Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. 3 For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. 4 So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.
It’s here that James reminds us of the difficult reality that even for the Christian, there will be trials and temptations. However, the Christian does not have to be a victim of their circumstance, but instead can have victory even in the trying times of trials and testing’s. James tells us that no matter how tough the trials, we can experience joy in the midst of the junk. He starts first with our:
What kind of an attitude do you have when it comes to affliction? James tells us that our heart response to hardship can be one of joy. The term trials, is used to speak of the afflictions and adversities that we encounter in life. These trials can come in a various shapes and sizes, from health challenges, to financial difficulty, to problems at home or work, to persecution for our faith. James says that having the right attitude is the antidote to our affliction. He calls us to consider times of trouble as an opportunity for great joy or pure joy. Notice that we are to consider it pure joy, not part joy and part something else, but pure joy. This call goes against our natural nature, yet it is not a suggestion but a categorical biblical command. Now we must be careful to understand what James is calling for here. He is not suggesting some kind of sadistic happiness in the hurts and losses of life. This is not a call to enjoy being sick, losing a loved one, or getting laid off from a job, or a denial that life often hurts. He is not suggest that we manufacture some kind of phony sense of happiness about our troubles. What James is suggesting is not that we are happy about our trouble but that we find joy in what the trouble produces. The joy in not in the problems but in what is produced. He is calling us to enjoying the sweet fruit that surfaces in the suffering. The term to count or consider is actually an accounting term. It means to take stock of, to consider carefully or investigate fully. When we line up all the numbers and add them all up they will reveal what we really have. So what are the things we are to consider? First we need to consider the facts about trials. James does not say if trials come, but when trials come. A proper perspective on pain means that we will not be surprised by suffering but will live to expect it. Why do trials and tribulations seem to blindsided us, because we don’t expect them, because we have bought into the belief that being a believer means that we will have a problem free life. We need to stop hiding our face in the proverbial sand. Being a believer does not exempt us from trouble. Matthew 5:45 tells us that the rain falls on the just and the unjust alike. Second we should consider the many different types of trials. James says we face trials of many kinds. This can actually refer to two things. First, it can refer to the types of trials. These could be emotional trials, physical trials, or even spiritual trials. Or it can refer to the source of trials, which could be the result of living the Christian life or from the fact that we live in a fallen world. The first is probably what James had in mind as he wrote this letter, for his audience was the “twelve tribes” scattered throughout the earth…” He was addressing those believers who had been uprooted from their homes and families just because they were believers. Today there are still many in this world that are experiencing persecution because of their profession of faith. Christian World Report, says that in China alone, 1100 people are executed monthly just because of their Faith. In some Muslim countries to become a believer is an automatic death sentence. We need to pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ who are experiencing such trials and also take time to give thanks for the momentary window of freedom we presently have to worship God and live out our faith without fear. As well as prepare for the possible day when that door of freedom might slam behind us. Even today for the most part, we have, it pretty good in the western world and few of us are experiencing trials as a result of persecution. Most of our trials come from another source, they are the unknown, unexpected experiences of life. For the most part people do not have control over such experiences. No one could have predicted or controlled the hijacking of the four airplanes by crazed, delusional terrorists and the terror they inflicted at the world trade center. These unexpected trials find you, and seem to show up out of nowhere. Third we need to consider our response to our trials. James says to count it joy when you face them. The Apostle Peter stated it this way 1 Peter 4:12-13: “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through as if something strange were happening to you. Instead be very glad (rejoice) because these trials will make you partners with Christ in His suffering, and afterward you will have the wonderful joy of sharing his glory when it is displayed to all the world.” The message here is that God can bring beauty and benefit out of the bad, because the final product is not bad but a beautiful thing for His glory. We need to evaluate our goals and priorities and learn to live for that which matters most. The truth is our values determine our evaluations. If we value comfort more than character, then trials will be troubling and upset us. If we value the physical and the material more than the spiritual, we will not be able to count it all joy. If we live for the present and not the future, then trials will make us bitter, not better. Job had a proper perspective when it came to trials for he said in Job 23:10, “When God has finished with me, I shall shine as gold.” When trials come, don’t pretend or try to deny the pain, instead learn to look at your trials through the lens of faith not feeling. Because outlook determines outcome, to end with joy, you have to begin with joy. So how do you respond when life deals you lemons? Are you in the middle of a tough trial, then focus on the finish, focus on the product not the pain.