Our team at Avenue Church is preaching through the letter of James. There is always more content than can make it in the sermon. I will be regularly blogging through the book of James as a way to go deeper.
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (Jas 1:2–4, NIV)
I remember the very first time I read anything from the Book of James. I was at church camp at Jumonville, our UMC Conference Camp in Western Pennsylvania. I was talking to one of the counselors about something I was wrestling with. Whatever my struggle was did not meet the criteria of a true crisis, but it sure felt like it at 14. He turned to James 1 and shared with me today’s passage.
Maybe it was the only passage the counselor knew or maybe it was the Holy Spirit, but I am grateful for being exposed to that passage at an early age. It taught me that trials and struggles ARE going to happen. They are a normal part of the Christian life. Of course, getting older, the reality of trials and struggles are even more obvious.
What does it mean to “consider it pure joy…whenever you face trials…?” My answer? When we face trials, struggles, and difficult seasons we are to choose joy. How can we choose joy in the midst of trials? Because we know that God is at work in the midst of trials. While God may work behind the scenes, God is still working. James writes that it is through trials that are made mature in our faith- not lacking anything. We can choose joy because we know that God has brought us through (yet again) and is maturing our faith.
I met with a grieving daughter the other day. She had recently lost her father, somewhat unexpectently, to cancer. She was tearful and it was evident through her words how much she missed and loved her father. She said that in the midst of her grief, she was intentionally working on gratitude. She had a journal where she wrote down the things she was thankful for. The more she wrote in her journal, the more joy she had because it became clearer that God was at work in her life in spite of losing her father.
Are you going through a trial? Bad health? The loss of a loved one? Financial crisis? Choose joy. Allow your heart to be filled by the faithful presence of Jesus Christ who is always by our side.