James 1:2-4 Meaning - Patience & Spiritual Maturity through Trials

James 1:2-4 Joy During Trials Produces Patience and Spiritual Maturity

Have you ever experienced trouble that tried your faith and wondered how you should respond? The Bible has much to say about trials in the lives of God’s Children. This Bible study will examine the meaning of James 1:2-4. This Bible Scripture on patience describes the purpose of trials in the lives of Christians and what our response should be.

This is the 3rd in a series of articles examining the trials God allows to test His children, using COVID-19 as an example. The previous post was on the “4 Troubling T’s of Biblical Trials, Tribulations, Temptation and Testing.” To begin the series with the introduction which includes an outline with links to the various posts, please go to “Christlike During the COVID-19 Trial.”

The series is based on a 29-page e-Book on Biblical trials and God’s testing, and how Christians should behave. The e-book is called 7 Spiritual Tests – During the COVID-19 Trial” and is available as a free PDF.


We will examine each verse in James 1:2-4 individually. We will define key words and explain their meanings within each phrase. We will then summarize the meaning of the whole passage and provide a little Q&A.

Context of James 1:2-4

James addresses this passage to Jewish Christians (those of the 12 tribes) who had been scattered from Israel and were now living in Gentile lands. So, the book of James is addressed primarily to those who are believers in Jesus Christ.

James 1:2 – Joy in Trials

James 1:2 meaning - Count Trials and Testing All Joy

The book of James opens immediately with this counter-intuitive challenge: “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations” (James 1:2 KJV). The first section of this Bible study will explain the meaning of this challenging command.

James 1:2 Word Study

It is important to know the exact meaning of words when studying Scripture. As with most English words, these Greek words can have more than one meaning. The proper meaning is based on the immediate context in which the word occurs.

“Count / Consider”

The Greek verb, hegeomai, has two meanings:

  1. To lead, guide, supervise
  2. To think, consider, regard, hold an opinion

In the context of James 1:2, the second meaning is best, so most English versions translate it as either “count” or “consider.” This word is stated as an aorist imperative, which means it is a command to begin doing something. In this case, we are being instructed in how we should begin thinking.

“Joy”chara – This Greek word means joy, delight, reason for gladness

“Fall into / Encounter”peripipto – This word means: fall into, encounter, face, meet with, strike

“Various / Divers”poikilos – various, diversified, many kinds, manifold

“Trials / Temptations”

The Greek noun, peirasmos, translated as “temptations” in the KJV, has two meanings:

  1. Trial, test, examination
  2. Temptation, enticement to sin (to do wrong)

This word can refer to temptation (an enticement to sin as in James 1:13-14) or to testing / trials. While many trials involve some form of temptation, the better meaning in this context is “trials” (which is how most English versions translate the word).

James 1:2 Phrases

Count it All Joy

As noted in the definitions, “Joy” means joy, delight, a reason to rejoice in gladness. “All” can mean each or every, but in this context, it refers to the whole of something. We are to consider trials to be “All Joy,” 100% joyful, pure delight, entirely reasons to rejoice.

In the context of James 1:2, “count” means to consider, regard, hold an opinion. It is an aorist imperative, which means it is a command to begin doing something and continue doing it. In this phrase, we are commanded to begin doing something that does not come naturally. We are commanded to begin considering trials and testing as entirely joyful, as reasons for nothing but joy.

When you Encounter

The word, “When” means when, whenever, as often as. So, the command to count or consider something as all joy applies whenever a specific condition occurs.

As noted in the definitions above, the verb the KJV translates as “fall into” means “encounter, meet, face, fall into.” In context, whenever we encounter trials, we are commanded to consider them as reasons for all joy.

Various Trials

This phrase is translated as “divers temptations” in the KJV. “Divers” is not commonly used in modern English. This adjective means: “various, diversified, many kinds, manifold.”

While the Greek noun translated as “temptations” in the KJV can mean “temptation,” an enticement to sin / do wrong, this in not the meaning in this passage. In the context of “the trying of your faith” in James 1:3, the more accurate meaning in this phrase is “trials, tests, examinations.”

Putting the two words together in the context of James 1:2, “divers temptations” means “various trials” or troubling tests of many kinds.

James 1:2 Exposition

James 1:2 begins with a command in the aorist tense, indicating something we should begin doing. The implication is that we are not doing it now, but we are to start and continue doing what is commanded. We are to begin “considering” something in a different way than we have in the past.

