CONSIDER IT ALL JOY
James 1:1-12 06/25/2017
Introduction: We are living in a culture that says, the Pursuit of Happiness is everything. When the rest of the world is suffering, all we want and care is to be happy, healthy and wealthy. We want happiness and love and contentment without ever having to suffer or sacrifice. And we want it now. There is no scarcity of preachers who preach the health and wealth gospel, but what we are lacking is a balanced theology on suffering. Since, coming to America I’ve been introduced to the life story of Joni Eareckson Tada. Tada was born in 1949 in Baltimore, Maryland, the youngest of four daughters. As a teenager, Tada enjoyed riding horses, hiking, tennis, and swimming. On July 30, 1967, she dove into Chesapeake Bay after misjudging the shallowness of the water. She suffered a fracture between the fourth and fifth cervical levels and became a quadriplegic, paralyzed from the shoulders down.
In preparation to this sermon I was listening to her interview on CBN, tears were flowing down my eyes as I heard her continued struggle at the same time her Joy in the Lord. She said, “After almost 50 years in a wheelchair, every single morning when I wake up I need Jesus so badly," she told CBN News, "I just can't tolerate the thought of another day as a quadriplegic with someone else giving me a bed bath and exercising my legs and toileting routines and it all just seems too overwhelming." Her next thing she said is to pray "Jesus, I need you. I can't do this. I cannot do quadriplegia but I can do all things through you."
Joni is a living example of someone who found Joy in the midst of suffering. Last week we have learned how we were to speak to our souls and encourage ourselves in the Lord. Today we will look at, what should be our attitude, and response to suffering. The Apostle, James lays down a pathway for first century Christians on how they can overcome their struggles, and remain firm in their faith. I title this message, “CONSIDER IT ALL JOY.”
Background: The author identifies himself as James (1:1); he was probably the brother of Jesus and the leader of the Jerusalem council (Ac 15). James was one of several brothers of Jesus, probably the oldest since he heads the list in Mt 13:55. At first, he did not believe in Jesus and even challenged him and misunderstood his mission (Jn 7:2–5). After Jesus’ resurrection, James became very prominent in the Jerusalem church: James was one of the select individuals Christ appeared to after his resurrection (1Co 15:7). Paul called him a “pillar” of the church (Gal 2:9). James was a leader in the important council of Jerusalem (Ac 15:13).
Tradition tells us that James spent so much time on his knees in prayer that they became as callous as the knees of camels. This epistle was written around 60 A.D. The recipients were identified explicitly only in 1:1 “the twelve tribes scattered among the nations. “the term “twelve tribes, was referring to the early Jewish Christians. Under the Emperor Nero, Jewish Christians were hunted, persecuted and many were put to death. Several, apostles were killed and many were scattered all over the region. In that context, the Apostle James was writing to the believers not to give up hope but to consider it all Joy, because their perseverance will be richly rewarded.
I CONSIDER IT ALL JOY
A lot has been written and said about, happiness and how to be happy. But what is happiness and how is it different from Joy? A dictionary definition of happiness is “a state of well-being; a pleasurable or satisfying experience.” Happiness is based on “happenings” meaning if things happen to go well, you are happy. For example, it’s easy to be happy when you are healthy, you’re financially secure, and all your relationships are good, but then you have trouble with one or more of these, what happens to your “happiness?” It’s probably gone. But the biblical Joy is different. If you’ve trusted in Jesus and know you are secure and safe in His hands, and Jesus is in control of every situation then you still have joy.
A quote on Joy, by Henri Nouwen, “Joy does not simply happen to us. We have to choose joy and keep choosing it every day.” Depending on the translation, the Bible uses the words happy and happiness about 30 times, while joy and rejoice appear over 300 times. For our study, I use John Piper’s definition on Joy, “Christian joy is a good feeling in the soul, produced by the Holy Spirit, as he causes us to see the beauty of Christ in the word and in the world.”
Joni Eareckson knows what it is to have that good feeling in her soul, irrespective of her outward circumstances. Joni notes, “God is more concerned with confirming me to the likeness of His son, than leaving me in my comfort zones. God is more interested in inward qualities than outward circumstance, things like refining my faith, humbling my heart, cleaning up my thought life and strengthening my Character.” God wants to change our hearts more than relieving pain.
