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 it seems like 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 - I am, according to the above verse, to count those trials as "all joy". 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" because they are necessary for us to grow in our faith. When our faith is tested we learn patience.
But we need to, as James suggests, let patience have it's perfect work. If we only look at our trials and all the bad things that seem to keep happening 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 for your life, you will not count them as all joy.
The Apostle James believed that if we let patience have its perfect work, we will be perfect and complete, equipped with what we need as a follower of Christ and as a witness to others. Patience isn't just exhibited however, by how calm you are while waiting in a line of cars, or at the grocery store checkout. Patience, in Greek, is hypomonē, and literally means steadfastness, constancy or endurance. Strong's Concordance actually says, "In the NT the characteristic of a man who is not swerved from his deliberate purpose and his loyalty to faith and piety by even the greatest trials and sufferings."
So how loyal are you? If you are going through trials at all, ask yourself - are you ready to endure what comes your way and remain faithful to God no matter what? Even if what comes your way isn't something that you would identify as overtly "faith" related? Trials and sufferings don't come only in the form of persecution of your faith. They come as a testament to your faith. How you react to them will say a lot about your faith and trust in God. If they seem to be never-ending (as in my case) don't get discouraged. God allows hardships for a reason. I wholeheartedly believe that when my trials started God allowed them to "perfect" me and now, many years later as I've learned to live with an incurable disease as well as a disability, I wonder when the "perfecting" will be done. But, I then remembered that the Apostle Paul once begged for release from God over a thorn in his flesh. It wasn't a literal thorn. But it was an ailment that he asked God to heal. But God said no, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness," and Paul moved on with that answer, accepting that God was using it for a reason. So following Paul's example, I believe God is using my trials for a reason as well. If more trials come I simply see it as more tests for my faith, because I firmly believe that God does not allow us to be tested unless He is positive we will come through it still faithful to Him, thereby bringing glory to His name. And that is why James says we can count it all joy, because when we remain faithful to God during trials and yes, even tragedies, God is glorified. So whether we recognize it or not, our suffering is for a greater purpose.
Like it or not suffering, sickness and pain are a fact of life, but for the Christian they are meant as an opportunity to let God's glory shine through. So embrace your suffering, your pain - whatever it is - and see it not as something that is meant to defeat you, but as something that is meant to make your life a testament to God's glory.
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