Journeying through James, 1:4

My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. 4 But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. 5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. James 1:2‑5 (NKJV)

With respect to the word perfection or the verb form to be perfect, God alone is perfect because he needs nothing. He is complete, whole, lacking nothing, and needing nothing. The whole universe, and everything in it, depends on Him. If He didn’t keep it all going, it would cease to exist in an instant. We live and exist only because He does.

When God, in the Scriptures, uses the word perfection to refer to us, His human sons and daughters, He is not referring to what you are. Rather He’s describing what His grace and power in Christ is making you to be. A good analogy for this is a telescope. The word in Greek for perfect is actually where we get the word telescope or telescopic.

When you look at where you are going through the lens of a telescope, you focus on the goal of your journey, where you want to be, more than where you are presently. You fix your hope on that goal, and your journey is aimed at that goal. That’s the way that the Bible speaks of perfection. You have been called by God to be like Jesus. Jesus is the image that we are to focus on as we live out our journeys in this world. The world in general is not focused on Jesus Christ, nor concerned with being like Him, but we are. God’s grace has done this.

Perfection, for us, is a life-long process of being like Christ. We, at best, are an example, a pattern, we’re not the original. God has already made believers perfectly acceptable to Himself by the blood of Christ, so now let us focus being like Christ. As Jesus taught, “I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16 Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them” John 13:15-17 (NIV).

The apostle Paul has a very beautiful prayer in 2 Thessalonians that can remind us that God is really with us in this and that being like Christ is what perfection is all about: “That is why we always pray for you, asking our God to help you live the kind of life he called you to live. We pray that with his power God will help you do the good things you want and perform the works that come from your faith. 12 We pray all this so that the name of our Lord Jesus Christ will have glory in you, and you will have glory in him. That glory comes from the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ” 2 Thessalonians 1:11‑12 (NCV).