2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4 Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
This passage represents a real challenge for obedience. Consider it pure joy. While many people are prepared to endure trials, we are not prepared to consider it pure joy. Some folks would look at this as a call to masochism. Rejoice! You’re in pain! Count it pure joy. One website commenting on this passage said he thought James must be doing drugs!
Since I don’t believe that God is calling us to take joy in physical suffering simply because it is physical suffering – this passage must mean something other than be crazy or a masochist. Let’s examine it a little deeper.
The first thing to note here is what you are to consider pure joy. He says you are to do this when you face “trials of many kinds.” In the next verse, he links these trials to “the testing of your faith.”
This morning, I saw in our newspaper an article about a person I know who drove his van through a light pole and into a building. This is not the first time for this kind of accident. Is this what James is talking about? I have heard people who are grossly obese and have developed health problems talk about the “cross they have to bear”. Christians who overdraw their checking account sometimes want to talk about the trails they are going through. Let me put it bluntly. When you screw up, commit sin, abuse your body, etc. and bad things happen – this is not a testing of your faith that you are to consider pure joy!
Leaping off a building and claiming a broken leg is a testing of your faith is not spiritual – it’s stupid!
James is not talking about abstract suffering and trials here. He links the trials to “the testing of your faith.” Peter talks about the same subject in 1 Peter 1:6-7: In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire —may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.
Peter is saying here that your faith is going to be refined through testing and this will result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus is revealed. What these two apostles are telling us here is that there ARE situations which we may go through AS BELIEVERS, which are sent by our sovereign God. These are sent for a purpose.
So as usual when dealing with a difficult question of Scripture, one of the key issues for this passage is our view of God. This will be continued in part 2.