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. (James 1:2-4 ESV)
Count it all joy? Seriously?
When life drops it is hard to see the joy.
You’ve just been diagnosed with cancer, joy?
The pressure at your work is difficult to bear, joy?
You and your spouse hardly talk, joy?
There is too much month at the end of the money, joy?
1st century Jews of the dispersion who have fled for your life from intense persecution, are you having fun yet?
According to James, it’s all in what you know.
According to these verses, we know two things in the trial
We know that even when the situation is unwelcome, God is working.
The verse refers to “trials of various kinds.” The trial is an unwelcome situation. Money issue. Physical issue. In the case of the first readers of James, persecution. These are the life drops – the difficulties of being on an imperfect planet with imperfect people.
James teaches us that even though a situation is unwelcome and unexpected that no situation is ever beyond the bounds of the sovereignty of God. Life will drop you. God will not.
As a matter of fact, the passage says in 1:12 that God is paying attention to our response and He rewards us when we respond rightly to the trial. So we can count it joy because we know that God is not only working, He is watching.
There are various places in the Bible in which people stayed encouraged during adversity. How? Because they didn’t necessarily understand the significance of what was happening, but they knew God was working.
- In Acts 5 the apostles were arrested and beaten for preaching the name of Christ. That is certainly unwelcome. But the Bible says they left the council “rejoicing that they had been counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name.” They saw God working in what was otherwise unwelcome.
- In Hebrews the author speaks of the chastening of God, discipline He brings into our lives. Certainly unwelcome, but not unwarranted and something in which God is working. “For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” He. 12:11
- Paul had a thorn in his flesh he asked God to remove. God refused. He did so to teach Paul about His grace. The thorn was unwelcome but God was working.
Your situation may be unwelcome, but be assured, God is working. Joy.