We have endured a difficult two weeks at GPBC. We had no less than six emergency hospitalizations in the last ten days. These are significant trials and we are hurting.
In such times we think of passages of Scripture that deal with trials. Inevitably, we will come to James 1:2-4. Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
Count it all joy? Really? The idea is simple. James tells us that God is working a greater purpose through our trials, namely, our maturing as Christians, and therefore we can rejoice in times of trial.
The hard part about this passage is the phrase “various trials.” Some translations have “variegated trials” or “trials of many kinds.” This means that we are called to rejoice over all kinds of trials. Uh oh.
Trials that result from persecution seem like the “easiest” to bear because in such trials we are testifying of Jesus Christ. But what about the other kinds? The sickness kind? The financial kind? The emotional kind? The car accident kind?
This “rejoicing” is not trite, surface level happiness. It is a deep seeded joy that acknowledges pain but embraces as a hard truth the existence of God’s greater plan. In fact, the adjective “all” in “Count it all joy” is an intensive of degree. This joy is “pure joy.” We do not minimize the pain of these various trials, but we also must not give in to despair.
Many suggest is it wise to avoid passages like James 1:2-4 during times of trial. I fear that this is motivated by a desire to avoid hard truths. In times of trial the hard truths are the ones we need the most. James 1:2-4 was written for times of trial.
I have been greatly encouraged by our church body’s response to our brothers and sisters in trial. Even more so, I have been encouraged by our brothers and sisters in the trials themselves. They have modeled to me how to consider these various trials as pure joy. Let us count these trials as pure joy, because we know God is at work.