In James 1:2, James says, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds…“
This is a staggering command. When we face trials, we are NOT supposed to…
Instead, we are to count it all JOY when we face trials. This is so contrary to what we want to do in the midst of trials. So often, we want to complain and moan and get frustrated when we find ourselves knee-deep in trials and tribulations.
We feel like we simply can’t be happy until the trial is over. We want to get OUT of the trial as fast as possible.
And yet Scripture commands us to count it all joy when we find ourselves swimming in the rough waters of tribulation. We’re called to count it all joy when our path takes us through fiery trials.
This raises a hugely important question for us: How can we count it all joy when we go through trials?
Let’s look at what Scripture has to say.
Count It All Joy Through the Power of Christ
In Philippians 4:12-13, Paul writes:
I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
If anyone went through trials, it was Paul. He was shipwrecked. Beaten. Thrown in prison. Nearly stoned to death. Violently opposed almost every time he tried to preach the gospel.
In spite of all this, Paul knew how to count it all joy when he encountered trials of various kinds. When he and Barnabas were thrown into prison, they sang hymns of praise to God. When Paul was shipwrecked, he joyfully proclaimed the gospel to his captors. When he was stoned, he went back into the same city to proclaim the gospel yet again.
Clearly, Paul knew something that most people don’t.
So what was his secret? How was he able to rejoice always in his trials?
It was through the power of Jesus Christ. Paul was able to joyfully endure trials not by his own strength, but through the strength that Jesus Christ provided him. He could do all things, including rejoice in trials, through Christ.
If we’re going to count it all joy when we go through trials, we too must depend solely on Jesus Christ. He alone can give us the endurance we need to stand firm in the face of fiery trials.
We just regularly pray to him and ask him to support us as we walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death. We must run to the throne of grace to receive mercy and grace in our time of need.
The simple truth is that we cannot make it through trials apart from Jesus sustaining us. And the wonderful news is that he WILL sustain us through trials.
As it says in Jude 1:24, “Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy…“
Jesus is our hope. Our strength. The one who holds us fast through trials. It is through Christ alone that we can count it all joy when we face trials of various kinds.
Trials Produce Steadfastness
The second way that we rejoice always in the midst of trials is by recognizing that God produces massive amounts of fruit in us through trials. God uses trials to make us more like him. To shape into the image of Jesus. To help us grow in ways that we never would otherwise.
One of the main ways that God uses trials in our lives is to produce steadfastness. As James says, “…for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.“
What does it mean to be steadfast? It means that we’re unshakeable. That we aren’t easily rocked. That we are strong in our faith and able to stand firm even when we find ourselves going through difficult times. That our love for God stays hot even when the blizzard is raging around us.
When we lack steadfastness, we don’t honor God. We grumble and moan our way through trials. We act as if God has deserted us. We don’t trust God to do good to us in the midst of our struggles. We forget that he is working all things for our good and his glory.
When we’re steadfast, we produce fruit in all circumstances, not just when things are going well. We’re like the man in Psalm 1:
He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.
The steadfast person is like a tree with deep roots that is constantly being fed by a stream. It cannot be easily blown over. Its roots are sunk too deep. The steadfast person has their roots sunk deep into God and is not easily blown about by trials.
We can count it all joy when we go through trials of various kinds because we know that God is producing steadfastness in us.
Count It All Joy Because Steadfastness Produces Perfection
On the surface, the next words that James says can seem a bit strange. He says, “And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
Did you catch that? James says that ultimately, the steadfastness that is produced by trials leads to perfection. What can he possibly mean by that?
It seems that James is saying that the longer we persevere under trials – the more we count it all joy – the more steadfast we will become. We will produce ever-increasing fruit and become more and more like Jesus Christ.
Ultimately, our steadfastness has its full effect. The full effect of steadfastness is that we persevere until Jesus returns.
Think of it like this. The more we count it all joy in the midst of trials, the more steadfast we become. The more steadfast we are, the more fruit we produce in the midst of trials, which leads to more steadfastness. As we become stronger and stronger in our faith, we persevere. If we persevere until Jesus returns, he will finally make us perfect.
Does that make sense?
The perfection that James refers to the perfection that Jesus will produce in us when he comes back.
Isn’t that good news? As we count it all joy in the midst of trials, our ability to persevere is strengthened, which will ultimately lead to us being totally and completely conformed to the image of Christ.
I’ve seen this worked out in many older, faithful saints. They have been steadfast through many very difficult trials. Every time they emerge from the trial, they are stronger in Christ than they were before. They have learned how to lean on Christ and trust him in every circumstance.
And so trials don’t shake their faith. They aren’t easily thrown, aren’t easily tempted to doubt God. They have learned how to be steadfast even when the waves wash over them and the fire licks at their feet.
God Will Finish The Work
God commands us to count it all joy when we face trials of many kinds. This is part of the way we work out our salvation with fear and trembling.
But as we seek to rejoice in the midst of trials, we can know that ultimately God is the one who is working in us. He is the one perfecting us, and he is the one who will finish the good work in us.
If our salvation hinged on our ability to count trials as joy, then we would lose our salvation. Because there’s no way we can perfectly do that.
That’s why our hope must always be in God’s work in us.
As it says in Philippians 1:6:
And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
So yes, we must count it all joy when we face trials of many kinds. But we do this with the rock-solid confidence that God is at work in us and that he will bring to completion the glorious work he began.