"Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing."
James 1:2-4; ESV
I've found that I look at these verses from two different perspectives, one from victory and one from defeat. From victory I find that this scripture emboldens my faith, it affirms that I have truly persevered through adversity and thus found steadfastness. The issue with this perspective is my narrow mindedness assuming that I can persevere through my own power, alone. What does it mean for my faith to grow when through these trials I believe in my own ability to overcome them? Faith found in myself is empty pride and it is a major hindrance that prevents God from using me, in fact the only growth is in my arrogant ego which produces a malignant growth on the Church. This shortsighted pride I find myself constantly falling into is why I read this Scripture from defeat.
Where victory builds pride, for me, defeat reality checks me. Gazing upon this command in the midst of defeat is all but comforting. I can't honestly say that I am reminded of all my victories when I read this; I think about my failures. The times where I was wrong, outperformed, lazy, unmotivated, lustful, and angry. The constant failure of my pride, ambition, and self-interest manifest themselves in this abysmal shame then consumes my thoughts and envisions this kind of wrathful God that would rather turn from me in disappointment than waste a modicum of his infinite energy rebuking me. Instead of fearing the discipline of God in this place, I fear the loneliness that Jesus felt on the cross as he bore all sin and was forsaken by God. I reminisce on all the missed opportunities I had to find joy and grow, here I again find my shame.
Yet, in the boldness that Christ himself embodied by defying death, I face the rotten fruit of my sinful nature and instead give myself to him. In my perceived strength I realize how it is modeled after the Creator of strength itself and so I submit to him that I may grow in steadfastness. Though this submission doesn't end merely in the trust of my faith, it spreads like wildfire throughout my life. In my shame associated with passivity I submit myself to Christ and find the desire for productivity swelling in myself. In my anger, I submit myself to God and begin to see people as God sees them. In pride I submit myself to the Father, that the power of my gifts through Him may bring glory to His Kingdom.
The advantage from this perspective of James 1:2-4 is that it rests in my ability to trust God rather than myself and encourages me to give all the more of myself to Him. The more growth I experience, the closer to God I grow and the closer to Him I grow, the more like him I become. Here is where I find my victory, not that I was able to accomplish these great feats, but that God himself enabled me to accomplish this great work within me. Thus now changed and imitating the character of God, I love and love endlessly anyone that will accept it, influencing them, the way that God influenced me.