“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking in anything.”
The more carefully I study the Word of God the more I am brought to recognise the necessity of developing a committed prayer life. When we dig deeper into the letter of James we discover that this man, who was reputed to be a man of prayer, has a lot to tell us about living the Christian life. The stories have been preserved in history of James as a man who spent so much time in prayer that his knees were calloused from the practice. It seems that James was writing to a community of Christians who were facing severe persecution. This in fact seems to be the Biblical and historic norm. It is we who live with such freedom who are unusual in our comfort. James sets the experience of his persecuted fellow believers in a Biblical perspective which lets us see the loving purpose of God behind our frowning experience.
James calls us to consider it sheer joy when we face trials. The word “consider” in verse two is a word that describes a practical, reasoned conclusion which is arrived at by considering the facts of a situation. In reality James calls us to make a conscious commitment to develop a new way of thinking that is based upon the teaching of the wisdom of God, found in His Word. The Biblical wisdom teaches us doctrines which are to be the foundation of our lives. Such doctrine points us towards the Kingdom of God which is coming in glory with the return of our Lord. We are looking ahead to that day of glory and we are basing our lives upon it. All that we experience in this life is viewed in the context of that great day.
As James calls us to this reasoned approach to life he describes for us its benefit. It produces endurance which leads to maturity and completeness in Christ. That is why we consider it pure joy when we face the trials of our lives because we see in our difficulties the hand of a loving God who is at work conforming us to the image of the Lord Jesus Christ. In this James is in agreement with the Apostle Paul who wrote to the Romans, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose. For those God foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brothers.” (Romans 8:28-29) What a precious truth.
James tells us that our calling and responsibility as believers is to be determined to respond to difficult circumstances with a joy that is based upon faith in the Living God. This response is to be from the heart, and it is the definition of real worship. It is not however something which comes naturally to us. It is the fruit of the Holy Spirit created within us and it is therefore a response that drives us to our knees in prayer. There really is no other way.