Bible & Theology

Why Should We Count It All Joy?

James has in mind trials that challenge our confidence in God’s goodness, wisdom, faithfulness, or power. Why are we supposed to count falling into such trials all joy?

James gives a two-part answer. The first part is in James 1:3 — “knowing this that the trying of your faith works patience.”The word “knowing” is a participle both in English and in Greek. In both languages, participles are usually subordinate to (dependent upon) the main verb in a sentence. That means that participles give additional information about the main verb.

The word “knowing” is a participle both in English and in Greek. In both languages, participles are usually subordinate to (dependent upon) the main verb in a sentence. That means that participles give additional information about the main verb. In this case, the main verb is “count” (ἡγήσασθε) in James 1:2. The participle in verse 3 gives the reason why James is telling his readers to count faith-testing trials all joy: because we know that such trials of our faith produce patience.

In this case, the main verb is “count” (ἡγήσασθε) in James 1:2. The participle in verse 3 gives the reason why James is telling his readers to count faith-testing trials all joy: because we know that such trials of our faith produce patience.

The word translated patience (ὑπομονήν) is not the ability to stand in a long checkout line at a Walmart without losing your cool. It is the ability to keep on running the 10k marathon when you hit hills in the 7th kilometer. But James isn’t talking about endurance in general. He certainly isn’t talking about physical endurance. He is talking about faith’s endurance. Our faith is like a set of muscles that require practice and exercise to build the stamina necessary to endure the rigors of spiritual battle.

But James isn’t talking about endurance in general. He certainly isn’t talking about physical endurance. He is talking about faith’s endurance. Our faith is like a set of muscles that require practice and exercise to build the stamina necessary to endure the rigors of spiritual battle.

God is much like the drill instructor who wisely and appropriately pushes his soldiers to their limits to build their endurance. An officer knows that his soldiers will be worthless in battle without stamina. We too are soldiers (2 Tim. 2:3-4), but we are of no value in Kingdom warfare without enduring faith (Eph. 6:16; Heb. 11:6). He whose faith in God’s wisdom, power, goodness, or faithfulness wavers in the battle is unsteady, unstable, and displeasing to God. “Let not that man think that he shall receive anything from the Lord” (Jam. 1:6-7).

He whose faith in God’s wisdom, power, goodness, or faithfulness wavers in the battle is unsteady, unstable, and displeasing to God. “Let not that man think that he shall receive anything from the Lord” (Jam. 1:6-7). So God intentionally puts us through tests, not primarily to see if we will believe Him, but rather to strengthen our faith, our confidence in Him. As we come through faith-tests, by His grace, our confidence in God grows firmer and firmer.

So God intentionally puts us through tests, not primarily to see IF we will believe Him, but rather to strengthen our faith, our confidence in Him. As we come through faith-tests, by His grace, our confidence in God grows firmer and firmer. Steadfast and immovable faith greatly glorifies God. It magnifies Him as the All-Sufficient, Fully Trustworthy One. His goodness, wisdom, power, and faithfulness shine brightest when His children continue to trust Him in trials that appear to belie His character.

Steadfast and immovable faith greatly glorifies God. It magnifies Him as the All-Sufficient, Fully Trustworthy One. His goodness, wisdom, power, and faithfulness shine brightest when His children continue to trust Him in trials that appear to belie His character. This is the first reason we should rejoice: God is strengthening our faith and glorifying Himself through our trial(s).

This is the first reason we should rejoice: God is strengthening our faith and glorifying Himself through our trial(s).

James gives the second reason in verse four: “… that you may be perfect, complete, lacking nothing.” (ἵνα ἦτε τέλειοι καὶ ὁλόκληροι ἐν μηδενὶ λειπόμενοι.)

But before he gives the second reason, he gives a second command: “Let endurance have its perfect work.” (ἡ δὲ ὑπομονὴ ἔργον τέλειον ἐχέτω)

What does it means to “let endurance have its perfect work?” Think of the 10k marathon. If a runner gives out after 9k, his endurance did not complete or finish the job. Endurance “has” its perfect work, when it makes it all the way to the finish line. That’s what endurance is supposed to do: take you the distance.

Here’s James’ point. When you’re still in pain, or you’re out of a job, or you’re still not sleeping well, or your situation is getting worse not better, or all of the above are true simultaneously … don’t quit trusting God! Don’t jump off the Potter’s wheel! Continue affirming and trusting in God’s goodness, wisdom, faithfulness, and sovereignty.

Easy to say! Sure it’s easy to say, and Yes, it’s teeth-clenchingly difficult. But that is what James is saying.

But how do you “let endurance have its perfect work?” Just mindlessly mantra Romans 8:28?! No…but to answer the how question will require a separate post.

A key reason not to give up and the second reason we should could it all joy when we fall into various trials is God is using them to make us perfect and complete, lacking nothing.

I think it is a mistake to try to distinguish between “perfect,” “complete,” and “lacking nothing” here. James is piling on the synonyms for effect — like we do when we say it is a wonderful, fabulous, glorious day.

What does perfect mean? It doesn’t mean God is fixing our minds, so they think without logical error. It doesn’t mean God is fixing our bodies, so that they are always hale and hearty.

“Perfect” in James describes the kind of gifts that come down from the Father of Lights (James 1:17), the law of liberty (James 1:25), and the man who is able to bridle his whole body (James 3:2). The variety of items James describes as “perfect” makes it a bit difficult to determine precisely what he has in mind.

Perhaps it is best to allow the other two synonyms he uses to focus his idea for us: complete and lacking nothing. The perfection God is working in our lives is a completeness where nothing that should be present is lacking. That sounds like what Paul describes as “the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Eph. 4:13). In other words, full Christlikeness of character.

Now, unless you are really enthused about gaining spiritual maturity or full Christlikeness, learning that your trials are helping you become fully like Jesus won’t incline you to “all joy.” And, frankly, that is a major part of our problem. We have forgotten that being a disciple of Jesus means making being like him the ultimate and focal object of our life (Mat. 10:24-25).

When we do long to be like Jesus more than we long to be like anyone or anything else, then knowing that God is perfecting us into the image of His Son will be a grounds for great joy.

Originally posted at Exegetical Thoughts and Biblical Theology.

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