Count it all Joy

August 14, 2008

“My Brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.” James 1:2

When I was first filled and illuminated by the Holy Spirit as a late teen, enlightened by the Scriptures along with the Grace and wisdom of God, I was sure there would be few problems that occurred throughout my life until glorification. I did not necessarily know what a trial was. Any tribulation in my life up until salvation was the only real challenge I thought I would encounter, forever. My preconceived ideas of Christianity involved simply praying to receive what I want, and receiving favor because I now “belong to God.” After all, The Creator of the Universe had chosen me before the foundation of the world for me to bear His name and glorify Him throughout all eternity. Would God take anything from me that I have? Would He not give me something that I want? Would He cause me hurt and pain?

It turns out that my preconceived ideas about being a Christian were exactly the opposite of what is true. Although being saved is the greatest thing and highest calling for a human being in the history of the Universe, it is also the most difficult [on earth]. It is great because it means that Jesus Christ has passed over our sins by 1.) shedding His perfect blood to bring us back to life or justifying us and 2.) reconciling us with God so that we inherit eternal life instead of eternal destruction. But, it is difficult upon the new birth because we are now literally separated from the rest of the fallen world. The ground we live on is cursed and every human being naturally hates God until He performs the miracle of salvation within the soul.

Once the new birth takes place, i.e., the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, we are guaranteed eternal life (1 Corinthians 1:22). It is the most profound mystery of all time. It perplexes the greatest of worldly minds and thinkers (who are still fools in the eyes of God). Yet, in the midst of this infinite blessing, there can and will develop the greatest trials, obstacles, temptations and tribulations known to man. This can only be true to the Christian, mainly because only he has obtained knowledge of the truth, by the Spirit, to accurately represent a biblical worldview. We are no longer at one with the world. Those who love the world are at one with it and do not disagree with it. One who loves the world develops personal philosophies about life and how they (personally) come to knowledge of “truth.” It is a most pleasing doctrine to a man that is cut off from the Grace of God as they revel in self-lordship.

As the unregenerate or unsaved person encounters a trial of some sort, the only natural avenue to take is to pity oneself while simultaneously pleasing the flesh and senses with some sort of idol worship. Many result to drugs or anything that causes them to obtain a certain temporary feeling of relaxation or comfort. Apart from Grace and adoption by the Heavenly Father, it is a steadily declining state that never fully recovers. When a trial arrives or a storm comes, what is already an infinitely deadly sinful state simply enrages into a forest fire of sin. Although, there are various circumstances of trials and tribulations, the wicked heart remains the same as God either effectually causes it to glorify Him or to continue into further sin and ultimate destruction. A primary example is the story of Cain and Abel. As they both brought forth an offering, one was clearly favored over the other and therefore, one glorified God while the other did not.

“And in the process of time it came to pass that Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground to the Lord. Able also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat. And the Lord respected Abel and his offering, but he did not respect Cain and his offering. And Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell. So the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it.” Now Cain talked with Abel his brother; and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against his brother and killed him.”

Genesis 4:3-8

What seemed to be a level playing ground from conception and birth, irrevocably played out into what was to be the first murder in the history of mankind. The favor and Grace of God upon Abel over Cain was extolled in the particular trial that Cain was presented. Namely, his offering was not accepted or respected by God. It was a predicament for Cain that, indeed, caused him to be very angry. Instead of being delivered, his anger developed into rage that caused him to murder his very own brother. Since he did that, the Lord said,
“So now you are cursed from the earth, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand.” Genesis 4:11

Because the regenerate soul has a different eternal destiny than the unregenerate, he is dealt with differently. His sins are atoned for and they are not ultimately used against him. Although sin is and will be involved in almost any trial due to the deceptiveness of our own hearts, it is ultimately used for our good and the ultimate glory of God. For example, a seemingly impossible perceived situation or scenario by man will be one that develops into a possible storm with a difficulty that is unable to be substantiated by any human being. Thus, the purpose is clearly not in or of ourselves.

As Christians, it is our duty to recognize that we cannot create or deliver ourselves from any trial. Because of this fallen world, they will inevitably come. As the same temptations in the Christian arise in the trials to please the flesh because of our fallen nature, we are called to count it all joy when these various trials come about. James tells us to let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing (James 1:4). Only the Holy Spirit can genuinely do this work as we are caused to see the ultimate perfect work of Jesus Christ and how He responded to the various trials and temptations. After the perfect impossible storm has indeed risen and bloomed into full growth, the agony that sometimes causes the Christian soul to cry will bring him to his knees, giving him power to plead for deliverance instead of falling into sin.

Because the unregenerate soul is ignorant in the knowledge and power of God, he is self-sufficient in all of his ways. That is, when trials arise, he will attempt to overpower them, in his utter weakness. James is quite aware that Christians have the propensity to attempt to be self-sufficient and reminds us that in the moment we do so, we prove to be double-minded and unstable in all our ways (James 1:8). We begin to expect things from God because we believe, in our ignorance, that we should be able to produce and provide things ourselves. We believe in the midst of a calamity and/or trial that we can deliver ourselves. Despite any and every circumstance known to man, in complete humility, we are called to be subjected to the wisdom and will of God. He causes us to be that way.

We truly apply the Gospel in our lives when, in the midst of various trials, we continually learn to rest in Christ. “Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30
Many Christians have read and reread the above Scripture without truly applying it or interpreting what it actually means. It is truly an impossibility to know Christ and what “resting in Him” even means without first being called to be a Christian. Jesus first says,
“Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.” Matthew 11:27
If Christ has revealed Himself to you, causing the new birth, then as long as you are on earth, you are resting in Him. To rest Him is to love Him with all your heart, mind, soul and strength. To rest in Him is to trust that He is your deliverer from all spiritual warfare or any trial and tribulation. To rest in Him is to know that He created all things, knows all things and is Sovereign over all things, including every trial or scenario. To rest in Him is to repent, believe and know that all of your sins are forgiven, forever.

Every trial for the Christian is purposed to continually conform us into the image of Christ. Trials and tribulations, despite how long and unruly they seem, are the necessary means that God has chosen to sanctify those He loves and disciplines. We must cast our crowns before the feet of the Holy One that delivers us from them, knowing that we truly have nothing and deserve nothing. To obtain patience, we must demonstrate patience. To obtain kindness, we must demonstrate kindness. To get, we must give. To live, we must die. Rejoice in your trial, Christian. Know that God is making you like His Son. What is impossible with man is possible with God. Rest in Him and count it all joy.

“Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.”
James 1:12


One Response to “Count it all Joy”

  1. Candace Says:

    This is great A.J.! Very encouraging and uplifting to my soul.

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