“Man is born for trouble as surely as the sparks fly upward.” Job 5:7.
“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.” James 1:2-4
Strange as it sounds, Count it all joy!
At least there are three schools of thought regarding trials. One group, they are a form of punishment from God. The other group says if we grow and achieve maturity, the problems will eventually go away, and because of your development and maturity, you can live joyfully ever after. The third group has an erroneous notion that they are already spiritually mature, and no trials and temptation would even come against them.
Such pious acting and religious hypocrites believe they live on higher levels and closer to God and look down on others who are wounded by trials and temptations. These are the Pharisees of the time of Jesus. They killed grace at all costs even though they are filled with the knowledge of the law. However, not a trace of grace was found in them. You see, they were quick to drag the sinful women to the foot of Jesus. They are also priests and Levite, who looked the other side of the road and traveled to worship God, ignoring the wounded man on the side of the road. They did not have any clue of the depth of the grace and truth in Jesus. Jesus knew their wicked hearts. He called such pious religious playing people, whitewashed tombs, and blind guides. He said about them- You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel. We have still around us such people- the legalist hypocrites who do not know who Jesus is or what grace is all about.
The fact is this- humanity is people of trouble because we live and mingle with troubled people in this sin-bound and cursed planet earth. No one ever would get exempt from it. This is why the Bible says in Job 5:7, “man is born for trouble as surely as the sparks fly upward.” If sparks fly upward is a universal truth, then man faced with trouble is also a universal truth. Your trials and temptation may be different from mine. However, you have a sharE of it, and I have a share of it. We all share it.
Bible says to be strong in the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul’s advice to Timothy was this – Timothy, you grow in grace. You become strong in grace. As a result, you become an image of Jesus in this fallen world that desperately needs God’s grace and deliverance.
All in it.
As I alluded before, we share the fallen nature. As a result, we do face trials and temptations. We are together in facing these issues. The people whom we trust disappoint us. People whom we loved intimately turns against us. On top of all this matter, we grow old. Families break apart; loved ones die, face sickness, and health issues. Our children make wrong choices and pay for it. The list goes and goes on. The first book, apparently written in the old testament, is the book of Job. It talks about the untold miseries of life. Our Bible verse cited above came from that book.
Now, the first book written in the New Testament is the book of James. It also has a lot to talk about trials and temptations. James wrote to the scattered Christian Jewish believers due to the severe persecution of Christians in the first century. You see, persecution comes in different forms – comes from the world, from the loved ones, from the devil, ungodly and of course, from legalistic hypocrites. This is why James says in 1:2 (b) “various trials and “trials of many kinds.” Your trials and temptations would be different from mine. However, we all face trials and temptations- various kinds of trials.
Why and How?
After addressing the “why” of their trials (which is contextually persecution from fellow Jewish people), James reveals the ‘how’ of the trials—understanding the ‘why’ is always important to figure out the ‘how’ to face it. Understanding ‘what’ caused by trials is cardinal. Then only we move to ‘how’ of facing it.
Interestingly, the ‘how’ of James is a short and sweet phrase. Simple as it sounds, it is a profound statement. He wrote, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials.” Trials are various. Theirs was persecution due to their faith in Jesus Christ. However, the solution is always the same regardless of the nature of the problems. What is it? “Count it all joy.” So strange, isn’t it? Are you out of mind? What is wrong with you, James? Are you serious? How can I count my trial a matter of joy? When checked, the other translations said, “be very fortunate” and “be very glad.” J.B. Phillips translates, “When all kinds of trials and temptations crowd into your lives my brothers, don’t resent them as intruders, but welcome them as friends!” Message Bible says, “Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides.” Now, did you get the idea? ‘Joy, welcome as friends, sheet gift’. In short, put a smile on your face. Do not put a lousy face. Put joyful, a smily face. Easy to talk but hard to do, right? Yes, of course, humanly hard. Naturally, we respond in anger, frustration, cry, and so forth. However, James is not talking about the usual response. He talks about the unusual and unnatural reaction, only the Holy Spirit of God can produce inside us if we see things from God’s perspective. Christian life has a lot to do with un-natural responses because a Christian is born from above. His birth is divine and from heaven. The seed that made him born again was the eternal and everlasting seed, the word of God. The old seed is not the basis or the source of his newly found life in Christ.
Count it all joy, welcome as friends, sheet gift, fortunate – these are the words to remember when faced with trials. This is the divine counsel. You will get this counsel from this world. The world faces various difficulties with hopelessness, bitterness, disappointment, and delusion. On the contrary, a child of God must be willing to count it joy, consider fortunate, welcome as friends, accept a sheer gift. This is the primary difference.
