Count It All Joy

by Pastor Patrick Cho

On a couple of the trips when we were in Argentina we had the joy of serving alongside our friend Israel Contreras. Israel worked with Eduardo Buldain’s church planting ministry and helped us as our head interpreter. One thing that stood out about Israel was his attitude during times of hardship. Whenever things didn’t go according to plan or whenever our team was hit with trials, Israel would say, “This is not a problem. It is an opportunity to grow.” I always appreciated this outlook towards trouble because it is consistent with a biblical worldview. He trusted in God’s sovereignty and could take joy even in the midst of trials.

James 1:2-4 is a familiar passage for most believers. “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.” For many in the church, 2009 has already gotten off to a difficult start. Our members are facing trials of various kinds. The literal idea behind the word “various” in this passage is that the trials have a variety of colors. This is one of those comforting truths in the Bible. It doesn’t matter what shade of trial you might be facing, whether you are undergoing an intense time of suffering or some lighter but still troubling times, God still cares. God understands that there are varying degrees of hardship and He gives grace to endure every level.

James tells us in light of these sufferings to “count it all joy.” This is a command from Scripture, and so we must be obedient to it. But like with all commands in Scripture, this one is able to be disobeyed. When suffering enters our lives, the call from God is to consider it all joy. This is not joy mixed with complaint or grief. It is complete. All we are to feel is joy because God is behind the circumstances in our lives. So often we fail in this because of the sinfulness of our hearts. We doubt what God can do through trials. We focus more on the circumstances than on God who is sovereign behind them. Sometimes we are even tempted to blame God and complain to Him when we encounter trials.

The reason why trials are helpful from James’s perspective is that the trials lead to greater growth in faith. The testing of our faith produces steadfastness or endurance. This word has the idea of undergoing hardship and being able to stand up under it. God tests our faith so that we can be better at standing in our faith. This is particularly relevant to me as a new parent. Sometimes baby Eden is sitting up on the bed and we see her losing her balance. Inevitably, we know she is going to fall because she doesn’t possess the strength yet to hold up her heavy head! However, we also know that as she grows she will develop the strength she needs. She’ll slowly learn from all the falling over that she needs to keep herself propped up. Our trials teach us in the same way. At first, we may not be good at trusting the Lord through our difficult circumstances. God’s solution is not to remove trials from our lives but to introduce new ones so that we will better learn to stand.

Ultimately, these trials are what lead to our completion or perfection in the faith. Of course this doesn’t mean that we will no longer sin or fail. Until we die or Christ comes again sin will always be a struggle for us and we will constantly be in the fight for faith. But James says through our patient endurance through trials we will be led to greater completion. Small trials will be less and less of a hindrance for us because we will have learned from experience that God is good and sovereign behind them. Eventually we will learn to endure greater and greater trials because of the grace of God. This testing is meant for our good and God uses our troubles to bring us to great maturity in the faith.

We should thus take hope that God is working in our lives. When we encounter various trials, we can be sure that God is active behind the scenes. In some ways, we should be more concerned if everything is going well. Take some time to consider how God is growing your faith. How is He introducing the kinds of trials into your life that will cause you to lean on Him in a greater way? And how are you responding to those trials? Are you seeking to honor Him through your response or are you simply complaining because times are not easy and comfortable? Thankfully, James gives us a better perspective to see that God is faithful even in the times that might cause us to doubt Him the most.

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The Beacon is the monthly newsletter for Lighthouse Bible Church in San Diego, California. It covers a variety of subjects including LBC events, church history, current events from a Christan perspective, ministry profiles, and messages from our pastors and elders. To join the Beacon ministry, please contact Stephen Rodgers.

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