“Count it all joy…”
These introductory words from the New Testament letter of James have been tumbling around in my mind. They’re giving me gut punches when I want to complain, and comforting my heart when discouragement threatens my peace. The question strikes my heart: is it really possible to “count it all joy” in the midst of a global pandemic? Can we truly find hope and happiness in God when our daily lives have been utterly disrupted and we don’t know what the future holds?
The answer is yes, and the application of this command is seen in James 1:2–4.
Counting It All Joy
We have to remember that this book was written by the half brother of Jesus—James—after he saw Jesus crucified. James saw Jesus’ suffering and trials take place right before his eyes. He saw the Son of God suffer indescribable pain in our place, and saw that He was raised from the dead! James witnessed true completion through Christ’s suffering. He knew firsthand that trials in this life when walked through with God’s hand guiding us through the fire, remove impurities. This means what remains is steadfastness and an image that better reflects Christ.
James’s admonition to the church to “count it all joy” comes from seeing Jesus do this. He observed as He suffered and willingly went to the cross in obedience to the Father. The writer of Hebrews gives us a fuller view of Jesus’ purpose in His suffering with these words:
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.” (Hebrews 12:1–3)
“Consider Jesus.” This is the key to suffering in joy, purpose, endurance, and perseverance. When we consider Jesus, we fix our minds on Him who went before us. Jesus endured so we could live as “more than conquerors” through Him (Romans 8:37). To “consider Jesus” as we face suffering and walk through a global pandemic is to remember that He is greater and He gives us the grace we need each day to “count it all joy.” It is, ultimately, to preach the gospel to our hearts and never forget its remarkable goodness.
Considering Jesus leads us to do the seemingly impossible: count our present trials as pure joy because we trust that God is doing a much greater work in our world and in our hearts.
The Bigger Picture
When we take a step back to consider the bigger picture in light of the redeeming work God is doing in the world, as revealed to us in the Word, we can trust that He is still on the throne ruling and reigning to bring about the salvation of His people. These times are hard and humbling and, dare I say, they are holy too. They are exposing the idols we have worshipped, and drawing us back into complete reliance upon God. They are opening our eyes to the reality of the fallenness of this world and the goodness of God. They are showing us what really matters in light of eternity, that our lives are fleeting and fragile, but God is forever and faithful.
We can’t change our circumstances, but we can change our attitudes and outlooks—by God’s grace. Today, let us listen to the inspired Word of God and “count it all joy,” knowing 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 1:3–4).
God is still good. He is still in control. And joy is still possible.
Consider Jesus, always and forever. He has gone before us and He is with us. Come what may, our souls rest secure in the finished work of the cross as we look to a day we will be with Him forever.
Considering Jesus today,
Today we released the new Count it All Joy Collection, including a new Walk in Grace Journal studying the book of James, a sticker set with truth-filled reminders, an Abide hat, Count it all Joy pen, and James verse cards! We will begin studying James together beginning April 20th and hope you will join us from the comfort of your home!
No matter what, commit to be in God’s Word every day and meditate on Truth! His Word holds us together when it feels like life is falling apart. This too shall pass, but God’s Word will never pass away. Hold tightly to Him.