Count it all joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:2-4
The meaning of James 1:2-4 is powerful and challenging. Because the reality of life is that we will all face difficulties and hardships. There’s no way around it. My guess is you’ve been through a few storms already. AND my guess is you will go through a few more.
At first glance “counting it all joy” might seem impossible and maybe even insensitive. After all, why should we think the storms we face are something to rejoice in?
But the truth of this passage is profound. And I think this is a passage that every follower of Jesus should reflect on and be encouraged by.
So, let’s take a few minutes to see what the meaning of James 1:2-4 has for us today.
The Context Of James 1:2-4
The Bible is a unique book. It’s unique because it’s not really a book, at least not how we think of it. It’s a collection of 66 different works. Some are books of history, others poetry, eyewitness accounts, and even personal letters.
The book of James falls into that last category, it’s a letter. It was written by James who was likely the half-brother of Jesus. He became a leader in the early church and wrote this likely to Jewish Christians who were facing trials and hardships.
James uses this letter to encourage his readers to bear their trials patiently and help them understand correct living. This is one of the most practical books of the Bible. James teaches his readers how to grow and mature their faith.
That’s what the meaning of James 1:2-4 is doing. This is the very beginning of the letter and James is setting the tone for what will follow. And he starts off with an important principle of the Christian faith—how to count it all as joy when we face hardships.
This is an important principle that can change the way we view and live out our faith. So let’s dive into the meaning of James 1:2-4 and see what it can teach us.
The Meaning Of James 1:2-4
To help you better understand the meaning of James 1:2-4 I’ve broken it down into five sections. After we look at each of these sections we will look at how they practically apply to our everyday lives.
Count It All Joy…
Count it ALL joy. Some translations say “consider it pure joy.” We will see in the next section that this joy is not based on our circumstances being good. Rather we should be counting it all joy when we face trails and tribulations. We will look more at that in a minute. But here I want to look at this word joy and what it means.
The word for joy in the original Greek is xará (chara) and it means to be cheerful, glad, or greatly joyful. Not surprising. What is surprising is the source of joy.
We tend to find joy in our circumstances. Vacations, relationships, promotions, when life is going up and to the right we are joyful. But the Bible talks about joy differently; joy in our circumstances is fleeting. But there’s a more secure joy that we can have even in the middle of a storm. That’s the joy James is talking about. One that can be experienced even in the difficult moments in life.
Dr. Tom Constable says this, “He did not advocate a masochistic attitude that unnaturally rejoices in painful experiences. Rather he commanded them to view their trials as profitable even though unpleasant. Another translation of “all joy” can be “pure joy.” The opposite would be “some joy” along with much grief. The attitude James advocated can take all the bitterness out of even very uncomfortable trials. Regardless of the source of our difficulties-the world, our flesh, or the devil-we can and should be glad as we go through them.”
Whenever You Face Trials Of Many Kinds…
Count all joy whenever you face trails… Now, what trials is James talking about? In short, all the trails we face. Whether financial, health, persecution, whatever. ALL the trials we face we are to count them as joy.
The Greek word that’s translated as trails is πειρασμός (peirasmois). Strong’s Concordance describes this as the “trial or proving of man’s fidelity, integrity, virtue, constancy, also an enticement to sin, temptation, whether arising from the desires or from outward circumstances.”
Today we tend to view trials and hardships as a negative, something to be avoided at all costs. But this attitude costs us; there’s actually a benefit to going through difficulties. And James is about to outline what counting it all joy produces in our life.
The Testing Of Your Faith Produces Perseverance…
The word testing is translated from the Greek word δοκίμιον (dokimion), and it implies demonstrating the true quality of something under pressure.
Just as fire purifies gold, the trials of our lives produce perseverance. Without this refining process gold will never shine and become valuable. Similarly, followers of Jesus grow in faith and character through the difficulties in life.
Trials produce in us endurance, steadfastness, and perseverance. Without them we will never grow into the person that God has for us.
This is not just true in our faith but life in general. The majority of people who accomplish great things did not do so because they had an easy path, but rather because they pushed through adversity.
