight amidst difficult times. When the call comes for difficult times, oh that we might be that type of man.
Dave knew I was an Army officer, so he drew upon something I could appreciate—the contrast between physical and spiritual warfare. Yes, from an earthly perspective, little is more impressive than courageously risking your life in battle. Although, from heaven’s perspective, little is more impressive than enduring trials in a God-honoring way. I try to remember the above quote during trials, hoping that by God’s grace, I might persevere in a way that pleases Him.
According to James 1:12 and 5:11 Blessed Is the One Who Perseveres Under Trial
To encourage us “when the call comes for difficult times,” James 1:12 says, “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial,” and James 5:11 says, “blessed is the man who endures temptation.” The Greek word for “endure” is hypomonē, which is the same word for “patience” in James 1:3 and 4: “knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience (hypomonē). But let patience (hypomonē) have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” Many Bibles translate “patience” as “perseverance” or “endurance.” This is fitting because patience allows believers to endure and enduring requires patience.
If the word “endure” makes you think of tolerating, think instead of the word “persevere” because James is not describing people putting up with trials. He is describing people who persevere during trials. They come through victoriously. They are triumphant and blessed as a result. Some of the blessings, such as maturity, occur in this life. Other blessings occur in the next life when we hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:23).
Blessed Is the One Who Perseveres Under Trial but There Must Be Perseverance
James 1:12 and 5:11 are past tense. Although the NKJV says, “who endure(s)” in both verses, other translations say, “persevered” (NIV), “endured” (NASB), and “remained steadfast” (ESV). All past tense. Why is that? These verses discuss when the trial is over. Even though James 1:2–4, 1:12, and 5:11 are similar, there is an important difference:
- James 1:2–4 discuss what is happening when trials take place—they produce patience, which produces maturity.
- James 1:12 and 5:11 discuss what happens when trials are over—there is blessing for persevering.
Think back to the account with Abraham. After he persevered, Genesis 22:15–17 says:
Then the Angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time out of heaven, and said: “By Myself I have sworn, says the Lord, because you have done this thing, and have not withheld your son, your only son—blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies.
Abraham was blessed after his trial was over. The same took place with Job: “And the Lord restored Job’s losses…Indeed the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before” (Job 42:10). The same took place with King Asa early in his reign when the Ethiopians attacked him and he trusted God. Not only did God give him the victory, he also blessed him with an immense amount of plunder from the battle. Second Chronicles 14:13b–15 records:
And they carried away very much spoil. Then they defeated all the cities around Gerar, for the fear of the Lord came upon them; and they plundered all the cities, for there was exceedingly much spoil in them. They also attacked the livestock enclosures, and carried off sheep and camels in abundance, and returned to Jerusalem.
Similarly, we often receive the blessings God has for us after the trial is over. Although, since the blessing is associated with the trial, without the trial, there is no blessing. We cannot persevere if there is no trial to persevere through. Warren Wiersbe said: “There can be no victories without battles; there can be no peaks without valleys. If you want the blessing, you must be prepared to carry the burden and fight the battle.”1 Imagine a student who says, “I want to be smart, but I do not want to study,” or an athlete who says, “I want to win, but I do not want to practice,” or a business owner who says, “I want to make money, but I do not want to work hard.” In the Christian life, it is equally foolish to say, “I want a blessing, but I do not want to endure. I want a reward, but I do not want to persevere.”
Rather than being discouraging, this should be encouraging. This truth helps us welcome trials because we can look forward to the blessings they provide. This is one more reason we can “count it all joy.”
Blessed Is the One Who Perseveres Under Trial Because He Receives Eternal Life
James 1:12 says, “…for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life…” The NIV and ESV say, “When he has stood the test.” We are saved by grace through faith, so if faith is “tested” and “approved” what should be received? Salvation! That is exactly what James 1:12 promises—the “crown of life” is literally “the crown which consists of life.” Enduring trials does not save any more than works save, but since it reveals faith is genuine the result is eternal life. James wants his readers to be encouraged that when their faith has persevered, they can look forward to heaven with the Lord. Of all the blessings Christians receive because of their faith, this is the greatest.
