What comes to mind when you hear the phrase “pure joy”? A little kid with a giant ice cream cone? A puppy running through autumn leaves? The first dance at a wedding?
I posed this question during a double date the other night and our friend immediately said his wife’s name- it was almost as sweet as the lemon raspberry cheesecake I had just ordered. But you know what probably isn’t top of mind for us when we think about joy?
Trials of various kinds.
And I would hazard that the original recipients of James’ letter didn’t see it that way either- which could be why the Holy Spirit inspired James to write as he did.
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 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 1:2-4
There’s so very much that I’m learning from James as I ponder it throughout the week and review it aloud each Saturday. What I want to focus in on here are the lacking areas, sins, tests, and trials addressed in this letter and the Spirit’s counsel regarding these issues.
He has told us how we should respond to these so that we truly may be mature, complete, and full of abundant life in Christ.
Our Lack: Wisdom. You don’t know what to do, where to go, what to say. If you were gonna say anything, it’d probably be that you.just.can’t.even.
The Spirit’s counsel: Ask our generous God for wisdom – in faith, with no doubting! Every good and perfect gift is from Him, and He has made us His own.
Some of the most hard hitting conviction I’ve ever felt comes from this passage. The reality is that rarely (if ever) want God’s wisdom in and of myself. Why? Because in my old self I don’t love Jesus, in Whom all God’s wisdom and knowledge are hidden (Col. 2:3). I’m afraid His wisdom will guide me to give up my idols and self-reliance. Ergo I need this reminder often. He gives wisdom without reproach to humble and sincere kids and is faithful to produce single-mindedness in us!
Our sin and the test of life: James digs deep into how we interact with other people in our speech and what we do with our stuff and time, etc.
The Spirit’s insights: As sinful humans we’re just the worst. We show favoritism, we pay lip service to sharing but send people away hungry, we curse fellow image-bearers, we fight, we judge each other…James doesn’t sugarcoat the reality of the situation.
But he swiftly points his believing readers to the law of liberty. He writes about God Who brought us forth by the Word of truth and calls us to respond to that great love by treating each other equally. He exhorts us to be generous with our stuff and to speak to one another out of purified hearts. He reminds us to trust that God is the One true Judge. We don’t have to be. That frees us to show mercy and love without limit.
Living this way is truly possible by God’s Spirit Who lives in us. And every believer who stands the test will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him. Keep going!
Suffering & trials: What they sounds like…and never fun.
The Spirit’s encouragement: “As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.”
The prophets were people with natures like ours. God enabled their steadfastness. Job experienced dreadful loss on earth, yet gained Christ for eternity. Our God is compassionate and merciful. We can trust Him. And because of the certainty of His love, I can write this previously bizarre sentence with confidence:
As you walk through your own trials, may you consider it pure joy to do so. ❤️
But seriously…that chocolate ice cream face is pretty close to pure joy 😊