I love classic cars. My favorite is a 1955 Chevy. With a candy-apple red paint scheme and nice chrome, there is not a more beautiful car on the road. If I were a wealthy man, I would buy an old ’55 and restore it. I would also buy a 1940 Ford for my dad – he sold that car early on when my parents married and I’d like to restore a little bit of those years for him.
For a while I enjoyed watching the show Overhaulin’ on TLC. In each episode, they would take a car, strip it down to sheet metal, and rebuild it for an unsuspecting person. It was awesome watching them strip away rust and pull out rotting interior. All the junk in the car was removed and it was put back together the right way. Clean, pristine, and ready to go. All in 7 days!
James 1:4 gives us a picture of this same process for Christ-followers. “And let endurance have its complete effect, in order that you might be complete and whole, lacking in nothing.” Here James expands on the word endurance from verse 3. He insists that we let this tenacious endurance, this fortitude, this testing process accomplish all God intends for it.
James describes this work as “perfect” or “complete.” This expression can denote not only perfection but maturity. Both meanings seem intended here: we can aspire to maturity in this lifetime but we will ultimately attain perfection in the hereafter. As believers, we must constantly strive for perfection, even while knowing that we will never fully reach it until our resurrection and glorification.
James moves on, expanding the purpose of endurance. Perseverance itself is not the ultimate goal; James has something else in mind. He repeats the idea of maturity or perfection, qualifying it with “whole” or “complete.” This word summarizes what a Christian should become. Perfection is not just a maturing of character. Perfection is the process of stripping away the junk and putting in place beautiful character traits that dazzle and sparkle. We are stripped down, then rebuilt. All new.
Rust-buckets to clear-coated, candy-apple red perfection. We shine like the stars in the heavens.
Testing is the process that makes it happen.
When we go through periods of testing, we need to keep in mind that image of perfection that is being formed. When the testing is over we can look in the mirror and see more and more the reflection of Christ. He is what perfection looks like. He is as we were to be.