The Apostle Peter makes the same point in his companion passage:
In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ…receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls (1 Peter 1:6–7, 9).
The book of Hebrews was written to Jews who were considering abandoning the faith because of the trials they were experiencing. They were instructed if they persevered they would be saved. Hebrews 10:36 says: “You have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise.” This is the promise of eternal life.
A Persevering Saint Who Was Blessed
Since persevering through trials is so important, we need to know what it looks like to do so. Fortunately, Scripture provides an example: “Indeed we count them blessed who endure. You have heard of the perseverance of Job and seen the end intended by the Lord—that the Lord is very compassionate and merciful” (James 5:11). How did Job persevere? He persevered the same way everyone perseveres through trials—by maintaining faith in God.
Twice Satan predicted Job would curse God, and at one point Job’s wife even told him to do so. The devil said Job was only faithful to God because of the absence of trials and the abundance of blessings in his life. If God added trials and removed the blessings, Satan was sure Job’s faith would not persevere:
- Job 1:9–11—“Does Job fear [You] for nothing? Have You not made a hedge around him, around his household, and around all that he has on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But stretch out Your hand and touch all that he has, and he will surely curse You to Your face!”
- Job 2:5—“Stretch out Your hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will surely curse You to Your face!”
Satan is the Accuser, so this is what we expect him to say. Job’s wife’s words, on the other hand, are shocking: “Do you still hold fast to your integrity? Curse God and die!” (Job 2:9). What a wonderful woman! I have no idea how one of the greatest men in history ended up with her as a wife, but when you read what she said you learn why the devil killed everyone in Job’s life, but let her live! She was Satan’s servant. Job rebuked her: “You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?” (Job 2:10a). Basically, he said, “As readily as we accept God’s blessings, we must also accept the trials.”
Job succinctly described what it means to persevere when he said, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him” (Job 13:15a). He declared that no matter what happened to him, he would maintain his faith in God. What if Job had not persevered? What if he reached the end of his trials without faith in God? Then he would not have received the crown of life. He would have been like Judas who looked like a believer for some time, but then it was revealed he was unsaved. Believers will persevere and unbelievers will not.
Job Reveals Perseverance Does Not Mean Perfection
Comparing ourselves with Job can be discouraging. Who wants to think they must endure trials as well as he did? We should be encouraged when considering Job’s perseverance though because he was far from perfect. Trials bring us closer to perfection, which means we are not yet perfect. Sin has affected every part of us, including the way we respond to trials. Job is an example of this.
James 5:11 says, “You have heard of the perseverance (or patience) of Job,” but did Job look patient? Did he remain calm, speaking up only to give praise to God? Did he “count it all joy” when experiencing his trials, or did he express frustration and even criticize God regarding his suffering? Consider the following verses.
Job 9:23—“If the scourge slays suddenly, He laughs at the plight of the innocent.”
This is a strong accusation. Job said God mocks the pleas of those killed.
Job 21:4—“As for me, is my complaint against man? And if it were, why should I not be impatient?”
Job said his argument was with God and that he had every reason to be upset.
Job 21:9—“The houses [of the wicked] are safe from fear, neither is the rod of God upon them.”
Job said God is unjust, because He does not punish evildoers.
Job 21:17—“How often is the lamp of the wicked put out? How often does their destruction come upon them, the sorrows God distributes in His anger?”
Job said the wicked live long lives and do not experience the suffering that God inflicts on others.
Job 24:12—“The dying groan in the city, and the souls of the wounded cry out; yet God does not charge [those responsible] with wrong.”
Job brought two accusations against God. First, he claimed God was unconcerned with people’s suffering. Second, he maintained God did not punish those responsible.
Job also became self-righteous. His final speech to his friends oozed with pride as he described his goodness and innocence:
Job 31:35—“Oh, that I had one to hear me! Here is my mark. Oh, that the Almighty would answer me, that my Prosecutor had written a book!”
Job felt so entitled to hear from God that he challenged Him to write out the accusations against him.
Job 31:36—“Surely I would carry [any accusation] on my shoulder, and bind it on me like a crown.”
