James: Are We Joyful During Hardships?

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.  And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

James 1:2-4

The aged apostle staggers to his pen and parchment in the dimness of the dungeon in which he has sat for many months.  The half-cooked gruel and tepid water they feed him once a day roils about in his stomach.  He knows that before the day ends he will likely have to rush to the chamber pot in the corner of his cell several times due to attacks of diarrhea.  Hopefully it won’t turn into dysentery like it has with others who are in the cells next to him.  He picks up his pen and continues his letter to his Christian brethren at Philippi, thankful for the divine inspiration of the Spirit that illuminates his mind in ways he doesn’t understand.  He writes:  “Do all things without grumbling or disputing; so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I will have reason to glory because I did not run in vain nor toil in vain.  But even if I am being poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I rejoice and share my joy with you all.  You too, I urge you, rejoice in the same way and share your joy with me” (Phil. 2:14-18).  He smiles, appreciating the import of the message the Lord through the Spirit has given him to give to his brethren.  Instead of grumbling and complaining, be happy and joyful…even when you are in the midst of severe hardship.  That’s how you let your light shine.

The twelve men stagger out of the Temple complex, grimacing in pain with each step they take.  Their backs, hindquarters, thighs and legs are covered with bloody welts and gashes.  They are light-headed from loss of blood.  They will have to sleep on their stomachs for the next month as they heal.  They know that their wives and children will be heart-broken, terrified, and angry when they see their wounds and hear of their ordeal.  And yet…they cannot keep the smiles off their faces as they remember how the high priest had angrily shouted at them, “We gave you strict orders not to continue teaching in this name, and yet, you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us!” (Acts 5:27-28), and how Peter had led them all to quietly but firmly reply, “We must obey God rather than men” (v. 29).  They remember what their Master suffered…the flogging (much more brutal than what they had just endured), the crown of thorns, the spit, the punches.  The nails.  They remember why He willingly suffered and died…to save them and all others who would follow Him from the hell they all deserved because of their sins.  And so they cannot stop smiling, “rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name” (Acts 5:41).  They know Heaven is waiting.  They know that they will continue preaching.  They know that more souls will be converted and be saved.  They cannot stop smiling.

What about us, Christians?  Take a moment as you sit in the church pew reading this bulletin article and open your Bibles to 2 Corinthians 11:23-28.  Read all of what that aged apostle – Paul – went through to brings souls to Christ.  The jails.  The beatings.  The whippings.  The scars on his back.  All the danger he was in.  The hunger.  The thirst.  The sleepless nights.  The cold.  The heat.  And yet…“I rejoice and share my joy with you all.  You too…rejoice in the same way and share your joy with me.”  Think about the hardships and trials you go through in your own life.  Think about what tests your faith.  Are you willing to endure?  Are you willing to “consider it all joy”?  Are you willing to allow it help you grow into what God would have you to be?                                                                                      

— Jon

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