James’ letter to the church starts by encouraging the readers to ‘count it pure joy whenever you face trials of many kinds’ James 1 : 2 NIV. In other translations the encouragement is to ‘consider it all joy, when encountering various trials’ RSV . It’s a challenging exhortation to get our heads round in the 21st century, where our life goals are more often directed towards happiness and comfortable living.
James, however, inspired by the Holy Spirit, encourages us to count these trials as ‘pure joy’ because of all the amazing things that they will produce in our life. They will test our faith, which in turn will help us to persevere, and somehow perseverance we are told, will make us mature and complete, not lacking anything (verses 2 and 3). Quite amazing!
When we consider our circumstances in the midst of a ‘trial’, we don’t always know whether our circumstances are caused by an attack of the enemy, a consequence of living in a fallen world, the result of someones’ sin or even the consequence of our own sin or choices. We can spend much time agonising about how we came to be in the middle of such a trial, about how we should pray and how we should handle it, and we may be battling emotions like fear, anger or condemnation.
Whatever the source of the trial, we know from Hebrews 12 : 1-12 that struggling against sin and enduring hardship is all used by God to train and discipline us, and the wonderful thing about that, is that it is a sign, that we really are His children (verse 7). Like James, the writer to the Hebrews also points out that His discipline might not be pleasant, but it will yield beautiful fruit in our lives (verse 11)
We know that the Lord in His love, by the power of His Holy Spirit, will take any trial, from any cause, and use it to mold us and mature us. We also know that He will probably be able to do that faster and quicker if we offer our thanks to Him in the midst of the trial, thereby making a way for Him to come and do His wonderful transformational work in our hearts, and minds, and deep in our spirits.
We might not know where the trial is coming from, and we might not understand it at the time, but as we intentionally ‘count it pure joy’ by thanking God in our difficult circumstances we will travel through it, being changed to be more like Jesus every day, and we will also guard our hearts from the discouragement or perplexity, that work against us. In Hebrews 12 : 2 We are encouraged to ‘fix our eyes on Jesus’ who suffered for the ‘Joy set before Him’. Part of that joy was seeing the likes of you and me come into His family. Isaiah 53 : 10,11. So now that we are in His family let us count it ‘pure joy’ that He is working in us, through our trials, and that He loves us enough to make sure we are ‘changed to be like Him’ 2 Corinthians 3 : 18.