Feb 23

Joy in Trials

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1:2-4

               This is one of those hard passages to deal with, not on a theological or cognitive level, but in the practical day-to-day life. James is not telling us to be joyful because of the difficult situation, but because of what God can do through it in our lives. It is a joy flowing out of faith. The joy from a confident trust in God’s work. I speak from experience that this is possible. I am a cancer survivor, four months of my 21st year where filled with surgery and chemotherapy. There’s nothing like 8 hours a day having drugs pumped into your body that will teach you perseverance. I didn’t have a joy like I was happy all the time, but a steady faith, I was at peace. I was glad because I knew God was at work in my life and I look back on that time with joy. I saw my faith strengthened and my witness affected others around me. I wouldn’t be in ministry today if not for that time. I think this is what James is talking about, not just an emotional feeling of happiness.  

                The writer of this book is James, the brother of Jesus. He was a leader in the early church in Jerusalem and well respected. The book of Acts mentions him numerous times where we can learn more about him. Tradition even makes mention that he was called “camel knees” because of the callouses formed on his knees from the amount of time he spent on them in prayer. James probably wrote this letter around 44 A.D. His purpose was to give practical teaching and encouragement to the Jewish Christians spread throughout the land. At this time in history, the church would have been primarily Jewish Christians and Paul just starting his missionary tours to the Gentiles.  

                The Christians who were outside of Jerusalem would have faced a unique set of challenges. For one, the Roman’s would reject them because they were Jewish. Second, the Jews would also reject them because they were Christian. They dealt with the persecution of being a social outcast in all areas of life and the trials of poverty that so easily followed those who were outcast. Following Christ had made their life physically challenging, but there was hope.  

                God was going to use the hardships of this life to change them from the inside out. There was no promise that God would make their life easy or provide them health and wealth if only they had enough faith. No promise that their children would be well fed. No, the promise was that they would grow to maturity as God developed their character and faith. God was using physical hardships to reap a spiritual blessing.

                This same word of encouragement applies to us today. Yes, the situations are different, the trials are not the same, but the principle still applies. When hardship comes, handle it in trust and faith. Even have Joy that God is working in your life. We too often follow the world’s philosophy that there is a great divide between the physical world and spiritual world. The world believes that the two shouldn’t interact. That there should be a separation of church and state on the government level, separation of work and faith on the professional level, and separation of the inner life and outer life at the personal level. However, in reality, God made the physical and spiritual worlds intricately bound together. Your physical actions and mental attitude affect you morally and eternally. Those who stand faithful through trials, God molds into Christ-like children and ultimately gives them the crown of life.

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