Coming back to our passage, the Apostle James wanted the persecuted Jewish Christians to focus on developing Christ like Character when he said, Vs, 2“Consider it pure Joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, “James addresses the readers as, “brothers and sisters” fifteen times in this short letter. Brothers and sisters refers to believers, both men and women as part of God’s family.” He has many rebukes for them, but he corrects them in a brotherly love. So, if you are a believer and belong to God’s family then this address is referring to you as well.
What does it mean, to “consider it pure (all) Joy,”? The English word, “Consider” means, “to think about carefully.” The Greek word here also means “evaluate.” Based on these definitions, we could say, that believers need to think carefully or evaluate when they face trails. Our normal tendency when we go through trails, is to think that we got the wrong end of the deal, and we are the only ones who are going through such suffering. But when we pause and think, many people in the world are going through worse things than we can ever imagine.
What are the trails of many kinds? The Greek word means trouble or something that breaks the pattern of peace, comfort, Joy and happiness in someone’s life. The action form of this word means, “to put someone or something to the test” with the purpose of testing that person’s nature or that things quality. Every trail becomes a test of faith designed to strengthen a believer. God at times brings such tests or allows his children to go through them in order to increase and strengthen the quality of their faith.
We see this played out clearly in the horrible trails that Job underwent in the OT, but as he stood the test and did not give into the temptation in the end he was blessed beyond belief. James, might have had Job as an example when he said, Vs 3-4, “Because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
Vs- 3-4 are the basis of Vs 2, James knew what happens to those who will hunker down, and persevere under trails, in the end they will become mature, complete and not lack anything. Therefore, he encourages the persecuted believers not to give up when facing trials but to consider it all Joy. You might be saying to yourself, pastor you don’t understand my situation, you have no clue about what I am suffering, how can you say to me to consider it all Joy? You are right, I may lack understanding of your situation, but there is someone who can perfectly understand us because he went through, all what we are going through or would ever go through.
II HOW CAN WE CONSIDER IT ALL JOY?
I suggest two keys, that might help us to develop the attitude of Joy in the midst of trails. One is to have a right perspective and the other is to have faith in God. Having the right perspective: When it comes to handling rightly in adversity, Jesus is our model. On the sermon on the mount, Jesus warned us that we will be persecuted and mistreated because of our faith.
Matthew 5:11-12 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Similarly, the Apostle Peter encouraged the suffering believers saying, “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.”
This was one of the big motivations for the early martyrs, they saw themselves identifying with the sufferings of Christ, so they didn’t back off in their suffering. Even today, many are being persecuted for the sake of the gospel around the world. Many are imprisoned and even put to death for preaching the good news of peace and love. We have the examples of prophets, the early and the present-day martyrs of faith, and above all Jesus who endured the cross for the Joy that was set before him, that was you and me.
The writer to the Hebrews this has to say to us in our trails, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”
I hope by now you are beginning to develop a right perspective over your suffering, by looking at these cloud of witnesses. Secondly, “Having faith in God.” We put our faith in God who promised to be with us in our trails. He encouraged us to call upon him in the day of trouble and he will answer us. (Psalm 50:15).
He also promised to provide a way out. “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” I Cor 10:13. The Greek word for temptation and tempted can also be translated as, testing and tested.
Jesus said, “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” John 15:11, Jesus promised to give us Joy when we obey his commandments. He also challenged us to ask him in prayer, “until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.” John 16:24.
The Apostle James, qualifies what to ask for and how are we to ask? When we go through hardships we need wisdom to respond rightly. “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.” James 1:5-8
The key to receive anything from God including wisdom is, to have faith in God, and never to doubt him. For example, when you pray for healing, a job or for a breakthrough in a situation, by faith you ask Jesus to intervene, do not be double-minded, but believe firmly that God is going to answer your prayers. I’ve seen this kind of faith at work in my own life.
So, dear friends, what is your trail today? Some of you might be going through severe hardships, financially, health wise and relationally. Whatever your struggle may be, have you considered it all Joy? I want us to leave this morning encouraged, with James’ assuring words, Vs 12 “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.” Amen.