walk in the word
2Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. –James 1:2-4
Think about the statement made by James, the half-brother of Jesus: “For you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.” Did you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness? James is saying that his readers had been taught the concept of growth through difficulty. But did they really grasp it—and do we?
The principle James is applying isn’t automatic or intuitive. Like the first century followers of Jesus, we have to be taught that hardships are what God uses to develop our endurance. Unless we’ve been told how God works, our response to “trials of various kinds” is likely to be anything but “joy.”
So if James’ readers already knew what he was telling them, why did he feel the need to say it again? First, because he realized, like any good teacher, that knowing and doing are two separate steps. Knowing what God can do with trials isn’t the same thing as doing life with that knowledge. Second, he was reminding them of their privilege to respond to God’s work through testing by choosing joy.
We all know there are other choices before us when hard times come. We can get angry with God for His role in allowing the trial. We can get discouraged because we were expecting an easier life with Christ. We can even develop a persistent bad attitude in a trial that doesn’t allow others to see our hope in Him in the middle of what God is doing.
Joy is a much better choice! Not joy for the “trials of various kinds,” but joy over what those trials will accomplish in deepening our faith. Every choice above is a certain kind of “endurance,” but endurance without joy is not a pretty sight. Choosing to be angry, discouraged, and to push others away isn’t the kind of endurance God wants to develop in us.
Rather, He calls us to “press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14). He longs for us to persevere—joyfully!
The way we might say that today is, keep on. Instead of giving up, our objective is to keep on! Keeping on means doing the things you have committed to doing, whether you feel like it or not—don’t give up. The biblical words for keeping on are endurance, perseverance, and steadfastness. Nothing is more essential to success in the Christian life than to keep at it and keep your eyes on the goal of God’s glory. This is a character trait you have to develop. Faith gets you started; joyful steadfastness keeps you going.
Fortunately, God is even more interested in growing your endurance than you are! Almost everything He allows in your life has the purpose of developing perseverance. That’s why, as James 1:3 says, God tests your faith. Not so your faith will fail, but to produce in you a joyful by-product called steadfastness, “that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
Lord, forgive me for struggling with endurance while missing the ingredient of joy too often in my life. Forgive me for times when I’ve put on a game face of keeping on with an attitude that made others wonder what was the point! Teach me again to “count it all joy,” because I know that joy improves the possibility of endurance! Thank You for Nehemiah’s great reminder, “The joy of the Lord is your strength” (8:10)—I can’t endure in my strength, but in Your strength I can endure with joy! In Jesus’ name, amen.
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