James 1:1-18: Count it ALL Joy!
Have you cross-stitched it? Etched it into wood? Have you colored it? Is it on a plaque in your house? James 1:2 is one of those common phrases, “Count it all joy!”
What does James mean by “All?”
Strong’s defines “all” as the maximum amount or the highest degree.
Jesus said, “‘All’ authority has been given to me … ”
Paul writes, “With ‘all’ wisdom and insight, he has made known to us the mystery of his will …”
That’s the same “all-ness” with which we are to count “IT” joy!
Note that translators have used a variety of words to describe “all” joy … wholly, complete and pure!
All JOY … what is joy?
Joy is a profound sense of well-being that can coincide with sadness, tears, laughter, rage, and suffering. It is deciding to live in light of eternity while honoring the human emotions we experience. Joy is a distinctively Christian reaction to life based on trust in God’s sovereignty. Joy may not be overt but instead it may run deep as we quietly and confidently recognize and rely on God’s goodness to us.
So what’s the “it” referring to? Yes, trials! What does that mean?
Who: Notice James doesn’t say IF you face trials but WHEN you face them … so the who in this passage is all of us.
What: We all experience trials, difficult circumstances, troubles, and suffering. James gives a couple of examples of trials – lacking wisdom, experiencing doubt, lacking resources. But it could also be physical illness, family crises, or relational heartbreak.
When: We might experience trials just because we live in a broken world. But we also experience trials when God tests our faith for the purpose of growing us up into His likeness.
Why: Trials produce perseverance. With perseverance at work we grow, mature, become complete, wholly His. One scholar used the pirates’ extending telescope as an illustration. With each trial, we are extended, we grow, as does the telescope until one day we are fully extended, fully grown, fully made in the likeness of our Savior.
Hebrews speaks to perseverance!
I wrote about perseverance when we were studying Hebrews. Note these few thoughts from the author of Hebrews about how to persevere …
- First, as we read the story of redemption, our faith grows as we consider the work of God in ordinary people. God gives us story after story of the ordinary people He calls to leadership. They were not perfect; many failed multiple times, but the picture is that they persevered in following God.
- Second, throw off the distractions and our pet sins, which we are more prone to allow space in our lives. Even good things can distract us from thinking about God. We had a guest preacher at church this past Sunday – he challenged us to think about God – ALL the time!
- The third and last element enabling us to run with perseverance is fixing our eyes on Jesus, the founder, author, initiator, and pioneer of our faith, and He is the one who will bring it to completion! He’s the one that enables us to persevere in trials.
(You can read this post from Hebrews – Run with Perseverance.)
Notice how Paul and Peter write similar exhortations:
It’s interesting that Paul and Peter also write something very similar to James about the work of trials in our lives.
|James 1:2-4||Romans 5:3 – 5||1 Peter 1:6-7|
|Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.||Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.||In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.|
Wisdom’s Role in Perseverance Resulting in Joy?
While the connection between James’ thoughts on perverance and wisdom are not clear, he does link them with a play on the words, “lacking” and “lacks.” The question in my mind is can anyone persevere without seeking God’s wisdom? I don’t think so. He is the source of our victory and peace in the midst of trials. We see that in Jesus’ words to the disciples in the upper room and in Paul’s thorn in the flesh.
The Apostle Paul had a thorn in his flesh – just what that was, we don’t know. But after asking God multiple times to remove it, Paul finally found rest and satisfaction in the sufficient grace of God. In his trials and tribulations, Christ’s power was most evident.
Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.2 Corinthians 12:9b-10 NIV
Jesus was clear with his disciples in the upper room discourse. He told them that in this world they would have troubles. And he also told them … “But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
If life is coming at you hard right now … I hope you find comfort in these words. In Jesus alone are the words of eternal life!
Father, You who are all knowing, all wise,
The One who secures our victory
And leads us in the paths of righteousness,
Comfort us in our afflictions,
The trials of life that would distract us from worship
And cause our souls to find deep joy
In abiding with You,
So that in every circumstance of life
We will say, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow us
All the days of our lives, and
We will dwell safely in the house of our Lord.