Let Perseverance Finish Its Work So That You May Be Mature And Complete…
We all want a shortcut, the easy road. We want to skip the difficult parts. But in order grow, in order to experience the life that God has for us, we must go through the trials.
Rather than run from trials we should face them. The meaning of James 1:2-4 is teaching us that we should rejoice in the trials, count it all as joy. Not because we enjoy the pain, but because we know what they will produce.
I’m convinced we have a lot of spiritually immature Christians because they run from trials in pursuit of something easier. The difficulties we face are instruments God uses to mold and shape us.
For Christians we follow a God that did not spare himself of these trials and hardships. He was ridiculed, beaten, chased out of town, hung on a cross, and had no place to lay his head. And he promised we would go through the same.
We don’t go alone…
Not Lacking Anything…
James ends this verse with the phrase, “not lacking anything.” In other words, God doesn’t just throw us to the lions. We have everything we need.
While Jesus promised us we’d have difficulties, he also promised he’d be with us. Whatever you are going through you aren’t walking alone. God is right beside you, and he will provide everything you need.
Also God never intended for us to go through life alone, but rather we are to walk in community. We need each other. That’s the way we are designed. If you aren’t living in community with fellow followers of Jesus, it’s time to find that and invest in those relationships.
You are not lacking anything to get through whatever is in front of you. God is with you. He will be your source of strength.
To learn more check out: The REAL Meaning Of Philippians 4:13 (I can do all things through Christ)
Counting It All Joy In Your Everyday Life
Now that we’ve looked at the meaning of James 1:2-4 I want to look at how we can practically count it all joy in our everyday lives.
1. Shift Your Focus
You are constantly being sold something and being told you need something. And if you are not careful you will buy into what those voices tell you that you need.
The world tells us we need money, fame, sex, cars, vacations, health, perfect families, and all sorts of other things to be happy. And listen, those things are not inherently bad when used as God intends. But they aren’t ultimate things; they are not things to build our life upon. They won’t make us happy and fulfill our desires.
When we center our lives around the things that culture tells us we need we will struggle to face the trials that come our way. Counting it all joy will become harder and harder because we are focusing on the wrong things.
As followers of Jesus we need to shift our focus. Rather than striving for and focusing on the things the world does, we need to focus on Jesus. We need to strive for what he’s leading us to do. After all, all those other things never live up to what they promised anyway.
So, when you find yourself pursuing those things, stop. Pray. And refocus on God.
2. Keep God In His Place
One of the biggest temptations we face is to worship the giver and not the gift. We worship and desire the things that God has given us rather than God himself. When we do that we remove God from his place and instead strive for something or someone else.
What the meaning of James 1:2-4 is telling us is that God’s desire is that we would be mature and complete. But the only way to get there is through trials and hardships.
When we remove God from his place and instead worship the gifts he gives we can lose sight of what God is doing. Hardships can seem unfair and even hateful. But when we keep God in his place we can see that God is working through the trials of our life to produce something of great value.
Again, the gifts aren’t a bad thing. They are good things God gives us. But they are not ultimate things. They are there to point us back to God. And we should enjoy the good things God gives. But we should keep God in his place so that we can count it all joy that God is producing something of value in us.
3. Prioritize Calling Over Comfort
If you are a follower of Jesus he has a calling on your life. You are created on purpose and for a purpose.
Now, there’s a lie that goes around that if we follow God we will have an easy life. As we’ve seen the calling on your life is not easy. But it is meaningful.
The problem is many followers settle for what’s comfortable rather than step into what’s meaningful. This keeps us from counting it all joy, because we don’t want those hard times. We want peace because there’s no storm. But the Bible teaches us that peace is found not in the absence of storms, but in the presence of our Savior.
So if you want to live out the meaning of James 1:2-4 then prioritize the calling that God has given you. Step out of the boat and into the life that God has for you. It won’t always be easy, but it will be meaningful. It’s a life worth living.
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Thank you for reading this blog post! I hope it helped you better understand the meaning of James 1:2-4 and what it means to count it all joy. If it did would you share it with a friend?