Today we begin reading the letter written by James to the church dispersed by persecution. His greeting is very short and rather than give qualifiers for himself such as “Apostle” or “Elder” he called himself simply, “James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Verse 1). It is this role that he encouraged us to take, active humble enduring doers of the word.
Verses 2-4 read,
“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
James immediately got to the meat in his letter. He started with a deep and difficult statement. “Count it all joy…when you meet trials.” He didn’t say suffer through it. He didn’t say lament, groan, and complain. He said to count it all joy. He wasn’t talking to people who had barely faced a hard time in their lives. He was talking to people who had left their homes and moved to other countries because of the persecution they had faced. They had seen brothers and sisters jailed, beaten, and killed. They had very likely lost loved ones, careers, and reputations for Jesus. Even after all that they would continue to face trials of various kinds. It is par for the course of Christianity, not if you face trials, but when you do.
How is it that we can count it all joy? How can we embrace the pain or be joyful even through the tears? Because we know that this bad stuff has good results. Because when we exercise our faith it produces steadfastness which is persistence, stability, dedication, loyalty and faith. And when that persistence has its full effect and we are fully devoted and faithful we will lack nothing. James said, “that you may be perfect and complete.”
I know many people in today’s culture consider our spiritual walk to be one of never-ending search, but James said that our trials faced in a godly manner result in completion, that we will lack nothing. We will lack nothing because we will have the faith to ask God to give us whatever we ask for. If we need wisdom, we ask God and He gives it. If we lack joy, mercy, or whichever of Christ’s characteristics it might be, we ask and God will give it to us. He will conform us to the image of Christ. Verses 5-8 read,
“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. 6 But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. 7 For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; 8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.”
God gives generously. James says though the child of God doing the asking needs to ask with faith. He didn’t refer here to healings and such. He referred to asking God for our spiritual needs. We have to ask with faith because the way God gives us wisdom, patience, and joy is usually through trials. When we go through those trials with faith, knowing there is a good purpose for us, knowing there is a lesson to learn, and maturity to be gained, we can go through it looking to learn the lesson, develop the trait, and become more Christ-like. But if we go through it without faith, we won’t see the lessons, we won’t receive any of the blessings, gifts, or growth the Father has for us. That is an unstable man, not a steadfast one. He hasn’t yet gained the faith in order to develop the endurance. He doesn’t have the wisdom or discernment to see the goodness that can come out of suffering.
Remember this God allows you to suffer for a reason. He is sovereign. He loves you. He works it all together for good for those who love Him. And that good is your completion, your maturation to be like Jesus. Romans 8:28-29 say it like this,
“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.”
The trials we suffer bring about the traits of Christ in us. James said we are to count it all joy. Paul also said we are to rejoice in our suffering and in the hope of the glory of God. Not only does our suffering produce wholeness in us, but it glorifies God! Romans 5:1-5 says,
“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”
So Brothers and Sisters, not if you suffer, but when you do, rejoice! Celebrate and be glad because good things are happening. You are being conformed to Christ’s image, you are being made faithful, perseverant, patient, and wise. The joyful manner you live your life and endure your troubles brings glory to God. Pay attention be wise, have faith, and grow through your hardships, and always always praise God and thank Him for being there with you.