“Count it all joy” James, half-brother of Jesus, wrote to Hebrew believers about 30 years after Jesus had been crucified in Jerusalem by the Roman government at the behest of the Jewish nation. James calls them the “twelve tribes scattered abroad,” because a wave of harsh persecution against Jewish converts to Christianity broke out four or five years after Christ’s ascension back to heaven following His resurrection, and the flourishing Jerusalem church, which saw thousands of souls added to their church on the Day of Pentecost and in the days following, were driven out of their sanctuary in Jerusalem to other cities of the then known world. Their sudden flight left them in many instances homeless, jobless and without any family support system. To this first-century suffering church James, pastor of the Jerusalem church, writes, “Count it all joy when you fall into divers temptations.” (James 1:2) And “divers” is a pretty good description of the various and sundry kinds of trials they almost overnight were faced with. They lost all social standing, all rights and privileges of citizenship, all opportunity to gather in synagogues for worship and in many cases their losses included spouses, children and extended family which ex-communicated them because of their acceptance of Jesus as Messiah.
James exhorts these brethren to maintain the right attitude toward these severe challenges; to remain joyful. This would seem impossible considering the enormity of their losses. The word which James employs in James 1:2 for “count” means “reckon it to be so,” even when you cannot reason it out, understand it, explain it or make any sense of it. Even though your soul aches and your heart breaks while your whole being trembles with throbbing pain because of the loneliness and losses, “reckon” it; chalk it up as joyful because you can and must accept it as from God. Knowing this, the pastor, James, who was not always a follower of Jesus himself but was finally and fully convinced of His deity when Jesus made a special post-resurrection appearance to him (I Cor. 15:7), assured these suffering, scattered saints that God has a purpose, a plan and a product that will be perfection in and through these trials, leaving them, in the end, complete (mature), lacking in nothing spiritually.
Writing to this same group of believers, the writer of Hebrews said that these Hebrew believers had endured a “great fight of afflictions.” (Hebrews 10:32-34) Paul the Apostle testified that he was “joyful in all tribulation.” (2 Cor. 7:4), and in his epistle to the church at Philippi Paul reminded his beloved followers in Europe that “it is given on the behalf of Christ not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer for His sake.” (Phil. 1:21)
Jesus, instructing His disciples on kingdom matters, warned them that they would face the unmasked hatred of men, and be separated from their company, and reproached and their names would be cast out as evil (Luke 6:22,23) but precisely at that point they should “rejoice in that day, and leap for joy…” Peter, later, who would be crucified upside down at his request, not feeling worthy to be crucified in the same manner as was Jesus his Lord, would write that “…if any man suffer as a Christian let him not be ashamed , but let him glorify God on this behalf.” That is the same Apostle who wrote “that the trial of your faith, being more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found to the praise and the honor and the glory at the appearing of Christ.” (I Peter 1:7)
So, there are indeed “divers” kinds of trials, tests, temptations. But remember, if God chooses to allow you to go through the fiery furnace of affliction, you will, having endured, be “blessed,” and you will be a candidate for the “crown of life.” (James 1:12) Along with the crown of life there will be a crown of rejoicing, promised to all those who love His appearing (2 Tim. 4:8). These crowns and others will be meted out to His faithful ones at the Bema seat of Christ and those who receive them with great humility will be able to cast them before the throne of God joining in with a multitude who exclaim that “Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power: for Thou hast created all things and for Thy pleasure they are and were created.” (Rev. 4:10,11)
Some years ago, I walked into Methodist Hospital in downtown Indianapolis to visit an elderly woman, a member of the church I pastored. She had fallen on hard times physically and had suffered multiple surgeries and was facing at that particular time another one. I expected to find a dear saint over burdened with afflictions that even the world’s finest physicians could not cure. To my delight, a wide smile broke out across her wrinkled face as she said upon seeing me, “I was just thinking today He’s chosen me for this closer walk with Him and it’s going to be something to see how it all turns out.” She ended our conversation a short time later with the words, “You just can’t out do God. He had it all planned out ahead of time.”
And so He did and does. And my dear old friend had also planned it out ahead of time that she would choose to “count it all joy.” And so she did for the brief duration of her remaining sojourn here in this land of shadows just before she stepped into the eternal sunlight of His glory.
“And I beheld…and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands; saying with a loud voice, ‘Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor and glory and blessing’. And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honor, and glory, and power, be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne and unto the Lamb forever and ever.” (Rev. 5:11-14)