Tempered Lives

My brothers and sisters,* whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance; and let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing.
 James 1:2-4

I always thought my dad the smartest person in the world until one day he told me something I found hard to believe.  It happened when, as a boy, I received my first pocketknife and saw on the blade the words, “Tempered Steel”.   Not knowing what that meant, I naturally asked my dad.  But when he told me “Tempered Steel” meant that the steel was made stronger by putting it through fire, it didn’t make sense to me.  It did not compute.  How do you make something stronger by putting it through fire?  Wouldn’t that destroy it?  

But over the years I have come to know that steel is in fact made stronger by fire, and so are we.  Herbert Mallory, in his historical novel, Tempered Steel, likens the tempering of a sword to our own tempering: 

“Thin strips of metal, with a secret powder placed between, are heated in a furnace, drawn and twisted, hammered and folded many times.  Last of all the steel is tempered so that strength and hardness grow tenfold, while the blade is bent like a bow and will spring to perfect form again.”

Today’s scripture likens the tempering of steel to the trials of life that temper us.   James, the author of today’s text and half-brother to our Lord Jesus, is no stranger to trials.  He can assure that trials we fear may destroy us, God uses to make us stronger.  James, therefore, counsels that we “consider it nothing but joy” when we “face trials of any kind.”  He then gives the reason why we can rejoice in our trials: God will use them to make us “mature and complete, lacking in nothing.”  The Greek word hegeomai, translated consider”, often translated in the New Testament “to lead”, denotes not a feeling, but leading with one’s thinking.  It means not being led by our feelings, but by good, sound thinking.  It is to remind ourselves that our trials make us spiritually mature, lacking nothing.

Similarly, the battle-tested apostle Paul encourages us to rejoice in the sufferings that temper our lives: “We also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance and endurance produces character, and character produces hope” (Romans 5:3-4). 

Note the process Paul sets forth in God’s tempering process:  sufferingendurancecharacterhope.  Paul assures that the hope generated through our suffering “does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us” (Romans 5:5).

Here is the wondrous mystery of God what is doing in our lives, tempering us through trials and suffering.  God is making something of us.  He is forging us in the fires of life into mature people of Christ-like character, lacking no good thing.  We can, therefore, “consider it nothing but joy.”

A fellow traveler,
Tim

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