We are commanded to begin considering trials as reasons for “all joy.” This command applies to all trials, all unpleasant, difficult troubles we may encounter. We should not complain about our troubles or consider them as mixed blessings. We are to consider our trials entirely as blessings, reasons to rejoice.

Jesus said we should “rejoice and be exceedingly glad” when we are persecuted or slandered for righteousness and the sake of His name, for then our reward in heaven will be great (Matthew 5:10-12). The apostles demonstrated this attitude when they rejoiced after being beaten for preaching in the name of Jesus, “rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name” (Acts 5:40-41).

People do not naturally consider trouble as a reason to rejoice, but we are commanded to begin doing so. We are commanded to begin considering every problem and difficulty we encounter wholly as a reason for complete joy.

James 1:3 – Trials Produce Patience

James 1:3 meaning - Testing your Faith Produces Patience

“Knowing this” James 1:3 gives us the reason for the challenging command in verse-2.

James 1:3 Word Study

“Testing / Trying”

The Greek noun, dokimionhas, two meanings

  1. The process by which something’s genuineness is determined; test/testing, proving
  2. Genuineness demonstrated as the result of a test; genuine, without impurity

“Produces / Worketh”katergazomai – In context, this verb refers to ‘causing a state or condition, produce, bring about, create

“Patience / Endurance”

The Greek noun, hypomone, refers to the ability to stand or hold up during difficulty. It can be translated with a variety of related words, including: patience, endurance, fortitude, steadfastness, perseverance.

James 1:3 Phrases

The Trying of Your Faith

As noted in the definition above, “trying” refers either to the process by which something’s genuineness is tested / proved or to the genuineness of something demonstrated by testing. In the context of James 1:3, it is the process of testing that produces patience.

In this passage, it is our Christian faith that God is testing, so this phrase refers to the process of testing our faith to prove its genuineness. God allows troubles in our lives as a test to demonstrate our faith (belief / trust) in Him.

Worketh Patience

In this context, “worketh” refers to a result that is caused or produced. In this case, “patience” is the result that is brought about by our testing.

As noted in the above definition, patience is more than just being able to wait calmly. In this passage it refers to patient endurance, having the fortitude to steadfastly persevere through trials of our Christian faith.

Putting the words together, “worketh patience” means “produces patient endurance.”

James 1:3 Exposition

“Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience” (James 1:3 KJV).

The reason we are to consider trials as a reason for joy is because the testing of our faith through trials produces patience, which includes steadfastness and endurance.

It is interesting to note that this command itself can be considered a trial of our faith, and as such should be considered a reason for joy. All Scripture is God’s Word that He has given us for our good (1Timothy 3:16).

We should not cherry pick Bible verses we like. Every verse God has given us should be a reason for joy, including this command to rejoice when we experience testing in the form of troubles and trials.

James 1:4 – Spiritual Maturity Through Trials

James 1:4 KJV meaning - Let Patience make you Perfect and Entire

James 1:4 indicates that “patient endurance” is not the only result God is seeking. It is a means to a greater end, our complete spiritual maturity.

James 1:4 Word Study

“Perfect / Complete”

The Greek adjective, teleios, has 4 possible meanings:

  1. Meeting the highest standard: perfect, complete, expert
  2. To be fully mature: mature, fully grown, adult
  3. To be fully developed in a moral sense: perfect, complete
  4. Initiated (e.g.: into a cult)

In the context of being coupled with “holkleros,” which also means complete, I think the best choice for the meaning of “teleios” in James 1:4 is “to be fully mature” (particularly with regard to spiritual maturity).

“Work / Result”

The Greek verb, ergon, has 4 possible meanings:

  1. Something demonstrated by action: deed, accomplishment
  2. A regular activity: work, occupation, task,
  3. That which is brought into being by work: result, effect
  4. Something being discussed: thing, matter

In the context of James 1:4, the best meaning refers to that which is brought into being by work; a result or effect.

“Complete / Entire”holkleros – This Greek adjective refers to being complete and meeting all expectations: complete, whole, entire, having integrity, intact, blameless.

James 1:4 Phrases

Let patience have her perfect work

“Let patience have” is a present imperative, which means it is something we are to keep on doing continually. Patience is the active subject of this phrase, and we are commanded to keep actively allowing patient endurance to complete its work in us.

