[This reply to Thorgerson's post, The Incomparable, was sent in by the Bourgeois Brother in Georgia.]
I found the article compelling as I spent the month of January teaching the first chapter of James to an adult Sunday School class. James's exhortation to the reader is that trials will occur in the life of a believer. The author also gives an insight to the purpose of trials and the right response of the heart of a believer. Quite simply, trials are essential yet often unfortunate events in our lives that are designed to strengthen our faith. The concept of testing with the purpose of strengthening is like a young bird flapping its wings all the while not letting go of the branch until it is strong enough to fly.
James points out the initial response to a trial is not to question God's sovereingty, but to "consider it joy" (v. 2). I can imagine to those who do not know the love of God that statement can appear to be sadistic, yet to a believer it puts a trial into proper perspective by having an understanding mind. With a right understanding comes the right approach to the patience needed in a trial (vv. 3-5). The type of patience noted here requires the individual take an active pursuit of God seeking Him in prayer rather than trying to shelter in place hoping the storm of life will pass over. The prayers offered during this time of patience are really a request for wisdom -- as John MacArthur puts it, "when you go through the trials of life, whatever they might be, it is the intention of God that you recognize the bankruptcy of human reason and the answers that you might get from other people . . . True wisdom, the supernatural wisdom needed to understand the trials of life is not available in the world around us. 'Destruction and death say, We have heard its fame with our ears.' Destruction and death have heard about it. They've not found it . . . they do not find it. And then verse 23 [of Job 28], 'God understands its way and He knows its place.'"
James finishes the section (vv. 6-8) with what I feel is a description of many today -- those who want God to help them in a time of need, but do not want give Him proper place in their life the rest of the time. When trials occur, these double-minded begin to question God, blame God and ultimately reject God. While this usually characterizes a non-believer, Christians are also guilty. Ultimately, as the cycle comes to completion, the right response to trials will bring forth humility. It is when we have been humbled that God can transform our lives with a renewed spirit that seeks after Him.
Please also consider this article by John Piper in World.