"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 anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. " James 1:2-5 NIV
In preparing this article, I spent about two weeks seeking God for a Scripture on joy. Not the superficial kind of joy, but I wanted something that would speak volumes about divine, genuine, lasting joy. The kind that attracts those living in the lost world around me to desire to know who my God truly is! I asked Him for a verse that wasn't common or one that many people don't really talk about, specifically regarding joy.
Well, what else can I say, the Lord sure does have a wonderful sense of humor, because He responded with the above verses from the book of James. In return, my initial reaction was a sigh much like one of a child being given a project or assignment that she didn't want. I began thinking to myself, "Lord, these verses aren't unfamiliar Scriptures. If anything they are some of the most common Scripture references used regarding joy."
But, every time I find myself seeking some in depth, life changing encounter with God, he takes me by the hand and leads me back to the basic building blocks that make up the foundation for my eternal relationship with Him. In doing so, He is showing me that everything I'm seeking from Him is usually right in front of me, if I choose to both acknowledge and accept it.
After reading through James 1:2-5, it was as if the Lord had made these verses of Scripture clearer to me than they had ever been before. As I meditated on each verse, any and every excuse that I had for having not allowed the Lord to be the center of my joy had been removed.
In most cases I wasn't happy with certain things that God was allowing me to experience in my life because at the time, I didn't understand it. And because of my lack of understanding, I felt as if I was saved enough, or that I knew enough of the Word to somehow be able to fend for myself. However, by no means was that what the Lord intended. Instead, what He wanted was for me to ask Him for the guidance and instruction that would allow me to accomplish His will for that situation (James 1:5 NIV).
Consider it pure joy, my brothers when you face trials of many kinds(James 1:2 NIV). Usually for me, the buck stopped here! I would often wonder how on Earth I was supposed to experience joy through trials. Now that was an oxymoron if I'd ever heard one! So the Lord decided to lead me on a stroll down memory lane.
I can remember growing up as a little girl, and being raised in what was referred to as the worst housing projects in Atlanta at the time. As a child, I didn't realize it as much as I do now, but my family was poor! There was never enough money, food, room, or anything else. The funny thing is that when my family comes together, none of us ever asks if anyone remembers the most trying moments that we experienced as children. Instead, we usually find ourselves in gut-busting laughter having recalled all of the fun-filled moments that took place in the midst of what seemed to be our less than prosperous circumstances.
The truth is that we did prosper (James 1:3 NIV). We prospered in faith, because no matter how many times we encountered lack, God was faithful to provide for us. We prospered in love, our love for God and our love for each other. We prospered in our trust and dependency upon God. No matter whom He used to be a blessing to us, my family and I were mindful to never lose sight of the vivid reality that it was God who was meeting our needs.
So you see, there was joy in our trials, and we realized it because we chose to focus on that aspect of our circumstance. In doing so, God allowed us to experience and see things about His character that we have carried into our adult lives (James 1:4 NIV).
Unfortunately, we live in a day where a life of joy is exemplified through wealth, social status, physical appearance, worldly possessions, and a barrage of other things that have absolutely nothing to do with true and lasting joy.
In Proverbs 19:23 we are reminded that it is the fear of the Lord that leads to life, and that it is only through life in Him that we can rest content, untouched by trouble. This does not mean that we will not encounter trials. But rather, in living lives that are hidden in the Lord, when we allow our faith and trust in Him to remain constant, He will not allow the trials that we do face to consume us.
I apologize to those of you who may have been expecting a skip-through-the-roses type of article. That is not what living the Christian life is about. In careful reading you will notice that all of the components mentioned are what make up the basic foundation in successfully and effectively experiencing a life that is hidden in the Lord.
Reverence for who the Lord God is
Love for God and love for others
Faith in Him and his ability to be God
Trust in knowing that He has your best interest at heart
Complete dependency on Him to meet your needs
Focus on the Word, believing that He will do all that he promises
These are some of the primary building blocks needed in experiencing a joy that is like a river overflowing, unyielding and eternal. So, what better way to sum this all up than with words of encouragement from our Savior:
"When a woman gives birth, she has a hard time, there's no getting around it. But when the baby is born, there is joy in the birth. This new life in the world wipes out memory of the pain. The sadness you have right now is similar to that pain, but the coming joy is also similar. When I see you again, you'll be full of joy, and it will be a joy no one can rob from you. You'll no longer be so full of questions. This is what I want you to do: Ask the Father for whatever is in keeping with the things I've revealed to you. Ask in my name, according to my will, and he'll most certainly give it to you. Your joy will be a river overflowing its banks!" John 16:21-24 MSG