I was meeting with a friend today who is exploring attending and perhaps joining our church. Interviewing me, he asked about my life story. Immediately, it seemed like thousands of still pictures flashed before my very eyes. In what seemed like a millisecond, my heart experienced a rush of mixed feelings. I sat back in my office chair and looked up at the ceiling wondering where in the world I should start. I opened my mouth and transparently and naked before my friend said with a smile, “I am so blessed.” As I talked to my friend about my childhood, my college days, my sin, my failures, my inadequacies and ultimately my redemption from condemnation through Jesus, one word resonated in it all. This one word was in every experience I shared. One word seemed to weave wonderfully through the tapestry of my shady life of sin and redemption. I found it in looking back at my divorce. I found it looking back to when my two year old died of cancer. I found it when I hit a buzzer beater at the end of a basketball game. I found it when I graduated from college and seminary. I found it when I remembered lying in the middle of the road wishing a truck would run me over. I found it when my children were born. I found it in every situation, looking back with the eyes of the redemptive Christ and through the love of the Father. I found joy.
I remember looking at these events in my life before, but found little to no joy. So how was I able to change that? How was I able to look at, let’s say, the death of my son and now find joy? Good question because that’s the heaviest situation I have ever faced. So how was I able to find joy in it? I wasn’t. That’s right, I wasn’t able. I couldn’t because I didn’t have the ability. Only God could help me see the joy in that situation and I didn’t see it when I was in the situation. I saw it years later, in God’s time. And I finally saw it through the eyes of Jesus after reading and meditating on a particular passage of Scripture. God’s Word has a way of leading us to a greater peace, comfort and understanding. So join me in this journey. Grab your Bible and turn with me to the Letter of James. It’s located immediately after Hebrews.
In the first chapter of James, beginning with verse two. Let’s read together.
“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And left steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and completed, lacking nothing.” – James 1:2-3 (ESV)
“Count it all joy”??? Really? Really? The Greek word for “count” can also be translated “consider” or “evaluate.” When I evaluate my life, especially those difficult situations, I can now see joy. When I consider that joy could exist in my current trials, I become confident that it does even though I may not be able to see it now. We are told to look for joy (evaluate) in the trial and expect joy (consider) is present and will later be found because of and through the trial. These “trials” are troubles or anything that breaks the flow of peace, comfort, joy or happiness in your life. We have a tendency to view trials with “the end of the world” kind of drama, when in fact our trials here on earth are temporary.
The Bible says these trials are actually tests of our faith. What are you going through right now? Have you truly understood that it’s temporary? Or have you accepted this as the biggest thing in your life right now? My psychology professor in college, Dr. Richard Brewer, once asked me how big the dime in his hand was in perspective to my hand. I responded that it was small. He then asked me in relation to the room. I said it was even smaller. He proceeded to ask me in relation to the state of Missouri, then the United States, then to the earth and then to the universe. Of course I said it was minute and not big enough to even matter. Dr. Brewer then asked me to close one eye and hold a dime up to the other one. He asked me what I could see and I responded, “nothing.” I learned that day that my trials are tiny to God, but are enormous to me because I tend to make them the primary focus of my life. Everything seemed to eventually revolve around the issue at hand. Because of this, I couldn’t see God, but only my trials. I learned perspective that day. When you can see God, you can experience joy. There is no other way. Can you see God today? Or are you riddle with haunting fears and concerns with a certain trial? If your trials, difficulties and sufferings were dimes, would they be obstructions to your vision or would they be at the foot of the cross of Christ, at the mercy of His power? Are you carrying the burden alone? Open your hands and let go of your suffering and pain, giving it to God through earnest prayer. And when you open your hands, you can not only let go, but your open hands can receive the blessings, peace, comfort and consolation of Jesus.
I want to encourage you today to lay your trials before God and ask for the strength of faith to face your trials. Friend, God will pull you through. Don’t give up the fight, but get up and fight. He will give you strength. He will give you victory. There is joy in your trial. You may not see it now, but that isn’t important. What’s important is that you believe God’s promise that joy is present and that there will be joy; that He will never leave you and is faithful to pull you through. Let’s pray together.
“Father, thank You for trials. Thank You for Your faithfulness, grace and mercy. Thank You for sending Your Son, Jesus, to die on the cross for my sins so that I can be forgiven and spend eternity with You. Thank You for the life You have given me. Give me the faith to put my trials before You, the strength to fight and the eyes to see You so I can have the joy You’ve commanded me to have. I need Your help, Lord. Thank You in advance for answering my prayer. Amen.”
“Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love Him.” – James 1:12 (ESV)
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