You suffer a setback, a slip, a fall. An old addiction crops up. Your New Year’s resolution takes a nosedive. Instead of losing fifteen pounds you gain twenty. Instead of getting better, things get worse. Instead of winning friends and influencing people positively, it seems more enemies pop up each day. The depression lingers and the fears grow. Where is the change? What happened to the metamorphosis of the Spirit in you? Why does it seem like real Christlikeness is so far out of reach?
Truth is, real transformation is more often gained an inch at a time than by a mile. Though great strides may come from time to time, God’s instrument of perfecting us is often time itself– time in the furnace, time in the dungeon, time in the trials that perfect and refine. What is it about a hard-won victory that is so sweet?
James reminds us to “count it all joy” (James 1:2) when we encounter the drudgery of trials and the endless miles of the marathon. The result is a steady faith that is not easily shaken. There is a crown of life (v. 12) that awaits us if we endure the tests and trials, a crown that you can see on the heads of those who have endured great suffering and trial in this life; orphans, widows, refugees, prisoners.
God’s ultimate purpose isn’t our comfort, but the “perfecting of our faith” , i.e. the purifying of our relationship with Him and distillation of that precious gold by the ounce. Transformation is costly. The miles often seem as if they are ticking off an inch at a time, but the result is more precious than silver or gold.