Today’s reading: Hebrews 13, James 1, 2, Proverbs 5
James 1:2-4 (NKJV)
2 My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. 4 But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.
Count it all joy when I am in the midst of various trials? That is a strange and impossible instruction to my flesh. You know how it is. When we are going through things that are really difficult our flesh wants some sympathy. So if we are allowing our flesh to influence our decisions in these times of difficulty, we will whine, complain, and moan about our lot and all we have been going through. The goal of these complaints is to get attention and sympathy, not deliverance.
The reasoning here is that if we have to go through bad stuff at least we can milk the situation for all the attention, sympathy, and “poor baby’s” we can get out of it. Yet, James instructs us to do exactly the opposite. He tells us to “count it all joy.” Jesus instructed His disciples with the same principle recorded in Matthew’s gospel: “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” – Mat. 5:11-12.
Rejoicing is not what I feel like doing when I am going through a tough time. Sometimes I feel like throwing a pity party and hope someone else will show up who is feeling worse than me and will take my side. Misery loves company. But that is not the answer or the way out of our troubles. That response – the world’s response – to troubles will only help us dig a deeper hole than the one we find ourselves in.
You remember the story in Acts 16 about Paul and Silas being thrown into a Philippian jail. They had tried to go to Asia and Bithynia to preach the gospel, but the Spirit gave them a strong witness they were not to go there. Later, they had a vision of a man in Macedonia who told them to come over to help his people. So they followed the Spirit’s direction, preached the gospel there, made some disciples, and cast out some devils.
They ended up in jail, beaten with many stripes. They were there because they had obeyed the leading of the Spirit to preach the gospel in that region. No doubt they were tempted to complain, blame God, and question, “Why us, Lord? We were just obeying you and look where it got us.” I am not sure how long they were in jail before they began to count it all joy. But, at midnight they began to pray and sing praises to God.
They were rejoicing in a very difficult situation that had not turned out according to plans. That praise service resulted in an earthquake that opened their prison doors, freed them, gave them opportunity to share the gospel with their jailor, and he and his family were saved. The bottom line is if we will count it all joy in the midst of our own difficulties revival can break out. Other people can receive the freedom you and I have received through our faith in Jesus. Think about it the next time you are tempted to murmur and complain.