Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds,
James 1:2 | NIV | Other Versions | Context
I remember overhearing a sister-in-Christ saying many years ago that she is not sadistic enough to pray for more trials and to rejoice in them. Was that what James meant when he asked us to consider our trials as pure joy? I wonder. There’s admittedly a sense of sadism in it, okay, sadism may be too strong a term, but it’s like somehow getting a cut on your leg and smiling about it even though it hurts. Doesn’t quite make sense, does it? The key to James 1:2 is James 1:3-4 – 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. There’s nothing perverse or disturbing about this, because the key is to turn back to God. Through our trials, we turn back to God, in whom we have hope, and thus gain joy from.
whenever you face trials of many kinds – in other words, when we face all kinds of trials – in other words, when we face any kind of trial.What exactly was James referring to when he said ‘trials’? The term that was used here is generally translated as temptation and connotes affliction and persecution – but I don’t think it refers to the temptations of sin or the temptations of the devil in general, but rather the trials and persecutions one may face for the sake of the Gospel, or in life in general.
There are two main reasons why I feel that James wasn’t talking abou temptations of sin – firstly, looking at the context of this verse, James was writing to the twelve tribes scattered among the nations [James 1:1], the brothers and sisters in Christ in the early church days. Furthermore, the book of James is widely accepted to be one of the earliest, if not the earliest, New Testament book to be written. We’re talking about the early days of the Early Church days, where Christians face immense persecution and leading a christian lifestyle was at times extremely difficult. Secondly, the temptations of sin should be more appropriate to be described as a source of grief rather than a source of joy. Temptations of sin, or temptations of Satan are meant to lure us into sinning against God. Trials – in this context – are not meant to lure us into sinning – even though it is true that at times we may respond to trials by sinning against God.
What, then are some examples of the Biblical examples of these trials? Look at Abraham, when he was asked to offer up his beloved son Isaac as a sacrifice to God. Look at Job, whose afflictions are well-accounted for in the Bible – humanly very unfair perhaps; look at Joseph, who was sold into slavery by his very own brothers, imprisoned for a crime he was innocent of. Look to Jesus. Let’s not view trials in life as punishment, or as a source of grief, but instead, James tells his brothers and sisters in Christ to look upon them with joy.
pure joy – And it’s not just joy, but pure joy. Let us examine the extent of the term used – most versions rendered the term as ‘all joy’, while some versions have it as ‘nothing but joy’. This idea didn’t originate from James – Jesus preached it – Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you [Matthew 5:11-12]. Paul is also famously noted to have said – But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me [2 Cor 12:9|Article].
Pure joy. Nothing but joy. Are you able to view your trials as a joyful thing, and view it as nothing else? Not troublesome, not a source of grief, not that you’d rather be rid of it; not a source of pressure and stress – but joy and only joy? Well, if you do not view your trials as a source of joy, start by doing so, before you begin to think about the idea of pure joy. And if you’re already able to see trials as a source of joy, then begin to remove some of your other negative feelings and perspectives on trials – not that we should express euphoria at our trials – that’s honestly a bit too sadistic no? But learn to be positive and optimistic in our trials, learn to turn to God in our trials, because of our trials – and when we see the hope that is in the Lord, the promise that Christ stood for, that, indeed, is our source of joy and allows us to somehow be able to rejoice in afflictions.
Consider – it’s a matter of perspective, no? If you would allow God to be a source of exceeding joy [Psalm 43:4|Article] for you in your life, and if you would view the trials, the challenges, the persecution, the suffering in your life as blessings from God to mould you, to strengthen you and to build you; then it wouldn’t be that hard to rejoice in your afflictions. The actual progress of how we can view our trials with joy is touched upon in the next two verses – 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 [James 1:3-4]. This idea is also expanded upon in Romans 5:3-5 – 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.
We can rejoice in our trials because there is hope in God. We should rejoice in our trials because we hope in God. It’s merely a matter of perspective. Hard, no kidding, and nobody’s asking you to pray for more suffering and trials. But when they come – as they are bound to – look to God instead, where there is hope, where there is strength, look to God, and do the impossible – rejoice in your afflictions.
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