For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honour, not in passion of lust, like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one should take advantage of and defraud his brother in this matter, because the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also forewarned you and testified. For God did not call us to uncleanness, but in holiness. Therefore he who rejects this does not reject man, but God, who has also given us His Holy Spirit.
Have you ever noticed the first line of the verse above? I mean, really noticed it? If you haven't, let it sink in for a moment. What is God's ultimate will for you? Your sanctification. What does it mean to be sanctified? It means to be made holy or consecrated. God's ultimate goal for you, then, is that you would become holy and consecrated. Why? Because nothing sinful can enter heaven. This is why Jesus was born of a virgin. If he had been born the usual way, he would have been born into a sinful body. God needed a body to house His Shekinah glory on earth (His Holy Spirit). Jesus could do that because he was not born a sinner, and he never sinned while on earth. This is why he was the perfect sacrifice and why he could enter heaven. It is also why all who believe in Jesus Christ are saved. By His stripes, we are healed (Isaiah 53:5), and we are forgiven of our sins (Acts 13:37-39). How then should we live?
If you live your life following Christ's example, you do well. If, however, you say in your heart, "I'm forgiven because I believe in Jesus, therefore it does not matter how I live my life. It is my own to live," then you are living a lie. When you believed in Jesus and accepted His gift of salvation, His forgiveness of your sins and His gift of eternal life, you were, in fact, agreeing to live your life in such a way that it would honour Jesus' sacrifice for you and bring glory to God.
My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials,
Do you count it "all joy" when you fall into various trials? It's not an easy thing to do, is it? It's hard to find joy when your life is falling apart. I speak from experience. I have had my fair share of trials. From a tumour the size of a grapefruit to an incurable disease to mistakes by doctors and a fall down a flight of stairs that left me partially disabled. According to the above verse, I am to count those trials as "all joy." With my five-month stay in the hospital last year that resulted in even more health problems, it seems a bit much to ask. But look at who wrote those words.
James, the brother of Jesus, whose death is debated even to this day, prayed so much on his knees that they became calloused and hard. Some commentaries say he was stoned to death because he refused to deny the Lord. Others say he was beheaded. Either way, he endured his fair share of persecution, as did the rest of the Apostles. Peter was crucified upside down on a cross. The Apostle John was boiled in oil - survived! - and was then exiled to the Island of Patmos, where he would write the book of the Revelation. The Apostle Paul endured prison, snake bites, whippings, beatings, and shipwrecks. Knowing the extreme persecution each new believer faced, James still asked us to count our trials as "all joy." Why? Because they are necessary to grow in our faith. When our faith is tested, we learn patience.
But we need to, as James suggests, let patience have its perfect work. If we only look at our trials and all the bad things that happen to us, our focus gets really distorted. We become depressed when nothing positive happens in our lives. We become discouraged, and if we don't see the real reason for our trials, we might even begin to doubt that God even loves us. Trials, sickness, hardships, call it what you will. If you are enduring them and you don't look at their ultimate purpose in your life, you will not count them as all joy.