Writing to people in troublesome times, the Lord’s brother James called on his readers to:
Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
It seems odd at first to suggest that for each and every trial there is a corresponding reason for joy. This would imply that as trials increase, so do occasions for joy. Our first instinct is certainly not to choose the more difficult path or voluntarily place ourselves in harm’s way. James is of course writing from a distinctly Christian point of view. He had counted the cost of faith in Jesus and obedience to God. He had experienced the consequences of such in his own life. He knew that there was no way around them. Yet he also knew that the Lord would see him safely through.
He was using the word ‘joy’ in the same way that the book of Hebrews does in 12:2 where the writer says of Jesus:
…who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Jesus did not enjoy persecution during his ministry or his death upon the cross. The ‘joy set before him’ was the salvation of the world. He took the long view. Joy has reference to the long term beneficial results of his actions. Were it possible to save the world without going to the cross, Jesus would have avoided it. Were it possible for us to follow Jesus without facing trials, we would surely choose to do that.
Christians who remain faithful to their Lord are granted spiritual safety in this life and spiritual passage to the next. Difficult times and trials related to our faith, are inevitable. Let us face them knowing that God will make us equal to the task when we ask for his help. Let us take the long view. This is spiritual ‘resistance training’ which is able to make us stronger. Trials are there not just to be endured but to be overcome. We do this through the victory that God has already granted us in Christ Jesus. And while God permits us to face trials he is never the source of temptation (Jas 1:13-15).
Enticement to sin has its origins in Satan. He arouses our most base desires and wants us to believe that these are fundamental ‘human rights’. Temptation is the antithesis of joy, for it hides the long term destructive results of sinful behaviour. It lives ‘in the moment’ and ‘for the moment’, as if tomorrow will never come.
When God allows us to face trials, Satan adds temptation to the mix. It is hard to face one without the other. But God is never the source of temptation and will always provide a way for us to resist it and escape. (1 Cor 10:13)
God is with us in good times and hard times. He is the ‘good giver’ of ‘good gifts’, chief of which is salvation in his Son Christ Jesus. (Jas 1:16-18)