December 7, 2014
By John Ulrich, Senior Pastor
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds.” (James 1:2 )
An unexpected and surprising connection exists between joy and adversity. We are to rejoice always (Phil.4:4), even in adversity. In fact, often the most joyful folks we know are those who have suffered.
What is the mechanism that turns adversity into joy? It is a process, a four part chain, described in James 1:1-4 which was written to Jewish Christians driven by persecution into surrounding countries.
First there is the actual adversity/trial which can take many forms, e.g.: big or little, about our faith or not, what we caused or not, could even be temptation. It is anything that causes pain.
Second, is a testing of our faith (of our belief system about God and the world) in James 1:3, a moment where we ourselves make a decision. In the midst of possible doubt and negativity, we are called to choose God’s way, and in the midst of this decision we find ourselves being purified and refined in our faith.
Third, testing in James 1:3 develops perseverance (the grit, tenacity, strength). Perseverance is an an active concept where we slowly actually learn how to hang on, bear up, become stronger under a load, and then carry it gracefully.
Finally in James 1:4, from adversity and perseverance we experience maturity, completeness, lacking in nothing. Christian maturity requires adversity and perseverance to make us grow more like Jesus.
No one wishes for pain/adversity, but God has bigger plans for us than just our comfort. There is a part of us that can only be developed through pain; indeed, the world can often only understand the Gospel through our brokenness.
In James 1:2, we are told to “consider” it all joy in our trials. We may have pain and anger, but we need to back up and look at the whole chain from adversity, to testing of faith, to perseverance, to maturity and joy. God uses adversity to our great benefit so that we can become what He wants us to be.
Will we focus on pain and injustice, or on the bigger, more beautiful thing God is doing in our lives? We need to let put our burden down to see what God is doing in our lives…..and rejoice!