For several weeks, James 1:2-3 has been my touch stone. I am not really sure why. I felt led to read James, and once I started, it was as though I just couldn’t get past those verses.
In my day job, I often take messages or concepts and try to break them down into the essential elements. So, I used that technique when I looked at these verses.
Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. James 1:2
I started with concepts or definitions.
When – this is important to catch. James is telling us that troubles of different kinds will come our way. We should not be surprised when we experience them.
Troubles – to disturb the mental calm and contentment of; worry; distress; agitate. To put to inconvenience, exertion, pains, or the like.
Consider – to think carefully about, especially in order to make a decision; contemplate; reflect on.
Contemplate – to look at or view with continued attention; observe or study thoughtfully
Opportunity – an appropriate or favorable time or occasion; a situation or condition favorable for attainment of a goal. This is good. Keep reading to find out about the goal!
Great – large in number; numerous
Joy – the emotion of great delight or happiness caused by something exceptionally good or satisfying; keen pleasure; elation
Then I asked myself, what does the Bible say about joy?
…don’t be dejected and sad for the joy of the LORD is your strength. Nehemiah 8:10
We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting Him, He endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now He is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. Hebrews 12:2
Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you. Instead, be very glad – for these trials make you partners with Christ in His suffering, so that you will have the wonderful joy of seeing His glory when it is revealed to all the world. 1 Peter 4:12-13
Do you see it again? Do not be surprised!
In Acts 5, the Apostles are flogged for preaching about Jesus and healing in His name. Flogging was a severe beating with a whip or stick. The result was deep wounds that would take some time to heal. Even through this physical pain, the Apostles rejoiced.
The Apostles left the high council rejoicing that God had counted them worthy to suffer disgrace for the name of Jesus. Acts 5:41
Rejoicing is the feeling or expression of joy
So I needed to go back and ask the question, what the difference between joy and happiness is. Luckily there are plenty of people out there with something to say:
..happiness is an emotion in which we “experience feelings ranging from contentment and satisfaction to bliss and intense pleasure,” whereas joy “is a stronger, less common feeling than happiness.” We experience joy when we achieve selflessness to the point of personal sacrifice. We feel joy when we are spiritually connected to God or people.
Joy comes from God. To me, it is a state of contentment despite the outside circumstances. Unlike our emotions that change due to our circumstances.
Let’s move on to the goal.
For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete needing nothing. James 1:3
Endurance – the ability or strength to continue or last, especially despite fatigue, stress, or other adverse conditions.
James is telling us, these troubles, they have a purpose. They make us stronger. They give us endurance to handle the next trouble. And our goal – what a goal! “You WILL be perfect and complete, needing nothing”
I started a new exercise plan. The first few times I did the work outs, I couldn’t finish them without either stopping or modifying the exercise. I was so disappointed in myself. But I kept at it. Guess what, yes, you know the end of this story. I can finish the exercises now without any problems. I may need to move to another level.
Maybe that is how God works in us too. We go through something difficult. When we reach for His Word instead of the computer and we pray instead of tell our friends all about it, He sees we have learned to endure and can handle even more or greater responsibilities.
When you experience troubles, slow down, contemplate, and pray “how is this a situation that can glorify God.”
But sometimes it is really hard. If you can’t see it – then you move to James 1:5.
If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and He will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. James 1:5
By wisdom, James is talking not only about the wisdom to make wise decisions in difficult circumstances. Think about wisdom. We say someone has wisdom or is wise, because they have experienced a situation and are able to tell others about it. Warn others about it. Spare others what they went through. So we are asking God for the tried and true. We can accept it as such. It isn’t just knowledge, but wisdom that has been proven and experienced.
Whenever we need wisdom, we can pray to God, and He will generously supply what we need.
This wisdom has three distinct characteristics:
- It’s practical. It relates to God even in the most difficult times. It is not wisdom isolated from suffering and trials. This wisdom is the tool by which trials are overcome. Wisdom is the decisiveness and action we take.
- It is divine. God’s wisdom goes beyond common sense. Common sense does not want to choose joy in the middle of trials. This wisdom begins with respect for God, leads to living by God’s direction, and results in the ability to tell right from wrong.
- It is Christ-like. Asking for wisdom is ultimately asking to be Christ-like.
Our Abba is a good daddy. With Him, the troubles of this world can be more than just troubles. They can create in us endurance for the next troubles and joy. Joy that stays with us through all circumstances. When we can’t see the way, all we have to do is ask. He will give us wisdom to see. As we work through these troubles, He will be glorified.
You may think, like I do, “I don’t always respond like I should.” Me either. But I believe that even when we don’t respond according to the scriptures’ plan, God is still there. And He can use that. When you feel like you have blown it, listen for the correction from the Holy Spirit. Welcome it. Then ask for forgiveness. When we ask, our God freely gives. Then ask Him to seal His words in your heart. Each time it will get easier and easier to let the Spirit move in you instead of just react.
I hope these verses have helped you.
Praying for you and with you,
Teresa Neal is a Christ follower, wife, and mother. Her passion is to see women grow in their relationship with Jesus and understand how great His love is for them. She is attends LCBC Church in Waynesboro and leads a women’s life group. You can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.