Be Joyful! Because I Told You So!
James 1:2, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials.”
Joy should be one of the most prevalent characteristics for the Christian. Far too often though it is not. Over the years I have known many Christians who seem to have very little joy in their lives. I remember one woman in particular who was a member of the very first church that I pastored. She was perpetually grumpy! It didn’t matter if the weather was nice, if she felt good, if people loved on her. No matter what, she always seemed to lack joy.
When I was growing up occasionally, I would be asked by one of my parents to do something that maybe I didn’t want to do. I would sometimes ask the question, why? The answer at times was a simple answer: “because I told you so.” This is what is being said here in a matter of form. You see, we Christians are under a divine command to be joyful. The Greek word for “consider” is hegeomai and it is translated mean “to believe.” It is an imperative which means that it is a command not a suggestion. We are commanded here to be joyful.
We are then to “consider it (being trials) all joy.” That phrase “all joy” means pure joy, complete, unmixed joy. James is speaking then of a complete attitude of joy that the Lord graciously supplies for us, His children. We are to have a complete joy in life’s “various trials.” Why? One of the big reasons why is that God uses the trials we go through for our benefit. The second answer to why is because it glorifies God. As Christians then we are to welcome trials because we know that they will help us grow in perseverance. The more trials you endure and the more faithful you are in those trials the easier it becomes to be faithful the next time.
Joseph said this in Genesis 50:20 to his brothers who had sold him into slavery: “As for you, you meant evil for me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.” Paul writes in Romans 8:28, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”
Since we are commanded to do this, to be joyful, then we are to make a conscious, determined, effort to be committed to being genuinely joyful. How do we do that? By trusting in God to help us do that. When God commands something he also give us the provision in the Holy Spirit to help us accomplish that. If a person is genuinely saved, then they will have a genuine joy even in trials and they will be thankful for those trials.
One thing that helps with this is if we understand that all trials have a purpose. Hebrews 12:2 says of Jesus, “who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Jesus understood that this trial was temporary and that it served a far greater purpose. Verse 3 says, “For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” Verse 4, “You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin.” Verse 11 concludes, “All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained in it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.”
Paul is one of the best examples of being joyful even in what were at times very trying circumstances. In Philippians 4:11-12 he wrote the following as he sat chained to a Roman soldier, “Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need.” In Acts 16:24-25 as he along with Silas were chained up in a prison it says of them in verse 25, “But about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns of praise to God, and the prisoners were listening to them…”
The late Bible teacher Warren Wiersbe once wrote of trials: “Our values determine our evaluations. If we value comfort more than character, then trials will upset us. If we value the material and physical more than the spiritual, we will not be able to ‘count it all joy!’ If we live only for the present and forget the future, the trials will make us bitter not better.”