Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Pure Joy and Trials?

Have you ever wondered why you have to go through hard times?

James 1:2 states, "Consider it, pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds. In the Greek, it actually states, think of it or regard it it ALL joy whenever you face trials or temptations of various kinds. I was a little surprised at the small differences the Greek relayed. First, it defined what pure joy is supposed to be; it is a joy that is not lacking, but is complete. Therefore, every thought about every trial and temptation should be considered positive. That is a hard command to swallow. The second nuance I took from looking at the Greek was that the Greek word for trials actually is a broader word that is used for trials and temptations. It is used in a way to exemplify a surrender to human weakness (Matt. 26:41; Mk. 14:38; Lk 22:40, 46). The word is also used in reference to a situation of testing that might lead to sin (Lk 4:13; Lk 8:13; Lk 11:4; 1 Corinthians 10:13; 1 Tim. 6:9; Hebrew 3:8). Finally, it is used in a more generic sense, indicating trying circumstances (Lk 22:28; Acts 20:19; Gal. 4:14; Ja 1:12; 1 Pe 1:6; 1 Pe 4:12; 2 Pe 2:9; Rev. 3:10). Therefore, it is possible that the author had all three in mind when writing this command, seeing that he included the modifier "various kinds". So, we are to think of all trying circumstances, temptations, persecutions, and situations where we might fall into human weaknesses as a good thing and be glad about it!!! Every time I struggle to give in to pride, judgement, gossip, anger, etc., I should be glad. Every time I have a health issues, suffer from heartbreak, experience a loss of a job, or an embarrassing situation, I should be glad. Every time I feel overcome by the pressure of the world and the struggle to fit in, I should be glad. It is a good thing that James goes on to explain why because without a reason, it would be a very difficult concept to grasp.

Verses 3 and 4 give the reason behind the command. It states, "because you know the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." Those he wrote to already knew that the result of their faith being tested would produce a quality of character that would allow for them to hold steadfast and maintain fortitude in the face of difficulty. He then charges them to allow that character in them to continue in the process and develop to maturity and completion, so that in their lives, they would lack noting. By maturity, James was referring to a sense of complete goodness or a state possessing all positive qualities. When he told them that they would be complete, he meant that they would have met all expectations and would be seen with integrity and blameless. Therefore, when the two terms are paired together, the person is whole, possessing all good qualities, yet unblemished and complete in their character. It is through these trials that one's faith yields the fruits of the Spirit and one is an exemplar of the change Jesus Christ has made in them.

I am not saying that the trials or temptations will be less painful, but when you consider them in light of the reason behind them, you are better able to hold onto a right perspective and persevere. It is through our perseverance that God is able to shape us into the perfect likeness of His Son. Therefore, if for a little while, I must endure physical pain, emotional distress, financial burden, etc., if it makes me more compassionate, more understanding, more patient, more peaceful, more grateful, more appreciative, more joyful, more kind, more gentle, more self-controlled, and ultimately more like Christ, it is a cross I am willing to bare. The way in which to endure is by looking beyond the circumstance to what lies ahead.

The temptation for us, when going through a trial, is to question or to accuse God. Often times, when my son asks why I made a decision, if I think the answer is too complicated for him at that time, I simply say, "because I said so." It is not that I am trying to be mean or play a power trip on him, but I know that he will not understand. I have learned to accept this with God. Sometimes He allows things to happen that I do not understand. Instead of questioning or arguing, I simply hear the words, "Because I said so." And it is my faith in His Sovereignty that sees me through.

I will leave you with one last picture. If you were to begin to train for a marathon and you had to choose someone off the street to train you, what would you look for? You would look for signs of someone who has endured the test of time on the track. You would not look for someone who appeared to have stayed comfortably in their home for the last 25 years. Rather, you would look for someone whose muscles had been conditioned through training, whose skin had been painted by the sun, and perhaps someone who still had the residue of their last test on them. Similarly, in life, people are attracted to Christians by the marks of our testing. With each scar of endurance, we become a little more like Christ. While it might look tattered to some, to those looking for something more, it will attract them like moths to a flame. Every physical pain, emotional trial, and circumstantial testing can be used as a part of your testimony to bring people closer to Jesus Christ. The value of that is far greater than a little bit of comfort.

1 Peter 4:12-13 - Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when His glory is revealed.

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