Consider it a great joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you experience various trials, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. ~ James 1:2-3
Explanation of the Text: There is little pleasure to be found in trials. Trials though, serve a great purpose in the development of Christian character when given the right perspective. As James writes to those who know firsthand about suffering through trials, he counsels them through it by assuring them of God’s presence and purpose in trials.
I have yet to meet a person who searches for trials, but instead, most people will work to avoid them. Some will go to extremes to escape the trials that may encumber them. Some will lie in hopes that they can avoid confrontation, others look to felonies in hope that a little bit more will help them get what they need, and some will go so far as to turn to drugs and alcohol in order to avoid engagement with their trials. Avoidance does not neutralize their existence. In fact, James does not write if but when trials come. Such word usage indicates that avoidance of trials is nothing more than apparition and efforts to do so are futile.
Note though that these trials are not merely random attacks, but they are trials that will test one’s faith. Charles Spurgeon writes, “Faith is as vital to salvation as the heart is to the body. Therefore the javelins of the enemy are mainly aimed at this essential grace. Your faith is peculiarly obnoxious to Satan and to the world” (1).
Examination & Application of the Text: Trials are to be looked upon with joy because they perform a service in the lives of believers. Therefore, we accept trials not avoid them. Trials though, bring misery and suffering, so how can they be looked upon with joy?
The answer is simple: because they produce endurance. We noted earlier that these are attacks aimed at undermining one’s faith. However, joyfulness in trials produces a firm faith that endures. Therefore, it is not that the trials are particularly joyful but that the outcomes of the trials are joyful.
Much of our lives are scripted, but trials are not. They cause disarray, unfamiliarity, and result in uncomfortableness. Yet, these trials have the propensity to create endurance (or steadfastness as some other translations say). Therefore, trials should be considered joyful not because the trials themselves are pleasurable, but because the outcome is hopeful.
Questions to Consider:
How do you typically respond to trials? What does this response say about your faith?
What does it mean to consider your trials great joy?
More than why should you consider them great joy, but how can you begin to look at your trials as great joy?
(1) CSB Spurgeon Study Bible. Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 2017. 1661.