Joy in Trials

© Curtis I. Crenshaw 26 August 2015

(James 1:2-4 NKJ)

My brethren, count it all joy

     when you fall into various trials,

     knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.

But let patience have its perfect work,

that you may be perfect and complete,

lacking nothing.

There are two commands in these verses: count it something and let have something. The first command combined with its extra words is to “count it all joy” when, not if, we fall into various trials, and the second command is to let patience have its perfect, or maturing work, that we may be complete; that is, made holy. Trials are God’s sanctification on steroids, making us speed up into holiness to keep His commandments. As David said,

  “It is good for me that I have been afflicted,

That I may learn Your statutes” (Psalm 119:71 NKJ).

My favorite passage of scripture when I was a child was Job chapters 1-2. I had my mother and grandmother read the first two chapters to me many times. I guess that Job chapters 1-2 being my favorite passage was somewhat prophetic as I’ve had a major affliction each decade of my life.

You recall Satan appearing before the Lord God, and who started the contest between Satan and Job? It was the Lord:

6 Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them. 7 And the LORD said to Satan, “From where do you come?” So Satan answered the LORD and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking back and forth on it.” 8 Then the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil?” 9 So Satan answered the LORD and said, “Does Job fear God for nothing? 10 Have You not made a hedge around him, around his household, and around all that he has on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. 11 But now, stretch out Your hand and touch all that he has, and he will surely curse You to Your face!” 12 And the LORD said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your power; only do not lay a hand on his person.” So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD. (Job 1:6-12 NKJ)

The first affliction I recall was when my mother married a Baptist preacher when I was eleven. Unknown to her, he had been run off from his last church when he was involved with a teenage girl. Two years into his marriage with my mom, a woman in the church lost her husband to an accident. She received double indemnity pay out. Thus, he tried to murder my mom pregnant with my half brother, make it look like an accident so he could keep his church, marry the new woman, and have the money, but it did not work.

(I’m not going to rehearse all my trials. I have a book titled Why Is God Always Late? that does that.)

There are two huge assumptions that underlie Job and James. Can you see what they are? Without these assumptions we would not appreciate or even really understand Job and James.

(1) How can we possibly consider it joyful (James) when we enter trials unless our loving Jesus is in control? We see that in Job: God started the context between Job and Satan, and controlled it from the beginning. Moreover, it is one large assumption in James, for if we were in control or Satan was in control, I can guarantee it would not be joyful but miserable. In 1 Corinthians 10:13 we have confirmation of who is in control:

No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it. (1 Corinthians 10:13 NKJ)

The words in bold clearly state the Triune God is in control and that He will not allow us to be too sorely tempted or crushed. He knows just how much pressure to put on us, how long it should last, and when to remove it, which may not be until we die. But let us see what the Lord of glory seeks to produce in us by His trials:

“Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” (Hebrews 12:11 NKJ)

“Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14 NKJ).

Notice two things from these verses in Hebrews: (1) no trial seems to be joyful, but we are to mentally by faith declare it such according to James. (2) And why should we? It is because of what He is producing in us: righteousness or holiness, without which we shall not see the Lord in mercy but only in judgment.

(2) Second assumption given to us in James is the little four letter word “when.” We see the same teaching in Hebrews 12:6: “For whom the LORD loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives.” There is no true child of God without some trials and suffering. Even the Son of God “learned obedience by the things He suffered” (Hebrews 5:8). (Not, by the way, that He had to learn to overcome His sin—He had none!—but that He learned how to keep from sinning by suffering.)

Other applications: from Job (and the Lord’s angst in the garden just before His crucifixion), we know that it is ok to feel the strain of a trial. If someone we love dies, we cry (John 11:35). If we get hurt, we feel the pain. AMEN. Ὡ