Vol.XV No.VIII Pg.4
October 1978

Staying Power

Dan S. Shipley

"Count it all joy, my brethren, when ye fall into manifold temptations; knowing that the proving of your faith worketh patience." (Jas. 1: 2,3). The temptations spoken of by James here refer to trials (In vs. 12 he deals with temptations in the form of enticements.) These trials come in all sizes and shapes as suggested in the term "manifold." They are an inescapable part of life under the sun. But these things that bring despair and misery to most, James says to "count all joy"! Then, he shows why. Trials test one's faith. The testing of faith produces patience and patience produces the spiritual maturity spoken of in v.4: "that ye may be perfect and entire, lacking in nothing". Adversity, then, properly viewed and dealt with, can help us achieve spiritual stature that might otherwise be impossible. The "patience" that comes from the testing of faith as defined by Vine is literally "an abiding under". The ASV footnote calls it "steadfastness". In verb form it is usually rendered "endure". Someone has appropriately termed it "staying power". I like that. Staying power is the pressing need of Christians everywhere — and always has been. It is what these early Christians needed when threatened with oppression and persecution. It is what God's people need today when problems come into the local church, when their good is evil spoken of, when discouragement and disappointments come and when faithfulness to the Lord appears more difficult than ever. When giving up and giving in would be easiest, that's when we need staying power!

James, of course, does not imply that all faith will pass the test. He deals only with conquering faith, its attitude and advantage. It is the nature of the faith, more than the nature of the tribulation that determines the outcome of the test. The same fire will harden clay but melt wax. Someone has well said: "One ship drives east, another drives west, while the selfsame breezes blow. It is not the gale, but the set of the sail that bids them where to go." And so it is with the winds of adversity. They can move us on to maturity or they can drive us to apostasy — depending on the "set of our sail", so to speak. Many of the Hebrew Christians succumbed to the same tribulations wherein others, like the apostle Paul, were strengthened. He says, "we also rejoice in our tribulations: knowing that tribulation worketh steadfastness; and steadfastness, approvedness; and approvedness, hope..." (Rom. 5:2-4).

Problems will continue to come. We can be sure of that. When they do, we will either be their victor or victim. Even if we have once turned back, as did Peter and others, we need not do so again. As we apply ourselves to knowing and doing the word of God we develop the kind of faith that will sustain us; that will provide the staying power that perfects Christian character. We must continually pray (Jas. 1:5) and study for such wisdom as helps us to see afflictions in perspective; to see them as being conquerable, as potentially strengthening and beneficial. With such faith and vision we can endure all things, even to the end (Matt. 10:22).