Did you ever miss a word while you were reading something, only to find yourself extremely confused? For me, that usually happens when I’m in a rush or I assume I know the content exactly. This just happened to me as I was reading James 1…you know, the “count it all joy” section.
“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” – James 1.2-4
I’ve heard all kinds of crazy interpretations of that passage, one less plausible than the next. And far too often, my biggest gripe is that people end up disconnecting faith from reality (which we know is impossible, but that’s for another day), “Praise God – you’re car just died!” The irony here is that James’ instructions are calculating and intentional, almost mathematical: “COUNT.” Make a rational assessment. The notes in Thayer’s lexicon say it better than I ever could:
“Denote a belief resting not on one’s inner feeling or sentiment, but on the due consideration of external grounds, the weighing and comparing of facts.”
So James is telling the saints to deem hardship something worth celebrating due to the greater reality surrounding that hardship. But he doesn’t stop there, and neither should we. Yes, we should be joyful in hardship once we consider that our lives are now hidden with Christ in God. We have a “blessed hope.” But there’s more for us to consider beyond these “meta-realities.” James says that we make this assessment because we know these hardships are what the Holy Spirit uses to mature us and fill us with grace now – in this life!
Going back to my original question, the word I was overlooking here was “know.” We can count it all joy because we KNOW something that trials often cause us to forget – the Holy Spirit uses trials to cultivate our maturity, which in reality is Christ-likeness. But do I really know this? I mean, down in my gut, am I completely familiar with the Spirit’s means of completing me, pouring grace into me? How can we know this? Well, that’s a big question, and I would have to say that the quick and easy answer, while true, is probably inadequate. Yes, we know this by the grace of God and the revelation of the Spirit, but what does THAT look like on Wednesday afternoon? I think it looks like work, to be honest. Effort. Puttin’ some time in. I’m not talking about carnal ambition, but Spirit-led effort in learning the truth about God as revealed in the person of Christ in the Scriptures. Study Jesus. Period.
If we struggle to “count it all joy” it may very well be because we don’t KNOW what we need to in order to have that perspective. And generally speaking, we’ll never KNOW these truths of God’s working if we never crack open the B-I-B-L-E and give the Holy Spirit an opportunity to lead and guide us (into all truth). We’ll never know it all, but we need to know something if we ever hope to do anything!