James 1:2Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,
3for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.
4And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
I think this may sound weird, but bear with me. Why is it that when someone is going through a trial, we don’t tell them to "count it all joy?" You lost your job? Praise the Lord! Your illness is back? Great is His faithfulness! Struggling through fill-in-the-blank? You should be so JOYFUL right now!
Trust me, I don’t think this is easy to do. And done in the wrong way could be disastrous. Much discernment is needed, and the word of God should be central in the conversation. But I was jarred a few months ago, when I said to a friend – who had struggled with singleness, but had gotten married and pregnant before their first year was over – “wow, God is so faithful to you!” And yes, I was able to tell her that He was faithful during those years that she struggled. But just not in the same way as I did when He had so sweetly answered her prayers.
So yes, He was (and still is) faithful to her. Just as He had been every day of her life. Just as He had been with me through my unemployment; as He is now through ongoing migraine issues. Faithful.
But back to my first (weird) point. As I read the Holy Spirit inspired words of James, I see that:
1) He is telling believers (my brothers), to count it all joy when;
2) We meet various kinds of trials.
1) Our faith is being tested so that;
2) Steadfastness (perseverance, NIV) can be produced.
Why would we want steadfastness/perseverance in our faith?
1) So that that steadfastness/perseverance in our faith will take its full effect (finish it's work NIV), therefore;
2) We may be perfect (mature, NIV) and complete, lacking in nothing.
Count it all joy? When I meet trials? Really? YES! Why? Because your faith is being tested. But why? Why is it being tested? Because the testing produces steadfastness/perseverance in your faith. So what, why should I care? I don't want to be tested! So that steadfastness/ perseverance will have its full effect/finish it's work, which is that we may be perfect/mature and complete, lacking in nothing.
What does it mean to be perfect/mature and complete, lacking in nothing? The only thing I can think of is that when we are glorified. When we are finally with Him. Without sin. Perfectly and completely made like His Son. Home.
Going further: God uses trials to test our faith, and when put to the test, we must turn to God (James 1:5-8) when we don't know what to do. We must have faith that when we ask, He will give us wisdom. We must be humble enough to know that we can't do it on our own. He wants us to realize our utter dependence on Him.
It seems to me that these "various kinds of trials" are the means by which God prepares us for glory.
We Christians are strange creatures, are we not? Born in sin, saved by His grace. But still not seeing the point. This life that we live in this fallen world is brief. It is fleeting. We are in the wilderness, making our way Home. And this life is not all about us. Not all about comfort or "good things" (which, let's face it, are really just things that we want). This life is readying us for Heaven. To be in perfect relationship with God, which is what we were created for. And all for His glory. Our good, yes, but ultimately for His glory. And He knows what "our good" is so much better than we do.
Hopefully when a dear friend in Christ is going through a trial, I will be able to point him or her to the words of James. Count it all joy! Trust the Lord through this. You are being prepared for glory.
We Rest on Thee lyrics:
We rest on Thee, our Shield and our Defender!
We go not forth alone against the foe;
Strong in Thy strength, safe in Thy keeping tender,
We rest on Thee, and in Thy Name we go.
Yea, in Thy Name, O Captain of salvation!
In Thy dear Name, all other names above;
Jesus our Righteousness, our sure Foundation,
Our Prince of glory and our King of love.
We go in faith, our own great weakness feeling,
And needing more each day Thy grace to know:
Yet from our hearts a song of triumph pealing,
“We rest on Thee, and in Thy Name we go.”
We rest on Thee, our Shield and our Defender!
Thine is the battle, Thine shall be the praise;
When passing through the gates of pearly splendor,
Victors, we rest with Thee, through endless days.
Words: Edith G. Cherry, circa 1895.
Music: Finlandia, Jean Sibelius, 1899
* blogged after praying this morning "all that matters is that You love me." John 3:16