Understanding Trouble – Part 4
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds…” (James 1:2 NIV)
James, the half-brother of our Lord, wrote a letter to the Jewish Christians who been scattered when persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem. It makes sense, then, that in this letter, he would address the trouble that Christians face in life; and it’s important for us to understand the nature of this trouble as well, so that we can be victorious in our walk with the Lord. James speaks of this trouble coming in two different forms, but he uses the same Greek word for both; namely, “peirasmós.” “Peirasmós” can mean temptation, which is sent by the enemy to try to get us to sin against God; but the good news is that temptation in itself is not sin unless the will gives consent and we act on the thought presented by Satan to our minds. Also, the Bible says that God will not allow us to be tempted beyond what we can bear, and that he always provides us with a way of escape so that we might be able to bear it. Finally, if we do fall into sin, we have the assurance that if we confess our sins, God is faithful to forgive us. James also uses the Greek word “peirasmós” for the trials that God permits in our lives.
God sends us trials, because there’s a divine program for our lives. He’s got more planned for us than just living out our lives as Christians in a nice apartment or house, or driving a nice car. His aim is to develop in us those invisible qualities that the car and the house could never give us. Unless we understand what God is after and the plan he has for our lives, however, we will find what James says in the beginning of his letter to be completely crazy. What he exhorts Christians to do is to “consider it pure joy” when we encounter all kinds of trials. James’ use of the word “encounter” or “face” or “fall into” in the Greek means that the trials catch us by surprise, so that we’re suddenly face to face with them. Have you ever heard of someone calling up a friend and breathlessly saying, “I can’t believe this… I’m so happy! I just got blindsided by a trial on my job: they’re talking about cutting my department in half, so I could be axed. Praise the Lord!”? Who does that?! Yet James tells us to count it pure joy when we run into trials of all kinds. The fact that this is hard for us to understand shows how shallow we can be. Generally, if what we’re experiencing feels good, we say, “Thank you, Lord!” but if it feels bad, we say, “Satan, we rebuke you!” That’s so simplistic, and it shows how little spiritual understanding we sometimes have.
What most of us don’t realize, and what James is trying to communicate, is that when trials of all sizes and shapes come, God is the one who has planned and permitted those trials for the purpose of building in us something that comes only through difficulty. He’s trying our faith, which is more precious than silver or gold. He’s building perseverance, because the Bible says that "he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved" (Matthew 24:13 KJV).
To be continued...
Read James 1:1-3.