The word “rejoice” and the word “trials” don’t seem to fit well in the same sentence. Yet, that is what James is exhorting his readers to do: “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds” (James 1:2).
Trials can mean different things to different people. Trials can involve our health, our finances, our children, our marriage, our job, our church, our neighborhood, our country, even our life. No area is immune from times of trials. Trials are a part of life…without exception.
James is writing to an audience that is very familiar with trials. In Acts 8 we see the beginning of the great persecution of the Jewish Christians in Jerusalem. This forced them out of their homes and into the neighboring regions of Judea and Samaria. In time, they would be driven throughout the known world.
It’s important to note, too, that James is not writing to give insight into how to avoid trials. That’s not even a suggestion. Instead, he tells his readers, when you experience trials (not if), rejoice.
This leads to an obvious question that James anticipates–how? How is one supposed to rejoice in times of trials? The answer: pray. Pray and ask God for wisdom in dealing with your trials, and God, who gives generously, will give it to you (James 1:5).
We tend to ask another question in times of trials: why? There is a disconnect in our thinking about the reality of the world we live in (which is a fallen, cursed world), and the goodness of God. Why would a God who loves us and cares for us lead us into times of trials?
As we will see in this week’s studies, God’s purpose for trials is to refine us, to mold and shape us into the very image of Jesus Christ. The word James uses is “perfect” (James 1:4). One commentator compared trials to the file that carefully removes the rust from metal, but leaves the steel untouched.
Seeing God’s goodness in the midst of trials, however, does not come naturally for a human being. This is why James encourages us to ask God for wisdom. Wisdom is seeing things through God’s eyes, not our own. It is the supernatural ability to look beyond the immediate pain of the moment to the eternal good that is being accomplished. Wisdom does not come from within, it comes from God, and James tells us how we receive godly wisdom–ask!
As you study and pray over this week’s text, may God use His word to give us wisdom in the midst of the storms of life. –Chris Eller
A Bit of Trivia
Starting with the teaching series in James our teaching team is taking turns suggesting a title for each week’s message. This week was my opportunity to suggest a title. As I was studying and praying over this week’s text, I couldn’t help but remember a Star Trek episode called “The Trouble with Tribbles.” Tribbles were cute, little furry creatures that were born pregnant, and multiplied at an uncontrollable rate. It wasn’t long before Tribbles were everyone onboard the Enterprise.
Like Tribbles, at times our trials can multiply beyond our control. We would like to ask the Lord to “beam me up,” but instead, Jesus tells us, “stay there, I’m coming to help you” (Matthew 28:20).
This Week’s Core Virtue
Hope (Hebrews 6:19-20): I can cope with the hardships of life and with death because of the hope I have in Jesus Christ.