JAMES 1: 1-4
In recent news we've witnessed perhaps the most terrible persecution of Christians in recent history as ISIS militants in Syria and Iraq are actively beheading Christians, raping and murdering Christian women, murdering Christian children and taking whatever they might have owned. There is no question that these are trials of the magnitude only experienced previously by the early Christians. James was writing to Jewish Christians facing just such trials. They were persecuted, treated maliciously, and even killed. Yet James tells them to “count it all joy”. And while we might not face trials of this extreme, we all face trials daily and need to “count it all joy” as well.
I know you've faced trials in your own life and have wondered, or maybe even asked God, 'What are you doing?' How do you respond when the ripcord snaps? When the lifeboat springs a leak? When you don't have enough money to pay the bills or put food on the table? Most people don't know how to respond to trials God's way.
However, you can learn to do so.
You can respond to trials God's way.
Point 1: What does it mean to “count it all joy”?
A. Counting it all joy is an objective decision- When you “count” something what you're doing is adding up a series of facts to come to a conclusion. You do this in every day life. When you look at your gas meter in your car you add up the facts of your travel through the week to come to a conclusion as to whether you need to put gas in now or later so you keep from running out in the middle of the highway. Likewise you should be adding up the facts of God's record and coming to a conclusion. What are the facts of God's record? Looking at such situations as Shedrach, Meshach and Abdnego, David being pursued by Saul, and the Israelites coming out of Egypt, you can see his record is impeccable. When you encounter difficulties you need to look not at the momentary trials you face, but God's record. He works wonderful things in the lives of those he loves through their trials. You can respond to trials God's way!
So the logical question is, “Why should I respond to trials with joy?”
Point 2: “Let patience have it's perfect work”
A. Beyond the desire you should have to always be in the will of God, you have the promise of your endurance having its perfect work. What is this all about? Trials are opportunities for you to put your faith into practice. In secular terms we would say, “Put your money where your mouth is.” Faith is like training in a martial art or any other sport. If you don't practice repeatedly, going through the drills, working the muscles even when it hurts, you won't achieve the results you could. Trials are opportunities to exercise your faith. You see, faith cannot be exercised without practice, and practice only comes with opportunity. Trials are your opportunity to endure and receive the blessing of faith's perfect work.
And now the pinnacle of this admonition. What is the end result of counting it all joy? What is it that God has in store for you?
Point 3: “That you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”
A. What does James mean by “perfect and complete, lacking nothing”? He means God is at work in your life through these trials to mold you and shape you into the image of His Son. In other words, perfection of the divine character in you! When you endure, exercise your faith and trust that God is working in your life- especially in trials- you have no room for complaining or doubt!
When I was in the Army, in order to complete Basic Training and graduate you had to complete a 15 mile march. This march wasn't a simple boy scout jamboree type march, but a march in full combat gear. You wore your steel pot (helmet), web gear, ruck sack, and carried your M16. I had to carry a few additional items, such as field radio, LAW, and M60. The march was in the middle of summer over difficult rocky terrain. The temperature hit 90 degrees and there were only brief 2 minute stops for water. Along the way I noticed that all the guys complaining, those who grumbled about the heat, the terrain, the lack of rest, the lack of water- these guys started dropping like flies. They couldn't make it through to the end. They were too busy complaining to endure by looking at the end result of all this discomfort. It was those of us who busied ourselves with singing platoon songs and staying positive who endured and graduated.
You can respond to trials God's way.
How do I start doing that?
You have to begin to look at that final result and not at the momentary discomforts of this world. When you catch yourself complaining or grumbling, remind yourself that God is at work in your life, perfecting you, bringing you into the image of Christ. That alone should bring you tremendous joy. These trials aren't curses, but opportunities for God to perfect you so that you “lack nothing”. But you have to change the way you think. You have to cooperate with God's grace to receive the blessing. Change your perspective from that of someone looking through a keyhole and trying to see the whole inner room, to God's perspective, where he can see not just the whole room, but the whole house. It is a conscious decision to trust that God is with you, working on you and loves you. As someone once said, “God loves you just as you are, but he loves you enough not to leave you that way.”