1. Examine James 1:2-5. Study carefully
verse 2. What does it mean to "consider it all joy?"
Note the word "consider." We have a choice concerning how we will
view our trials. Are trials really divine paybacks for sin or a God sent opportunity to grow in
spiritual maturity? It is so easy to react to difficult circumstances rather than carefully
and thoughtfully respond to them. To react is natural. Responding to that
same situation demands discipline. The issue is not what I feel like doing, but rather what should
I do. Is God in control or am I alone? Trials offer a Christian the opportunity to make a conscious
choice to think naturally or supernaturally.
We are told to consider our trials an occasion for joy. At first glance this seems
like an odd statement. Why would I consider a difficult circumstance I am facing a joy? Joy is usually
associated with happy circumstances not stressful ones. In the English language we often use the words
"happy" and "joy" synonymously. But in the Greek language, which the New Testament
was originally written, these two words can represent two very different thoughts. Happiness was a word
typically used to express feelings, which were a result of external circumstances. The word "joy,"
however, could be used to express the idea of inner contentment in spite of external circumstances.
James tells us to consider our trials a joy not happiness. There is a big
difference between the two concepts.
As Christians we often feel the pressure to pretend that things, which hurt us, don't
really hurt. We do not have to pretend we like all of our trials. But we can still experience contentment
in spite of them. When our circumstances are positive, we can be happy. Just like a non-Christian.
But when our situations do not go the way we would like we can experience something
our non-Christians friends cannot. We are able, by God's grace, to experience peace in the midst of
chaos. Why? Because God is still in control and He loves us! "Current circumstances may not be
the way I would have planned things, but God I choose to trust these issues to You. You will make sense
out of the things that do not make sense to me."
Living by faith and in His peace, because He is in control, or living on an emotional
roller coaster because I have mistakenly presumed that either I am in control or no one is in control,
is a choice. Sooner or later, every Christian will be given the opportunity to trust God in the face of
circumstances that simply seem too complicated to understand from a rational perspective.
Like it or not, we are not the masters of our own fate. We are neither master nor
God, and fate, blind chance, does not guide anything. We are His workmanship, created in Him for good
works, which He has planned (Ephesians 2:10). We
sometimes forget that God is neither a distant relative who does not care, a colleague who needs our
opinion or a cosmic Santa Claus who can be manipulated. Trials provide Christians the privilege of
standing on biblical truth and remembering who is the creator and who is the creation.
2. What does James say about the timing of trials
in verse 2?
Have you ever noticed the word "when" in this verse? How many times have
you hit a snag and thought to yourself, "I wonder what I did to deserve this?" The thought
is basically that trials can be avoided and are some sort of punishment or pay back from God who is mad
The fact of the matter is that trials are a normal part of every Christian's life.
The verse does not say consider it joy "if" you encounter various trials, but "when"
you do. Trials are inevitable. They are going to happen. Trials are one of the means God has chosen to help
us develop character and spiritual maturity.
A common misconception is that trials are a sign of God's anger; instead, trials are
often an indication of God's love, care, and concern. He is still in the active process of making us
stronger. Trials are not a mistake. They are part of a divine design to equip Believers for effective
daily living in a world hostile to the things of God and those who consistently represent Him.
3. What does James mean by "various" in verse 2?
Have you every thought how easy life could be if you only had to fight one battle at
a time? And if that battle were always the same one it would be even more convenient. Even a slow learner
would catch on sooner or later if the challenge were always the same. Our God is creative and so are the
trials He uses to help us grow. Trials come through a variety of means. Special ministry demands special
preparation. Although God's purpose for trials is the same for all of us, the means are not.
How many physical trainers working with professional athletes considering focusing
on only one muscle group? Athletes who hope to compete at a world-class level know they must develop
their whole body, not just part of it. Developing a great upper body, but weak legs, or visa-versa is a
recipe for athletic failure, even if it is done sincerely. Likewise, it should be no surprise that since
God uses our trials to make us "perfect and complete, lacking in nothing" that He will necessarily
have to use various trials to develop and mature different areas of our life, all for the purpose of
making us more useful in service to Him.
When I accept good circumstances with joy but accuse God of injustice regarding personal
trials there is very little difference between the way I choose to handle life and the way my non-Christians
friends do. They may credit the stars or their own ingenuity for good situations and curse their karma,
bad luck, Mother Nature, or God for obstacles regarding their plans, but both responses are very similar.
It does not require a Christian commitment to enjoy life when things go well. Who doesn't
smile when plans come together as anticipated? As a Christian, one way I can effectively demonstrate the
reality of my faith to skeptical friends is by choosing to remain content in the face of adversity. How
impressed are you with an individual who accepts the good and blames others for problems? That method for
handling difficulties is as old as the Garden of Eden.
Dr. Karl Payne, at heart, is an apologist who loves to train and
equip Christians for spiritual service and warfare (Eph.4:11-16).
He enjoys preaching, writing and retreat / conference / seminar speaking. He derives his greatest pleasure
tackling the challenge of teaching Christian workers, interns and budding preachers / teachers at both the
Bible College and Seminary levels. In addition, he has co-authored two books: A just Defense and
Cross Training through Multnomah Press.