Consider it all Joy
James 1:1-3 (NRSV) 1 James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,
To the twelve tribes in the Dispersion:
Faith and Wisdom
2 My brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance; 4 and let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing.
Today I am returning to the original format of this blog, where instead of looking at random verses, we read through an entire book. I will tell you that the Gospel of John is my go to book, but in the 21st Century few books can provide as much guidance for daily living as the book of James.
Traditional thinking is that James the Just wrote this letter, and because it was addressed to the Jewish people (the twelve tribes) it is probably an early letter in the life of the Christian church before the Gentiles became an active part of the church. But the letter is vital to each of us today as we seek out the best way to live out our Christian faith.
James was the half-brother of Jesus, and it is interesting that he did not come to believe in Jesus as the Savior until Jesus appeared to him after the resurrection. It is also interesting that the great reformer, Martin Luther, said the book had no more substance than straw. Why would Luther be so harsh? Because at first glimpse James seemed to be promoting salvation through works rather than grace, and Luther was all about grace. But I contend that if we look deeper, we will see that James had a wonderful understanding of grace. So let’s dig in!
James’ letter begins with encouraging the believer that when trials come we are to think of them as something that can produce joy. Why? Because trials reveal the strength of our faith. Jesus himself said in John 16:33 that in this world we will have trouble. When trouble comes, we must not just rely on the faith we have, but allow our faith to grow and flourish and when we react to trouble in this way then we will experience joy.
Joy is a wonderful gift of the Holy Spirit, and it is so much different than happiness. You see, happiness is dependent upon circumstances and circumstances change. But joy is that life-giving quality that literally bubbles up inside of us and the more joy we have, the more we receive, and the more we receive the more we can share our joy with others!
James goes on to say that when our faith is tested, if we can face these trials with joy, then this testing produces endurance. Think for a moment of how vital endurance is in our lives. Some Bible translations use the word “patience” rather than endurance. The meaning is the same–we are not advised to bury our head in the sand and retreat from our troubles by going into LaLa Land, but instead we are told to access the same stamina that would help us win a race. When we respond to trials with faith, joy and endurance, then we will become mature, or complete, Christians.
In faith and grace,
Father God, you alone can provide us with the faith and endurance we need to withstand the trials of dailing living and let joy reign supreme. May each one of us look to You, the Author and Finisher of our Faith, to live our lives as intentional disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
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