Submission to Suffering Develops Character (James 1:4)

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

James has already made readers question his sanity by encouraging them to rejoice when painful situations come (James 1:2–3) but he follows that up in 1:4 with another strange command.

He encourages these Believers to submit to their suffering. In other words, don’t try to escape the pain that your experiencing right now. Because it’s doing a work in your life for the Glory of God.

Instead of suffering James does use the word “steadfastness” but has already explained this is created by the testing of our faith, or trial that God has placed in our lives (James 1:2-3).

Specifically James is encouraging the Believers to allow their steadfastness (endurance) to grow into maturity. We know this because…

  1. The words full effect when translated means “complete work” [1]
  2. The word “perfect” when translated comes from the same Greek word “teleios” but takes the meaning of maturity
  3. Complete comes from the Greek word “holokleros” which translated means “perfectly sound or whole” in referring to a body [2]

If you will allow me to paraphrase this verse, James is encouraging them to become healthy adults spiritually.

This verse is important because God knows that many people have very strong physical bodies or minds. But few of them have very strong character.

There is good reason for that…
You can’t build character at the local YMCA on a weight machine

There’s just something about pain and suffering that reveals our weaknesses, our selfishness, the demand to have things our way. When faced with the ugly picture of ourselves most of us try to cover it up making ourselves look healthy when we really aren’t.

One of the gyms I used to train at in Australia was broken down into two parts. The downstairs portion had all of their weight machines, while cardio equipment was up a flight of steps. I spent hours were spent on an exercise bike or rowing machine watching men and women below me who were incredibly strong, but in terrible shape.

Oh don’t get me wrong, they would probably be able to rip me in half with their bare hands. However ask them to run up a flight of steps and they’ll be ready to collapse 🙂 Underneath all of that muscle are incredibly weak lungs.

In the same way many of us (myself included) walk around acting as if we are incredibly strong while at the same time covering up our serious character flaws. And James is telling each one of us to stop.

Stop trying to cover up the weakness suffering reveals

  1. Instead allow the pain to highlight your struggles
  2. Confess it as sin against God
  3. And ask Him to transform your life through the reading of Scripture along with prayer

I’m not saying that it will be easy…but as submission to suffering’s work becomes a habit God will develop a true character of Godliness that puts any bodybuilder to shame.



[1]: from the Greek word “teleios” which means- complete (in various applications of labor, growth, mental and moral character, etc.); neuter (as noun, with 3588) completeness: — of full age, man, perfect.

[2]: Complete:   648. oJlo/klhroß holokleros, hol´-ok´-lay-ros; from 3650 and 2819; complete in every part, i.e. perfectly sound (in body): — entire, whole.

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