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.
Karl Payne's personal note: I grew up in a home
that would have been considered moral and ethical, but not religious. Both of my parents were teachers.
Dad was a Mathematics / Science specialist for the Sacramento City School District and my mom taught
grade school. My Dad would occasionally pray for our food, but we did not read the Bible or discuss
religious topics. I decided my first Sunday of seventh grade that I had no real interest in church or
Sunday school and informed my parents that I would no longer attend either. I assumed I was a Christian
because I had been baptized as a child at my mom's request, but my primary interests were baseball,
football and music.
On June 17th, 1970 I became a Christian while attending a youth retreat sponsored by Young Life,
a Christian ministry focused upon reaching high school students. The two biggest hurdles I faced
in that decision both related to honest assumptions. My first assumption related to what I had
understood it meant to be a Christian. I assumed that I was a Christian because I had been baptized.
Christians get baptized, I had been baptized, therefore, I was a Christian. I also thought that
heaven, if it was real, was attained by being a nice person. I reasoned that since on a moral and
ethical scale which had the Pope on one end and Hitler on the other, that my live style was closer
to the Pope's than Hitler's, thus making me a shoe in for heaven if God was fair.
The second assumption I had made related to education. In eighth grade my science teacher told our
class that "religious people were mental cripples who needed a crutch to get through life." I was
very impressed by this teacher and took to heart what he said. In the eleventh grade, my physiology
teacher told our class that "educated people believed in evolution." As I grew older my education
had become more important to me. As a result of several teacher's comments I assumed that it was
not possible to think deeply and still be a Christian. Religion in my mind was therefore something
for nice people who were not too concerned about an academic education. My first assumption was
to confuse churchianity with Christianity. Churchianity represents men and women making their best
efforts to reach up to God and receive His approval, based upon their individual efforts to be found
worthy in His eyes. Biblical Christianity is a message explaining how God has chosen to reach down
to mankind through the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ, providing salvation by His
grace as a free gift to all who believe, in spite of our unworthiness. Religion is essentially a
message of man reaching up to God. Christianity is a message detailing how God has reached down to
man. Religion exalts man. Christianity exalts God. I had received just enough religious training
to confuse religion with Christianity and had rejected an honest consideration of Christianity in
the process. My second assumption was to confuse naturalism, dialectical materialism and the
suppositional baggage assumed to be true by both philosophical world views, with actual empirical
data and good science, which provides conclusions based upon testing, observation and repetition
rather than wishful thinking and naturalist / atheistic suppositional indoctrination.
On the 17th of June, 1970 at 8:00 P.M., I listened to a gentleman clearly explain that God's plan
is that I have eternal life (John 3:16,
Romans 5:1), but that my problem with sin (to miss
the mark in word, thought or deed) had separated me from Him
Romans 6:23). This sounded
more like bad news to me than good news. He went on to say that God had provided a remedy for my sin
by sending His only son Jesus Christ to die on a cross as a payment for my penalty
(2 Corinthians 5:21,
1 Timothy 2:5,
Ephesians 2:8-9), but that it was absolutely
necessary for me to respond to His remedy for the remedy to be effective
Revelation 3:20). I bowed my head in that room and quietly
asked Jesus Christ to become my Savior and Lord. Jesus came into my life and has made me a new person, from
the inside out (2 Corinthians 5:17). That was nearly
thirty-one years ago. Knowing Jesus is more than religious activism or academic curiosity. It is a real
relationship. Spiritual maturity is a process (1 John 2:12-14)
that should continue to develop and grow as long as we are alive.
God used a Campus Crusade for Christ high school ministry to teach me that aggressive, reproductive
Christianity (2 Timothy 2:2) should be considered normal
Christianity. Sincerity is necessary for Christian living, but it is not sufficient for impacting our world for
Christ (Matthew 28:18-20,
2 Corinthians 5:17-21,
2 Timothy 2:15,
1 Peter 3:15). He has used several godly men, seminary and
nearly twenty-five years of serving in church ministry to teach me that making disciples means far more than
leading people to Christ and asking them to pray and read their Bibles. It is impossible to give what you do
not have or share what you do not know. When people tell me that their Christian faith is boring, what they
are really telling me is that they do not pray, they do not study and they do not give away what they have
been given. The Christian life is an adventure that is exciting to live and share. To judge Christianity by
people who sit on their hands, criticize others and turn a living faith into dead religion is to misrepresent
Biblical Christianity. Christianity was never meant to be lived as a passive spectator sport.
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.