Being Perfect & Complete (James 1:4) ~ A Daily Devotion for December 31, 2013

“And let steadfastness have its full effect that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” ~ James 1:4

Explanation of Text: Having begun this section with trials, James comes to the conclusion of what trials result in. Perfection! Completion! Lacking in nothing! For this very reason count your trials as joy, because of the effect that they will have on your life. If you look back at your life, when is that you have grown the most? When is it that you have learned the most and gained wisdom? Usually those events are associated with some sort of trial that you had to endure. James is commanding the believers here to rejoice in the trials because of the lessons they bring to your life. In verse four, his command deals specifically with the end result, which is to let steadfastness do its work in you. In other words, allow it to finish. Trials bring about a process of growth in your life, and you are not to interrupt that process. Instead, let God complete his work through it, so that you may complete your work for Him.

The results of steadfastness are so profound and so grant, that James essentially reiterates it three times at the end of the verse! He tells us that steadfastness will result in one being made perfect, complete, and lacking in nothing. The overall meaning of each word is similar, but they have different nuances to them to be considered. The Greek word for perfect, τéλειον, refers to a level of maturity of the believer. Spiros Zodhiates simply defines it as being finished as having reached the moral expectations of God.[1] While similar to that is complete, literally it means whole in every aspect. But this word gives us a different picture of what that means, because it brings about the idea of perfection that was found in man before the fall. Finally, James drives the point home by saying it outright; one who is perfect and complete will be lacking in nothing, therefore, they are whole as God desires man to be. Therefore, this verse can be summarized simply by saying, “Let steadfastness complete its work in you so that you may be perfect as God desires.”

Examination & Application of Text: I went a number of years without paying attention to what God was saying. I was there listening to him, but not really listening to him. I have a friend that always says, “I’m a brick learner.” Ask her to explain that and she will tell you it means that God has to hit her upside the head with a brick for her to understand. Yep, that pretty much describes me too. In 2010, God hit me with a brick. For many years I hadn’t been listening to Him, so that was the only way he could get a hold of me. That was a year of trials for me, with the most difficult being the death of my mother, who had a young age was diagnosed with cancer and died 9 months later. Praise God she was a believer! It took those types of trials for God to finally get at me in such a way that we would listen. God used that as a transformation time in my life……..I’m still far away from perfection, having not been promoted to heaven yet, but it was the trials that God has had to use to cause growth. While the form may be different, the points of the story above are the same for everyone; trials are needed to cause growth because we humans don’t respond as well to other methods of teaching.

The trials become the test in which we have to practically apply what He has taught us in His word. Don’t fight those times, but instead count it joy and let them work in you. Stand back and say God is teaching me something here, then ask Him, what is it that is being taught to you. Trials produce Godly character (1 Peter 5:10). Therefore, rejoice in the trials. To be more specific, it is not about rejoicing in the trials you encounter as much as it is about rejoicing in anticipation of the results that will follow those trials. It is not an easy task, because this is not our natural reaction. It requires diligence, willing to continue anew in each trial. It requires submission, willing to come underneath the teaching of the Father so that you may learn from Him. It requires transformation, willing to let your life be transformed by the teaching by putting it into action in your life.

William Varner rightly says, “There is only one way to mature, and that is through enduring with a joyful attitude the hard knocks of life. This is the goal of the book of James—that by following the “wisdom from above” (Jas 3:17) we will become “mature and complete” followers of the Lord Jesus, who Himself endured to the end (Jas 1:4 niv; Heb 12:2).”[2] Therefore, rejoice at each trial by following the wisdom from above, which is the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 1:18-20).


[1] Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2000), Entry #5046.

[2] William Varner, To Love God and to Love Others: A Devotional Commentary on James (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2012), 8.

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