Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
Today’s chosen text is an object of great curiosity to many people. James’ instruction to “consider it pure joy… whenever you face trials of many kinds…” appears, at least at first glance, unrealistic and even flippant.
When life hits you with painful difficulties, “pure joy” is not the normal response. In reality, “trials” such as job loss, financial chaos, chronic pain, crippling disease, death of a loved one, and divorce produce an opposite response. Imagine yourself driving home after just getting fired and singing for joy. “Oh boy, I just got canned. Joy, joy, joy!”
James lived during a very difficult time in the life of the early church. He and his “brothers” in Christ were experiencing persecution for their faith. His words were meant to exhort and encourage those early Christians to look, not to their current circumstances, but beyond those trials to something far greater…spiritual maturity. “Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
It should be the desire of every Christian to grow spiritually. However, just like all other worthy pursuits spiritual maturity takes hard work, discipline, dedication, and “perseverance.” Perseverance is the glue that holds our dreams and ambitions together. It says “I’m not going to give up on my dream, no matter what!”
Consider all that is involved in accomplishing any great thing. To receive the trophy of a champion you must pay the price for getting there. “Pure joy” is the emotion experienced by those who have paid the price and gone onto win the great victory. It is experienced by the Olympic athlete when he or she receives a gold medal as tears of joy stream down their face. It is demonstrated by the euphoric jumping, shouting, and cheering of the winning team in the World Series or Super Bowl. They persevered, refused to give up, stayed the course, and achieved their dreams.
We pray for spiritual growth. “Grow me, Lord.” And then hardship or difficulty comes our way and we wonder what happened. Without problems you cannot grow in the faith. If you don’t have anything to trust God for then there is no need for faith. If you are serious about spiritual maturity then you can expect that God will always leave something in your life that requires faith. James says that “the testing of your faith develops perseverance.”
Have you ever worked out with weights? The object, of course, is to gain physical strength. Muscle mass is increased by resistance. To continue growing you must add more weight. The same is true for spiritual growth. God allows “testing” in the form of “trials” for added resistance. If we “persevere” then we attain the desired result of spiritual growth.
“Pure joy” can also be found in the realization that no matter what happens, God is faithful and completely trustworthy. With each “test” and “trial” you will gain a greater appreciation for the very personal involvement of God in your life. As your faith grows so will your confidence in God’s provision and His constant “help in your times of trouble.” (Psalm 46:1) Then your faith will respond expectantly and hopefully. “God, I don’t know how or when you are going to handle this, but I know you will.” You’ll even grow to the point where, in the midst of the trial, you will find yourself saying, “God, I just can’t wait to see the amazing thing You are going to do to handle this predicament.”
Some day you will stand on the victor’s platform to receive your reward from the King of Kings. You will then be “mature and complete…” and “…not lacking anything.” “Pure joy” will be yours for all eternity.
For more on this topic, check out this article: What Does the Lord Require of You?