If you missed the first day of Jump Start (James 1:1), catch up by clicking here.
Today’s text is James 1:2-4,
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
Yesterday we looked at the themes of James and we saw that if you could boil the book of James down to one theme you could easily argue that theme is suffering. James cares deeply about how Christians respond to the real struggles of life.
Joy is a decision
As a young boy growing up in church I never understood how we should count life’s struggles and trials as joy. At the time, I simply did not have a concept of God that was big enough to handle something that paradoxical. The reality of the Gospel is that we do have a reason to meet the struggles of life head on and it has nothing to do with our feelings.
Joy is a decision, and a hard fought one. This joy is strong and real. It’s not the put-on-a-fake-smile-and-pretend-like everything’s-great counterfeit joy. James claims that if we can choose that strong joy in spite of our circumstances, God will eventually produce something even stronger in our lives: steadfastness.
I love the word “steadfast.” I have it highlighted in my Bible every time I find it. See: My Favorite Word in the Old Testament. It reinforces the idea that joy requires and produces strength.
What counts as a trial?
James writes that we should count “trials of various kinds” as joy. I used to only think this verse applied to martyrs who were brave enough to die for their faith in hostile parts of the world.
But that’s not what the text says.
Trials of various kinds include all the struggles of life, even the ones we’re tempted to think don’t matter to God.
Trials come when…
- Your car engine is fried and the cost to repair is more than the car is worth. Choose joy.
- You have to get a root canal. Choose joy.
- You make bad decisions and have to live with the consequences. Choose joy.
- You get sick at the worst possible time. Choose joy.
- Someone betrays your trust. Choose joy.
We all know it’s hard to choose joy and it doesn’t take a life-changing diagnosis or tragic accident for us to experience “trials of various kinds.” In big trials and small, choose joy and the Bible says you will become steadfast over time. Eventually the big trials seem smaller and smaller because you know God is with you.
Fight or Flight?
Few things show what we’re really made of like adversity. When the trials come, how will you respond?
Even if you don’t always know how you would respond, I bet you know people in your life who respond well to trials – who fight to choose joy instead of fleeing in fear.
This picture below went viral after the Boston Marathon bombing on April 15, 2013.
Can you imagine the chaos? It is estimated that this picture was taken just one second after the bombs went off and look at how these officers are responding! As many ran away in fear, few ran toward the danger, toward the trial.
James is not saying all Christians should become police officers. However, that same attitude is what we should have in the midst of our own trials, no matter how big or small they may be.
These officers responded the way they did because they were experienced and ready, steadfast.
Are you ready to choose joy in the midst of whatever trials come your way today?
Questions for Prayer and Application
1. What is the greatest struggle you’ve ever experienced? Were you able to choose joy? If so, how did that strengthen your faith? If not, what would you do differently? Ask God to help prepare you for your current trials or whatever may be coming your way soon.
2. When you just feel like giving up, what do you do? How do you cope? Are those activities the right choices or do you feel like God might be calling you to a higher level of trust in him?
3. Think of someone who consistently chooses joy in the midst of life’s struggles. How has their strong faith impacted yours? Thank God for them. Send them a message today letting them know that you’re stronger in your faith because of the way they are strong in theirs.