Ep. 8: Steadfast Joy
April 3, 2020 Speaker: Jeff Brewer
Topic: Encouragement Passage: James 1:2–1:3, James 5:10–5:11
Hello, Hope Fellowship! Welcome to our podcast “Full of Hope: Encouraging One Another with the Word of God,” where we seek to regularly equip the people of Hope Fellowship with truth from Scripture in order to help us cling to our Savior during troubled times.
Last time, we looked at patience from James 5 and how patience is mentioned seven times in just a few short verses. James gives two commands, an illustration, and two examples of patience from the prophets and Job.
Today, I want us to connect how James begins and ends his letter by talking about trials and the blessing of steadfastness that should result for the Christian.
Let’s begin with James 1:2:
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
We’re called here to count it all joy, as Christians, when we “meet” trials of various kinds. The word “meet” is only used two other times in Scripture, once for a shipwreck in Acts 27 and once as a description of striking someone in Luke 10. When I was thinking about this passage it occurred to me that this a helpful way to describe the way in which trials come to us—we run aground or are often struck by them quickly. It’s easy to think about trials as coming upon us gradually, and that we’ll have time to prepare and get in the right frame of mind when we see them approaching like a storm in the distance. And of course, sometimes that happens. But most of the time a trial comes upon us like how a boat hits an iceberg. Bam! The trial or suffering is right on top of us.
Peter writes in 1 Peter 4:12,
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.
How are we to respond when a trial slams into us like a Mack truck? Peter says don’t be surprised. James says very simply, count it all joy. Consider it. So we can be prepared to respond with joy when we meet an unexpected trial because we know they will happen.
But don’t trip over him writing “all joy,” wondering how this is even possible because we will naturally grieve during trials like what we are going through now. James isn’t telling us by saying “all joy” that you have to be happy, or else, all the time. Of course, when we encounter trials there is going to be grief and sadness. The “all” here is an expression that can mean “genuine.” So we can consider it “genuine joy” when we encounter trials of various kinds.
Which connects well with where he turns next—the reason we can have genuine joy during trials is because “the testing of our faith produces steadfastness.” “Testing,” not “tempting.” God doesn’t tempt anyone. But he does allow testing in our lives in order for what James is saying here to be true—that we see how God is working in us to bring a steadfast hope that can undergo trial. The testing is like when gold or silver is refined and impurities are taken out of the molten metal. The kind of testing that trials does is refining—it helps to refine us and enables us to stand firm.
The trials that the Christians were going through that James was writing probably had something to do with economic hardship and poverty, evidenced by the way he comes back to the topic of money throughout the course of his letter.
So we can be genuinely joyful when we encounter trials because the testing of our faith is producing steadfastness in our lives. And as verse 4 says, “Let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
So to summarize, trials help to prove our faith is genuine because we recognize that we are being held firm. We’re not blown off the rock of Christ even with the strong winds of suffering. And this helps us to know that we have all that we need to walk through this world as a Christian because we can be prepared for anything.
At the end of James he brings up being steadfast again in 5:10–11:
As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.
He says people are blessed who demonstrate patience in the face of suffering, being steadfast (the same word as at the beginning of his letter, what trials are producing).
So putting the beginning and the end of James together, we can count it a genuine joy when we come face to face with trials in our lives because this refines us and enables us to stand even more secure and steadfast in our faith. Establishing our hearts and being patient in trials is helping us to stand steadfast, and this is a blessing from God— just like Job and the prophets were blessed as they stood steadfast in trial. And just as our Savior stood steadfast, refusing to call myriads of angels to save him from the horrors of the cross.
The book of James is all about the practical outworking of faith for the Christian: how our faith motivates action. But it’s not always just, “Here’s how to put this into practice tomorrow.” Sometimes, as James begins and ends his letter, it’s having the trials that come upon us suddenly produce a work of steadfast patience in us that brings us to a deeper and abiding and genuine joy. These passages should shape us and give us resolve to stand firm in the midst of trial.
This can be our prayer today. God, would you help the trials that I am going through today, whatever they are, produce a steadfastness of faith and a genuine joy in my life as I patiently walk the path you have for me?
And so, Hope Fellowship: remember, we have hope in Christ. Let’s encourage ourselves with this hope by speaking truth to ourselves and by making that hope known in a struggling world. See you next time.
Music by Joseph McDade. https://josephmcdade.com. Used with permission.