"Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” James 1:2-5
On Sunday morning, I watched & listened to a sermon by an OPC minister who was preaching on verse 5 (“If any of you lacks wisdom…”) above. While reading along, the three prior verses caught my eye, and I have been thinking about them frequently since that time. What challenging words these are! James writes many difficult things in his epistle, and this is how he starts out! We might find a command to “muddle through” or “try to be content” or “suffer without grumbling” to seem almost achievable, but James exhorts us to “count it all joy!” This is a perspective and a response that can only be accomplished by seeking God.
Gratefully, our merciful God has given us his spirit, his word, and his church to change our hearts and cause us to seek and recognize him as our source of Joy. Each of these blessings takes the impossible task of “counting it all joy” and make it real in the hearts, minds, and actions of believers:
The Holy Spirit works in our hearts and minds to conform us to the image of Christ. Philippians 1 tells us that God, who has begun a good work in us, WILL be faithful to complete it. What is that work? “That you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.” God WILL accomplish this task in his chosen ones.
We are promised in Paul’s second letter to Timothy that God’s Word is, “breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” We are assured by our Lord that his scriptures will be effective in making us who God wants us to be.
Our brothers and sisters in Christ are there to build each other up. The writer of Hebrews encourages us to, “consider how to stir up one another to love and good works.” We can be this to one another even when we cannot be face-to-face. Consider the encouragement Paul’s letters were to those who received them. Likewise, Paul rejoiced in hearing good reports regarding believers while he was in prison.
In light of these promises, let us take full advantage of the blessings God has given us during this time of trial, that we, also, might count it all joy. A few suggestions:
Be sure to spend time daily in prayer for yourself, your family, and your brothers and sisters in Christ. Seek a confidence and trust in the promised work of the Holy Spirit in yourself and in other believers.
Seek joy from the heavenly perspective offered in the scriptures. In this very passage, James tells us we may be joyful because we, “know that the testing of [our] faith produces steadfastness.” Let us remember that trials are not punishments, but blessings sent by God to accomplish his promised ends: His glory and our good.
Do not be afraid to seek support and encouragement from your brothers & sisters, and from your elders and deacons.
Likewise, eagerly seek opportunities to be an encouragement to other believers. Reach out in care and service to those who need help. Pray for one another. Call or send notes of encouragement to one another.
Let us all make God our treasure, count our trials as joy, and eagerly long for the day when the Kingdom of Heaven will be consummated and we will fully realize our Lord’s promises: That day will be here soon!
—Elder Robb Leatherwood