James 1:2-3 – “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.”
The word “consider” here is in many versions translated as “Count.” This is from the Greek hēgēsasthe, which is an accounting term. The word is associated with organizing or collecting things. James wants us to know right off the bat that everything we deal with in life should be deposits into our account and not withdrawals. He is not talking about our first knee-jerk reaction to instances, but how we categorize that moment in our life as a whole. Where to we put it? What do we “consider” it to be?
You can tell when people have it. They can be happy for a moment, a day, a week…but you know when they have joy in their hearts. They are vibrant, full of life, exciting and excitable, a “joy” to be around. They lift you and others up. They always have something good to say. Positive. Likeable.
But James talks about “pure joy.” Most other versions of the Bible translate this as “all joy.” I think that is what the interpreter saw as “pure joy.” ALL is a good word. Finding joy in ALL things would be “pure” joy.
Many of the other writers in the New Testament start out slowly with their introductions and warming up to whomever they are writing to. But not James. James delves right off into the foundation of his letter with a challenge that most of us as humans cannot live up to. We are to consider everything in life and count it ALL as joy. No matter what you deal with, no matter whom you encounter that tests your faith, no matter the situation of life…it is all joy.
The second thing I notice about this verse is the word “whenever.” Many of the other versions interpret the original text as “when.” Notice it does not say “if.” It says “when.” It IS going to happen. You will not skirt through life without people testing you. Every single day of your life will not be filled with Rainbows and Unicorns. We all have different jobs, different paths, different beliefs, different ways of life, different habits, different hobbies, different upbringings, different loves and hates, but this applies to every single one of us. We WILL face trials of many kinds.
I am pretty sure that I could go anywhere in the world and could ask anyone if they have ever faced a hard time, a hard decision, family or friend trouble and every single person would tell me that at one time or another they have dealt with something. Some more than others and some more severe than others. Monks even lock themselves in from the outside world. Some take a vow of silence and never speak. But how many days go by where one wonders if he made the right decision or wonders what life would be like if he had taken a different path. Priests take a vow to never be with a woman. Nuns take a vow to never be with a man but to live their lives in complete devotion to God. We all make hard decisions. And these decisions are not easy. They are a daily struggle. We are tested every day. We are tried and pecked at by all kinds of evil trying to get us to doubt ourselves, to question our decisions and beliefs, and to quit.
But then James finishes the verse…
“…the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” We will be tested. But how we react to that testing is what matters. We fight, we claw, we spit and get mad. But in the end we must know in our hearts that we have stood up for what we believe is right and have made the decision to do the right thing. We may have lost this battle. We may have been outvoted. We may have to take one for the team. But we are fighting a war. This war is a test of our faith – what we believe in, what we live for. So many people count on us. Are you a leader? Do people watch your moves, your attitudes, your actions? What we do counts. If we stand, it counts. If we give in and fail, it counts.
It is all about trusting God and how we respond. But the main thing here – do you turn TO God or AWAY FROM God when bad things happen? Sometimes I have blamed God for things happening in my life. He is in control. There is nothing that happens in my life that He does not first sign off on and approve. He knows it is coming. He should be the one to blame. That is building a wall between you and God. Same way with people when you play the blame game. Instead of love and trust and forgiveness we blame and hold grudges.
But if we realize that (as the old hymn states) this world is not our home, we are just passing through, then we will know this verse. This is not Heaven. Bad things happen to good people. We WILL have hard times in this lifetime. We will have to deal with death and destruction. We will have to deal with other people – people that weren’t raised the same as us, believe the same as us, and so on. And that will bring about hardship for us in this life. But how will we react? That is what James is getting at here. Will it bring us closer to God and persevere and become stronger? Or will we just want to give up because it’s not really worth the fight?
The fight for right is a good fight. The country song states that “if you don’t stand for something you will fall for anything.” So what do you need to pass the test? What do I need to do to make sure that my faith holds strong, I stand for what is right, and I persevere? So many people are counting on me. So many look up to me and hold me as an example. I cannot fail. I pray my attitude is right. I pray that I am constantly reminded of those who have my back and are willing to support me when I’m down and show me the right path. I pray that I am drawn closer to God and I will refuse to play the blame game.
My attitudes, my actions bring results. Will the end result be failure and quitting or perseverance to make it to the next trial? I’m not quitting. I am going to deposit this into my life, turn to God for strength and know I will get stronger for the next one. Bring it on!