“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.” ~ James 1:2-3 (English Standard Version)
Pressures seem to continuously mount on a moment by moment basis in our lives, whether it be in our jobs, in our home, in our personal relationships, or whatever it may be. We are unexpectedly blindsided by the trials in our lives and then we usually respond in a way that is not reflective of the Holy Spirit at work in us. James begins his epistle through teaching that this entire type of thinking by us is faulty and not biblical.
Explanation of the Text: As is typical with James throughout the epistle, he uses the phrase ‘my brothers,’ usually with an admonishment. Here it is indicating that the believers’ response to trials is wrong. This phrase denotes an intimacy between James and his readers, even in times of admonishment. It is an endearing term used to share the love he has for them as fellow believers.
In regards to their wrong response, James corrects them and says that trials should be counted as all joy. The word ‘all’ is used not meaning everything, but rather meaning complete. In other words, they are not to have a superficial joy evidenced by a pretend outward appearance but instead should find completeness of joy in knowing that God is at work through those trials. He is indeed testing your faith.
It is interesting to note that the word testing is used here as a noun, but it is more accurately translated as an adjective that describes one’s faith. In other words, the rendering of the verse could read, ‘your tested faith produces steadfastness.’ This means that one’s faith has already been tested, and it will be proven by its response to trials.
Finally, James indicates that the tested faith will result in steadfastness. The word for steadfastness can mean patience or perseverance. The original Greek language here is very specific by denoting perseverance or patience towards circumstances that one endures, which is different than indicating patience towards people (not that we shouldn’t have patience towards people. Indeed, we should! But it is important to note that James was being specific here by referring to circumstances and not people).
Examination & Application of Text: So often, Christians have the mindset that their lives should be easier. In fact, when we share the Gospel, what do people often say? “Come to Jesus and your life will be better. It will be easier.” James is saying that isn’t true. He says to count it joy when you meet various trials. First off, the use of the word when means that everyone WILL face trials. He didn’t say if you face trials, but when. Therefore, you can expect trials to come your way. He also doesn’t say what types of trials, but says various, meaning they could be anything and likewise, the use of the word ‘kinds’ is plural, denoting not that it simply one trial, but that many will come to believers. Therefore, as a believer in Christ, you should expect that you will have to face trials. The key is how you respond to those trials.
D. Edmond Hiebert puts it this way: “A living faith is demonstrated by its reaction under adversity.” As a believer in Jesus Christ, it will be reflected in your response to those most trying times you encounter. Sometimes it is difficult to find joy in those trying times. James knows that, so he gives his readers a reason to find joy in those trials. It is because God is growing each of the disciples of His Son’s disciples. Joy should be found in every circumstance, because we should be fixated on the work that God is doing, and not focused on our selfish desires. This type of perspective finds joy, not in the here and now, but in the future, when those trials will produce steadfastness in you, a characteristic meant to guide you towards Christlikeness. God is at work in the lives of believers. We know this from Isaiah 64:8 and Romans 9:20-21, in which we are the clay and God is the potter, molding us into the vessels that He needs us to be.
Trials are going to come your way. However, they are meant to build you, to mold you, to develop you in the process of progressive sanctification. Therefore, demonstrate your faith by finding the joy that is to be had in trials, which comes from a future mindset.
One final note though. The Christian life was not meant to be a life lived singularly. As we noted, James used that tender phrase ‘my brothers.’ There is something to be learned in this. As believers, we are called to a life of fellowship with one another (1 Thessalonians 5:11; Hebrews 10:24-25). The epistle of James reveals much about his relationship with his fellow believers. They weren’t just acquaintances, but they were friends who knew each other as such. It was not a superficial relationship. Likewise, one can see the love James has for his fellow slaves. It is a relationship in which accountability also exists, but it exists in that love from Christ that James has for them. Our relationships should be characterized by these same things. Why is this important? Because we are meant to build each other up, which can be done when we face trials. It is not always easy to maintain that future mindset, and thus seeing joy in those trials. Having Christian fellowship helps in that process as we seek to build each other up.
 D. Edmond Hiebert, James, (Winona Lake: BMH Books, 2009), 59.