In this phrase, “perfect work” refers to “complete result” or “full effect.” We should always allow God’s tests to produce the full effect He intends by patiently enduring through the associated trials and tribulations.

Perfect and Entire

It is interesting to note that James 1:4 uses the word “perfect” / complete / mature (teleios) twice and uses another Greek word with a similar meaning (holkleros – complete, whole, entire).

The reason we are to allow patient endurance have its complete (perfect) result is so we may be “fully mature (teleios) and whole (holkleros)” spiritually.

God wants us to be spiritually mature, not like little children, tossed about by erroneous teaching (Ephesians 4:14). And we are to have one mind and walk in faith, rather than being double minded (James 1:6-8). We are to walk in the Spirit (Romans 8:1, 4; Galatians 5:16, 25) and have the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16).

God is working to conform us to the image of His Son, Jesus Christ (Romans 8:29). He wants us to be completely conformed to Christ’s image, blameless and entirely Christlike in our whole being; always walking in the Spirit.

Wanting Nothing

David said, “The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want” (Psalm 23:1 KJV). Jesus, the good shepherd, takes care of His sheep. He ensures they have every good thing they need.

“Wanting” nothing means lacking nothing. It should be understood that no one has everything in the world, so “lacking nothing” does not mean that there is nothing you do not have. It means you have everything you need. You lack nothing of value or importance.

James 1:4 Exposition

James 1:4 commands us to keep letting endurance in the face of trials produce the complete result God intends. The intended result of trials is that we may be spiritually mature, complete and whole, lacking nothing of value.

Summary of James 1:2-4

James 1:2-4 NKJV meaning - Consider Trials Joy

In this Bible study we learned the meaning of James 1:2-4:

  • James 1:2 – God has commanded us to start considering any trials we encounter as reasons for nothing but joy. We should therefore always rejoice (Philippians 4:4) and give thanks (1 Thessalonians 5:18), even when we experience God’s testing through the troubles of life.
  • James 1:3 – We should rejoice in trials because God’s testing produces patient endurance, which demonstrates the genuineness of our faith.
  • James 1:4 – We must keep patiently enduring through trials so our testing will have the full and complete effect God intends, making us spiritually mature and Christlike.

Putting it all together, James 1:2-4 could be translated as:

James 1:2-4 meaning - Consider Trials and Testing All Joy

Do you consider the trials in your life (including those resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic) as reasons to rejoice? If not, it’s time to start because God is using those trials to sanctify you and conform you to the image of His Son, Jesus Christ.

James 1:2-4 Q&A

This section contains answers to three commonly asked questions regarding James 1:2-4.

What does “Divers Temptations” mean in the KJV?

The Greek adjective translated as “divers” in the King James Version is poikilos. It means: various, diversified, many kinds, manifold.

The Greek noun translated as “temptations” in the KJV is peirasmos. This word has two meanings: 1. Trial, test, examination. 2. Temptation, enticement to sin (to do wrong). In James 1:13-14, “temptation” (an enticement to sin as) is the best meaning.

In the context of “the trial (or testing) of your faith” in James 1:3, the better translation in this James 1:2 is “trials.”

Putting the two words together in context, “divers temptations” means “various trials” or troubling tests of many kinds.

What is the definition of “Patience” in James 1:3-4?

In James 1:3 & 4, “patience” is the KJV translation of the Greek word, hypomone, which refers to the ability to hold up through difficulty. Biblical patience refers to endurance, perseverance, steadfastness and fortitude to be Christlike during trials, temptation and trouble.

What is the definition of “Perfect” in the Bible?

In English, “perfect” usually refers to meeting an ideal standard, free from flaws or defects of any type. But the Bible teaches that only God is perfect, and Jesus Christ was the only perfect person. Everything and everyone else falls short of His glory (Romans 3:23).

In the Bible, being “Perfect” usually refers to being complete, fully developed and/or spiritually mature.

In James 1:4, and other New Testament passages, “perfect” is often used to translate the Greek noun, teleios. This Greek adjective has 4 possible meanings, depending on the context. It can refer to being complete and meeting the highest standard. It can refer to being finished growing into physical maturity. In the Bible, it most often means fully developed (complete) in a moral sense, spiritually mature.

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused “divers temptations,” “various trials” and trouble throughout the whole world. How have you responded to this test? The next post in this series will examine another Scripture on Biblical testing and rejoicing during “the Trial of your Faith,” 1 Peter 1:6-7.

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