by John Lowe
I. There are certain realities of life common to all believers – 1:2-1:18.
A. Trials and testing will come and can be overcome -- 1:2-8.
1.A.2. Lesson Title: Be joyful
LESSON 1.A.2. – BE JOYFUL
TEXT – James 1:2 (KJV)
My brethren count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations.
James wrote to believers facing tough times. Their troubles ranged from personal trials to disabling doubts, from persecution for following Christ to the lure of respectability in their community and the dangers of spiritual pride. James wrote to encourage his brothers and sisters in their faith.
James's approach illustrates the variety of forms encouragement can take. At times James confronts. In other places, he gently encourages.
My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations.
James wastes no time in getting to the point of his teaching (instruction); "My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations." Has James lost his ever-loving mind? He is writing to beat-up brothers and sisters, and he says, 'think of it as pure joy . . . consider your self extremely happy. Do you remember the little jingle that we used to sing; 'don't worry . . . be happy.' Then and now, James' command to 'count it all joy whenever you face trials of many kinds' sounds irrational, the words of a crazed fanatic. You may examine any culture (including ours) today, and you will find that they are determined to insulate themselves from trials and discomforts. This sounds crazy. Tragically, it even sounds crazy to many who identify themselves with Christianity.
What does James' command mean? My answer to that is that we must first understand what it does not mean. James is not ordering all-encompassing joyful emotion during severe trials; nor is he demanding that his readers enjoy their trials (difficulties) or that trials are a joy. He knew, as did the writer of Hebrews, that "No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful."
James is not commanding that we rejoice upon hearing that our career position has been given to a revolting subordinate, or that our neighbor's children have leukemia, or that my wife is unfaithful. Instead, James is commending the conscience embrace of a Christian understanding of life, bringing joy into the trials resulting from our Christianity. James says, "count it all joy," which means to make a deliberate and careful decision to experience joy even in times of trouble. Is this possible? Yes. Paul told the Corinthian church, "in all our troubles; my joy knows no bounds" (2 Cor. 7:4). When trials come, don't think of them as intruders, but welcome them as friends. Those who trust in God ought to exhibit a dramatically different, positive response to the difficult events of life. Our attitude is to be one of pure joy (genuine rejoicing). This is not joyful anticipation for trials. Instead, it is joy during trials. The joy is based on confidence in the outcome of the trial.
James did not say, "Consider it pure joy if you face trials, but "whenever." Such trials are part of every believer's life. We are to find joy in our own diaspora experiences – when we feel alienated, disenfranchised, unpopular, even when difficulty and tragedy come our way, which has no apparent connection with our Christianity. Such joy may seem irrational, but in Christ, it is perfectly rational. James is not encouraging us to pretend to be happy. Rejoicing goes beyond happiness. Happiness centers on earthly circumstances and how well things are going here. Joy is God-orientated rather than event-orientated because it centers on God and His presence in our experience.
Temptations are here put for trials and afflictions. The Jewish Christians seem to have endured many hardships and persecutions through the hostility of the unbelieving Jews.
This is what it means
By using this term repeatedly, James emphasizes Christian solidarity with all who read this letter. It reminds us that the lessons in the Bible are for us. We rarely have to face trials alone. Believers always have Christ with them; they also have one another. When we attempt to manage pain, loneliness, failure, and other trials alone, we do not use the resources that God has made available through other believers. We are here to help each other. We are not to go it alone.
Note: James is called by Paul and by Josephus, the brother of Jesus.
The phrase is used like "consider it," "chalk it up," "regard it as," and it is used in a sentence similar to how the phrase count it is used in our verse: "count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations." You can count it as joy because your experience of trial is evidence that you will grow. Do not let pain or struggle take away the experience of new growth, new insight, new depth, or new dependency. Focus on the future benefits of your difficult time.
GLADNESS, A SOURCE OF JOY, CHEERFULNESS, CALM DELIGHT.
Joy is a deep sense of well-being that may, at the same time, embrace sorrow, tears, laughter, anger, pain. Joy is more of a decision than a feeling. It is choosing to live above feelings but not to deny them. It is not intense happiness, although choosing joy sometimes produces happiness. Joy is a particular Christian response to life since it depends on faith in God's souvernity. It is quiet and grateful, and it inwardly delights in the goodness of God.
when ye fall into
We are urged to be joyful, not to face trials, but when. To face trials is more literally expressed as to "fall into" trials. These are the unavoidable difficulties of life. Falling into trials is like falling among robbers, like the traveler in Luke 10:30. Trials, problems, situations can be joy-robbers if we lack the proper attitude. Later in the chapter (1:13-15), James deals more directly with self-inflicted temptations. But there will be times when, no matter where we turn, we encounter trials.
Or "trials of many kinds." Where do these trials come from? They can be hardships from outside or temptations from within. They come when we are least prepared, and when we are most confident, or they could never come. A trial may be a challenging situation that tests a person's faith, such as persecution, a difficult moral choice, or a tragedy. Life's trials (problems) are manifested through such trials. Enduring one trial is not enough. God's purpose in allowing this process is to develop complete maturity and a spiritual character in us, and if rightly accepted, to make them better.
God does not afflict or expose his children to temptation because he takes pleasure in their distresses or exposures, but for their benefit, that they may be made wiser and better; and although no trials in themselves are joyous but grievous, yet as they are the means when rightly improved of increasing holiness and usefulness, they should be accepted not only with submission but with gratitude.
Considering your trials to be joy comes from seeing life with God's perspective in mind. We may not understand the specific reason for God's allowing certain experiences to crush us or wear us down, but we can be confident His plan is for our good. What may look hopeless and impossible to us never looks that way to God.
Dear reader, your faith's testing through persecution and temptation worketh patience, rather, enduring fortitude. We are strengthened by trials that we overcome.