I will be starting a new sermon series in the Book of James in three weeks. As I study in preparation for that series I am struck by the powerful teaching on trials that James begins his letter with.
“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 let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” (James 1:3-4)
This is truly an example of distinctively Christian hope. This is more than a resigned acceptance of evil. James isn’t just saying “Keep your chin up.” James is saying count your trouble, joy. Consider your hardship to be your happiness.
Maybe someone might ask, But is that really good advice? Well, no, at least not apart from the gospel. Only a wacko would be happy about suffering for the sake of suffering itself. Apart from the Christ, that would be madness!
But this portion of Scripture is not meant merely to be a tip to help the average Joe to get through tough times. This is for Christians. In fact, James says suffering is actually part of the blessing of the Christian life. That might be worth repeating. James says suffering is actually part of the blessing of the Christian life.
“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)
James gives them this counsel as he calls them to “hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ” (2:1). Jesus is “the Lord of Glory” (2:1) and “the Lord of hosts” (5:4) and he stands at the door ready at any moment to come for his own (5:7, 9). No other hope can sustain true joy in a genuine Christian who is suffering a real trial.
With this in mind, we are going to begin learning a new song in our congregation this week. It is by Keith and Kristyn Getty, called “When Trials Come.” They write:
Inspired by those powerful passages about suffering in James and 1 Peter, this song has been sung far beyond western shores by those who face persecution in different parts of the world. In considering trial and struggle we wanted to capture a sense of victory and boldness as we remember our confidence and comfort is in the Lord who has defeated death and overcome the world.
Here is a chance to start learning it now. (Ignore the text reference to Margaret Becker. It is a mistake.) You can find the lyrics here.
Update: If you have trouble with it playing you may need to click through to the You Tube site to view it.