Spirit of Grace Ministries
Spirit of Grace Ministries
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Consider it all Joy

By Dennis Pollock


In the New Testament we read of many "commands," where God tells us what we must do or avoid doing. We are not saved by keeping these commands, of course. We are saved by trusting in Jesus. Still God has very definite ideas about how He wants His children to live. And of all the commands and exhortations given to the people of God, I think James gives us one of the most difficult. We find it in the first chapter of the Book of James, where we are told:

My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials… (James 1:2)

All of us go through hardships, painful seasons, and sometimes tragedies, those nail-biting, mind-numbing ordeals that bring tears and sleepless nights, and counting it "all joy" in these times is difficult, some would say impossible. I think it is a little easier to understand this command when we consider the words "count it" all joy. He does not say put a fake smile on your face or tell us to try to force our emotions into a state of blissful ecstasy. We are to "count it" joy; that is, we are to mark it down as a reason for joy, even though we may not feel even the slightest trace of joy or happiness. The famous hymn says, "And now I am happy all the day," but the truth is we are not happy every day. Some days and in some circumstances we are miserable. We cannot force our emotions to do an immediate 180, and turn terrible sadness into great happiness, but we can recognize, through our knowledge of God's ways, that even in the worst of tragedies, struggles, or fears, God surely has a silver lining in the darkest and blackest of our clouds.

Sometimes Easy, Sometimes Not

It's easy to count it joy in the blessed times: you've just been given a new car, or you've just been hired at your dream job, or you've just had Mr. Right propose to you, or Miss Right has said "yes" to your proposal. We don't have to work very hard to count those times as all joy. Joy comes easily and naturally, without us having to try at all. But when our lives seem to be falling apart, that is when we must count it joy as an act of our will, even when our emotions are busy with misery and gloom.

In the next verse we are told why we can do this; why we can count painful struggles as a good thing, even as a reason to be joyful, even if we don't feel it right now. James tells us: "knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience…" (James 1:3). Now we know why we can mark it down in our journal as "all joy" – God is using this affliction to produce patience.

The virtue of patience is not at the top of the list of most desired virtues for most people. If a large group of Christians were asked: "What would you like God to do in your life?" few would respond, "I want patience. I just want God to make me so incredibly patient. In fact, I would love to be the most patient person in my church, no, make that in my entire city. I just wish God would zap me with patience far above and beyond anything I could ever dream of, until everybody would call me Mr. Patience, or Ms Patience." Some might want love, some might want faith, some might want a nice house or a large bank account, but nobody would ask God for a great measure of patience.

We realize that in order to grow in patience, we are going to have to endure difficulties, struggles, and delays. Inherent within the idea of patience is the necessity of enduring delays and long seasons of waiting while things are not exactly fun, or in some cases, they are absolutely miserable. We vainly hope that we could just gain patience by God touching our hearts and making it happen instantly, without the need for problems, hassles, and delays, but it never works like that. The Bible tells us "We also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope.." (Romans 5:3-4) Paul is saying the same thing James is saying: hard times can and should make us patient and build endurance in our character. They don't always do this for everyone. Some people become bitter and angry as a result of difficulties and struggles, but for God's people it should work the opposite way. Our struggles should make us better, and James is telling us to "count it all joy" when we face trials of different kinds, KNOWING that the testing of our faith produces patience. When Paul gives a list of the various attributes that make up the love of God, he puts patience at the top of the list, writing to the Corinthians: "Love is patient, love is kind, it is not envious…" (1 Corinthians 13:4).

Faith & Patience

When Christians face a challenge or an attack from the evil one, their first response should be, and often is to pray. We talk to God about our latest fear, and we ask Him to intervene and bring deliverance. It may involve serious illness, or the loss of a job, or the drying up of a major source of income that we depend upon. If every time we pray, God moves immediately, and we receive a check in the mail that very day, or run into someone who offers us a job that pays twice what we were making before, or if we were sick, and within an hour after praying all our symptoms disappear and we feel perfectly well… if these kinds of immediate answers to prayer always happened, there would be no need for patience. Patience is only relevant when there is the delay factor. Things do not happen the day we first begin to pray over the situation, or perhaps months have gone by and still there is no apparent response from God. These are times when patience is tested, developed, and perfected. We pray, and keep on praying and praising, while we quietly and confidently look to the Lord to intervene on our behalf.

Our Lord Jesus encourages us to pray to the Father in His name, and tells us that our prayers will be answered, but He never guarantees immediate answers. What He does guarantee is that we will face struggles and tribulations that will require prayer and patience, saying, "In this world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer. I have overcome the world." (John 16:33).

Problems are guaranteed; answers to prayer are likewise guaranteed. But faith and patience make up the bridge that links our problems to God's answers to our prayers. The Bible says, "Do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises." (Hebrews 6:12).

Allow God to Work

Once we put our faith in Jesus and His death and resurrection, we become children of God. Most of us will live many years and decades beyond that fateful event. We do not become born again, and suddenly a fiery chariot comes down and takes us to heaven.
We will have to grind it out, day after day and year after year, experiencing joys and sorrows, pleasures and struggles, blessings and fearful times. Jesus goes with us through all these, but He does not shield us from them.

James goes on to say: "But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing." (James 1:4). We must allow God to shape, mature, and complete us through this process of struggle, faith, prayer, and patience. As we pass through the various difficulties that God has scripted into our lives, we will become mature believers. Our character will be conformed more and more into the character of Jesus Christ. This is God's plan for us – not only to save us and take us to heaven, but to hone, and shape our character day by day. There is no getting around this. Imagine a child saying to his schoolteacher: "I'll come to class, but I want you to know that I do not want any kind of teaching about math. I am willing to learn English, I'll study geography, and I'll try my best at spelling, but if you ever start teaching math, I'll walk right out of class."

Of course, that's ridiculous. Math is one of the fundamental subjects every schoolteacher will teach, from simple addition and subtraction to complex algebra problems and geometry proofs. Any child who wants a math-free school should forget it and stay home with Mama. If you go to school, you will get a great big dose of mathematics instruction. And likewise, if you are considering enrolling in Jesus Christ's school of discipleship, you had better be prepared to "count it all joy when you fall into various trials." God has great plans for you, eternal and everlasting plans, and He will use your challenges and struggles on this earth wisely, to fully equip you for an eternity of productive living and continual happiness. And His word to you is: "Let patience have its perfect work."


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