Job thought the accusations against him were so insignificant he would happily wear them for everyone to see.
Job 31:37—“I would declare to Him the number of my steps; like a prince I would approach Him.”
Job was so confident in his righteousness that he would tell God everything he had done. When God was on Mount Sinai “the people trembled and stood afar off. Then they said to Moses, ‘You speak with us, and we will hear; but let not God speak with us, lest we die.’” (Exodus 20:18b–19). Job on the other hand claimed he would boldly approach God:
Job 31:38–40—“‘If my land cries out against me, and its furrows weep together;
If I have eaten its fruit without money, or caused its owners to lose their lives; then let thistles grow instead of wheat, and weeds instead of barley.’
The words of Job are ended.”
Job said he was so innocent that even the land he owned could not bring an accusation against him! What did Job’s friends say to him after this? Job 32:1 says: “So these three men ceased answering Job because he was righteous in his own eyes.” They knew they could say nothing else to Job, because of the way he viewed himself. Luke 18:9 says the religious leaders “trusted in themselves that they were righteous.” Job was dangerously close to becoming like them, but God loved him enough He would not let this pride remain in his heart. He questioned Job in chapters 38 and 39, and after that:
Job 40:3–5—“Then Job answered the Lord and said:
‘Behold, I am vile; what shall I answer You? I lay my hand over my mouth.
Once I have spoken, but I will not answer; yes, twice, but I will proceed no further.’”
Things have changed considerably from the last time Job spoke. He went from “righteous in his own eyes” to “vile,” from declaring his innocence to wishing he would have “[put his] hand over [his] mouth.” Job spent much of the book wanting an audience with God, but when that opportunity came, it did not go the way he anticipated.
Maybe we are like Job, and we want an audience with God. Perhaps our suffering has made us feel mistreated, and we want to bring our accusations against God. If we start to feel that way, we should remember this account with Job. If we were given our day in court with God, our experience would be no different than his. We would move from “righteous in our own eyes” to “vile,” and from declaring our innocence to wishing we would have remained silent.
Further supporting this, God asked Job more questions in chapters 40 and 41. Then Job spoke again:
Job 42:1–6—Then Job answered the Lord and said:
“I know that You can do everything, and that no purpose of Yours can be withheld from You.
You asked, ‘Who is this who hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.
Listen, please, and let me speak; you said, ‘I will question you, and you shall answer Me.’
I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees You. Therefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”
Two Lessons from Job’s Imperfect Perserverance
Job’s example is doubly instructive. First, he provides encouragement. At times he questioned, criticized, and accused, but he was still a persevering saint. This is not meant to promote sin or disrespect toward God, but it demonstrates persevering through trials does not require perfection.
While it is important to read the victories of great men such as Job, Noah, Abraham, and David, it is also important to read about the times they stumbled. Why? So we can look down on them with disgust, and proudly believe we are better than them? Quite the opposite. Every Christian stumbles, and when that happens, we can be encouraged it even happened to the Heroes of the Faith. Trials test our faith and their accounts teach us that being a Christian does not mean passing every test perfectly.
Second, Job felt “vile” and then he “[abhorred]” himself. This produced something wonderful—his repentance. Job’s example also teaches that if we sin during a trial we must repent.
The Difference between Stumbling and Falling
Paul asked, “Have [the Jews] stumbled that they should fall? Certainly not!” (Romans 11:11a). Stumbling is not the same as falling, and we can see the difference between the two by considering two men who had much in common. Who does this describe?
A well-known man received a unique opportunity when Jesus asked him to become one of the twelve disciples. In accepting the invitation, he was able to be with the Son of God day and night. He became a student of the greatest Teacher in history. When Jesus’ enemies tried to trap Him with penetrating questions, he heard the profound theological answers. He saw miracles that showed the Messiah’s authority over death, nature, demons, and disease. Jesus gave him some of the same divine power to cast out demons and perform miracles. He witnessed firsthand Jesus’ love, grace, and mercy. After experiencing all this, he betrayed Jesus in a strong, convincing way only hours before His crucifixion. Then he felt great sorrow.