When difficult times emerge, we understand we join humanity’s predicament in it due to the sinful nature of humankind. However, we know we are different in the sense that we are born from above with the eternal and everlasting word of God. The seed that caused us to be born again is not earthly. When faced with various trials.” Watch the phrase, “count it”. It means to reckon, know, understand, or count. Each time we need to reckon or train ourselves to count the trials as joy. This is the divine perspective.
Peter has the same advice in 1 Peter 4:12. He wrote not to be surprised by the trials as though some strange thing were happening to you. Think about your last big trial. There is all the chance you would think a strange thing happened to you. Peter says, do not think it is a strange thing that happened to you. The fact is this – no one is immune from trials, and they are here present. Peter also says there keep on rejoicing over them. The same command we see in the book of James.
Spiritual Exercise Equipment.
Secondly, what James says is this – your faith in God and Jesus Christ is not just a philosophical concept or abstract imaginations. Faith in God is living and active, and it needs to be stretched hard to develop and grow. Faith requires exercise like your body muzzles need to become strong resilient. Trials or testing of faith produces perseverance. Perseverance won’t automatically come in life. When we exercise, we hang tough on the machines so that our muzzles would become strong. Same way, trials, and testing develop perseverance. Perseverance is persistence in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success. You need time and persistence to build your body muzzles.
The same is true in developing your faith with God. Trials allow us to produce perseverance. The outcome is this – out of challenging work of perseverance, you would become mature and complete. It adds these words –“not lacking anything.” Not only do you become mature and complete, but also you end up not lacking anything. What does that mean? I believe trials and your perseverance amid trials- you come out victoriously lacking nothing. God would make sure you would lack nothing, although you thought you do lack many things in the process. You would end up lacking nothing. Job went through severe trials and testings. Did he end up lacking? He ended up lacking nothing because God provided everything, although, in the process, he thought he lost and lacked all. In short, do not quite before the process is completed. Coming out winning lacking nothing needs perseverance amid various trials.
One thing we all need.
Thirdly, one thing we need amid trails is the wisdom of God. To persevere, we need wisdom. There is a chance to quite early from the game by the absence of God’s wisdom. Wisdom of God means understanding matters in God’s perspective, not human perspectives. Here we all need help. “Since you lack wisdom, you must ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” To successfully go through the trials and come out lacking nothing and receiving all from the hand of the Lord, you need God’s wisdom or His perspective. You have to ask God in prayer for wisdom in such difficult times. God says he likes that prayer. He will give wisdom to you when you ask for it. This is a promise from God. Do not think God would find fault with you even if trials caused by your actions. He will not find fault with you. When you ask God gives wisdom generously. Not sparingly but generously. There is one condition to receive wisdom. You must believe God’s promise. You do not doubt when you ask Him. A double-minded person is unstable and unstable and he could not receive anything from the Lord. God promised it. You must believe with all your heart.
Somehow God’s divine plan includes your various trials. It is woven in the divine plan. I do not know why. You probably won’t figure out either. The Bible repeatedly affirms this truth. God allows such trials to develop you to be ready and perfect for his calling and purposes at the due time. The experiences of trials were present in the life of Moses, which equipped him to become the most outstanding leader of the nation Israel to deliver them out of bondage and lead them to the promised land. This included going down from the position of Pharoah’s daughter’s son to a murderer and become nobody. He had to shepherd his father-in-law’s flock for long forty years before God stepped into his life and commissioned him with God’s purposes and plans. David had to go through untold miseries one after another before he became the king of Israel. Even after he became the king, he had to flee his palace due to the rebellion and wickedness of his son. However, God had a bigger plan out of all these trials. You will understand God’s plan when you read the book of Psalms and hear the savior of the world Jesus Christ (who was called by the name son of David) came through his promised lineage in fulfillment of God’s promise to David in 2nd Samuel 7. No trial in the Scripture was wasted by God when it is faced with perseverance. It is the same for you. The loving God would waste no trail of a believer. It has a unique purpose and plan. God will fulfill it at this due time.
Let us recap what we learned.
• Though hard, God asks us to count it all joy when faced with various trials. This is the divine expectation. We have to make it happen with the power of His Spirit and Word, or it would not automatically occur. It is easy to complain, point figures, play blame games. It is easy to get sad and discourage and lose hope. However, He says face trials with joy; understanding God has a big picture in it.
• Our faith must not remain as a hypothesis or an unproven theory. Faith needs exercise to develop into perseverance resulting in lacking nothing. Trials, testing, and temptations are the exercise equipment for faith to grow and mature.
• God’s overall plan allows these unwelcomed guests to visit once in a while so that you and I would be ready for his purposes for our life here on earth at His due time.
• We must not be critical or judgmental about those who are faced with trials and testing. Instead, we must be gracious and compassionate, understanding we are all in it as long as we live her on this planet contaminated by sin.