Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Is Joy Possible in Trials?

Yesterday I introduced you to the subject matter found in James 1:2-12. In this section, James tells his readers how to respond to trials. In verse 2 he told them to “count it all joy.” Joy is a command in Scripture. Paul said in Philippians 3:1, “Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. For me to write the same things to you is not tedious, but for you it is safe.” Joy was such a priority for Paul that he told them again two times in 4:4 to “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!” In both of those verses he uses the Greek word chairo, which translates a present, active, imperative. The present tense is the continuous tense. This is to be going on all the time. The active voice means the subject is causing the action. You are to rejoice. It’s not based on circumstances. It’s based on a command. This verb is in the imperative mood, which is a command. Paul commands the Philippians to rejoice in the Lord! You say, “How is that possible?” “How can I rejoice during a severe trial or any trial in my life?” First, Paul doesn’t say, “rejoice in the Lord if...” He lays no condition on the command. He says “rejoice in the Lord period.” Second, you have to understand the purpose of trials. Yes trials are painful and “grievous; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (Heb.12:11). Stop looking at how difficult your trial is and focus on what it will produce and remember what Paul said in Romans 8:18: “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”

When Paul told the Philippians to “rejoice,” he said that after being beaten and thrown in jail. Further, he didn’t call for them to do something he didn’t do. Luke tells us in Acts 16:23-25, “And when they had laid many stripes on them, they threw them into prison, commanding the jailer to keep them securely. Having received such a charge, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks. But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them.” They could have joy because their trial drew them to God and they knew God was in control of their lives.

After David confessed his sin in Psalm 32, he said in verses 10-11 that “Many sorrows shall be to the wicked; but he who trusts in the LORD, mercy shall surround him. Be glad in the LORD and rejoice, you righteous; and shout for joy, all you upright in heart.” In chapter 33, he continues: “Rejoice in the LORD, O you righteous! For praise from the upright is beautiful. Praise the LORD with the harp; make melody to Him with an instrument of ten strings. Sing to Him a new song; play skillfully with a shout of joy” (vv.1-3). Paul said of the Thessalonians that they “became followers of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Spirit” (1 Thess.1:6). In his second letter to the Thessalonians, he said “We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is fitting, because your faith grows exceedingly, and the love of everyone of you all abounds toward each other, so that we ourselves boast of you among the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that you endure” (1:3-4). There faith was growing and their love was abounding because of the “persecutions and tribulations” they endured.

What is your attitude today toward trials? Are you rejoicing like Paul and Silas? Do you understand that joy has nothing to do with your circumstances? Ponder that today and join me again tomorrow as we consider more on this subject.

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