Trials accomplish two important works in our lives. First, trials improve, or mature, us. Second, trials test our faith. Augustine said:
“Trials come to prove us and improve us.”
I used to be a school teacher, and now I am a pastor. Both professions involve instructing others. I don’t want to sound overly simple, but good teachers provide information people don’t already know. If they already knew it, they wouldn’t need the instruction! Most letters in the New Testament are instructive. There is the occasional time an epistle will say, “I want to remind you…” but primarily they were written to provide new information. This is why James 1:3 is so unique! In the ESV and NIV it says:
You know that the testing of your faith produces [patience].
James was not teaching something new. He was telling readers what they already knew about trials. They test our faith!
There are weaknesses with the English language. One weakness relates to the word “know.” For example, I use the same English word when I say, “I know my dad” as when I say, “I know of Abraham Lincoln.” Obviously, I know my dad much differently than I know President Lincoln. We add the word “of” to differentiate between the types of knowing: knowing someone versus knowing of someone:
- The Greek word for “knowing of” is epistamai. It means, “To put one’s attention on, fix one’s thoughts on, be acquainted with.” This is knowledge, but with no personal interaction or relationship.
- The Greek word for “knowing” personally is ginōskō, and it means, “to learn to know, get a knowledge of, feel.” This is intimate knowledge. Ginōskō is used in Matthew 1:25 to say, “[Joseph] did not know (ginōskō) [Mary] till she had brought forth her firstborn Son.”