Who is the man? If you say Judas, you are right. If you say Peter, you are right. There are plenty of similarities between these men, but one crucial difference. Regarding their faith, Peter stumbled, but Judas fell.
Peter Stumbles, but Recovers
Luke 22:31–34 records:
And the Lord said, “Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.”
But [Peter] said to Him, “Lord, I am ready to go with You, both to prison and to death.”
Then [Jesus] said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster shall not crow this day before you will deny three times that you know Me.”
Notice the words, “that your faith should not fail.” Jesus knew Peter’s faith was about to be tested, so He graciously warned him. He reverted to Peter’s former name, “Simon,” to remind him of his old nature, and repeated it twice to reveal the gravity of the situation. Peter failed to appreciate Jesus’ warning. He responded pridefully, claiming he would not stumble.
Only hours later, Jesus was arrested and Matthew 26:58 says, “Peter followed Him at a distance to the high priest’s courtyard. And he went in and sat with the servants to see [what would happen to Jesus].” During this time they spit on Jesus, beat Him, blindfolded Him, and said, “Prophesy! Who is the one who struck You?” (Mark 14:65, Matthew 26:68). Peter kept his distance because he did not want anyone to recognize him, but his plan failed. Matthew 26:69 says while he “sat outside in the courtyard…a servant girl came to him, saying, ‘You also were with Jesus of Galilee.’” Peter denied Jesus three times and became so angry and desperate that he “began to curse and swear, saying, ‘I do not know the Man!’” (Matthew 26:74 and Mark 14:71).
Peter stumbled when he had the chance to “confess [Jesus] before men” (Luke 12:8). Luke 22:60a–62 records:
Immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed. And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how He had said to him, “Before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.” So Peter went out and wept bitterly.
While being ridiculed and beaten, Jesus made eye contact with Peter. We are not told what Peter saw in that brief look from the Lord, but I suspect it produced the lowest point of his life.
Judas Fell Without Recovering
About the same time that Peter denied Jesus, Judas returned the money to the religious leaders. Matthew 27:3–4 records:
Then Judas, His betrayer, seeing that [Jesus] had been condemned [to die], was remorseful and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.”
Judas betrayed Jesus to the religious leaders for money. Peter denied that he knew Jesus to save himself. Is there much difference between betraying Jesus and denying Him? Not really! Scripture does not tell us who felt worse—Peter or Judas. My suspicion is they felt equally terrible, but the difference is in what their sorrow produced.
Judas felt sorry enough to commit suicide. Peter felt sorry enough to repent. Second Corinthians 7:10 says, “For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death.” Peter was filled with godly sorrow that produced his repentance. Judas was filled with worldly sorrow that produced his death. When Judas and Peter’s faith was tested, Peter stumbled, but Judas fell. Stumbling need not be spiritually fatal.
How do you know whether you have stumbled versus fallen? The answer is contained in the previous words Jesus spoke to Peter: “when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren” (Luke 22:32b). The person who falls does not return to Jesus. The person who only stumbled does return. This is the sign of a true Christian versus an apostate. The famous Scottish preacher Dr. Alexander Whyte said, “The perseverance of the saints is made up of ever new beginnings.”2 God gave new beginnings to Abraham, Moses, David, Jonah, and Peter when they stumbled, and He does the same for us today. Psalm 37:23–24 (NIV) records:
The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him; though he may stumble, he will not fall,
for the Lord upholds him with his hand.
All Christians stumble, but God does not let them fall. The difference between a Peter and a Judas—a backslider and an apostate—is not that one is perfect, and the other is imperfect. Imperfection and stumbling are what they have in common. The difference is that:
- Unbelievers stumble, which results in them falling.
- Believers stumble, but they get up and return to Christ.
- How are patience and endurance similar?
- What do your questions, criticisms, and/or frustrations toward God during trials reveal about your faith?
- Describe the changes in Job from the beginning of his trials to the end. What good did God produce in him?
- How can Job’s example encourage us?
- What is the difference between stumbling and falling?
- Can you think of other examples in Scripture of individuals who stumbled? What about individuals who fell?