Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, (James 1:2).
Whoever is in charge of marketing for Harley-Davidson is a genius. I remember an add several years ago that showed a huge male bicep bearing a tattoo of the Harley logo. The tag line was, “When was the last time you felt this strongly about anything?” Good question. Recently, they ran an add in a cycle magazine that showed a fellow on a sweet looking bike and read, “In a world gone crazy…it makes perfect sense.” I get it.
Lately, I’ve been pondering this classic verse from the letter Jesus’s brother James wrote to “the twelve tribes scattered among the nations.” I’m convinced this is a reference to the scattering of the early Jewish followers of Jesus that had been run out of Jerusalem following the first persecution of the church triggered by the stoning of Stephen. “Twelve tribes” here refers to both the fact that these believers were Jewish by descent, and that the Jewish believers viewed the followers of Jesus as Messiah as the true, spiritual, Israel. Being a true Jew was not a matter to them of being circumcised in the flesh…but of having a heart that had been “circumcised” through faith in Christ and the gift of the Spirit.
It was hard to follow Jesus if you were a first century Jew. It became hard for all who believed in him when Rome went crazy under Caligula and Nero. And it can still be hard in the world we live in today. Our natural response to trouble is to complain. But James writes that we are to consider it joy. My first response almost every time I read the verse is something like, “Easy for you to say!” But it wasn’t. It was tough.
I’m glad the verse doesn’t say “be joyful”. Rather, we are to “consider” or “reckon” it joyful when we experience a trial or test. I won’t claim to have mastered this. But it seems that “reckoning” involves a mental process that gets us to an insight that lets us see our difficulties in a new way. James goes on to deal with several outcomes of trial handled correctly. I’ve been thinking about how many of our trials, especially those that come as the result of our faith, are evidence that we are living sanely in an insane world. It makes perfect sense. The world is getting crazier. Jesus is the source of sanity and clarity. As I follow him and look at life through the lens of the Bible, I probably am going to find myself swimming upstream in a downstream world. Trials are evidence that I’m swimming in the right direction. So if you are in a tough spot today…I hope you will take the time to think it through…and be able to consider it joy!