2019-4-28 Count It All Joy

Cornerstone EPC                                                                              Sunday morning
Franklin, NC 28734                                                                          April 28, 2019

“Count It All Joy”
James 1:1-4

Today we begin our extended spring and summer series from the letter of James—a series entitled The Wise Life.  Today’s text—and next week’s, God willing—are precious to us in times of trial.  Many of us undergo trial this very day.  I look at you in our pews today—and the only pew sure to be free of trial today is the one with no one sitting upon it.  Some of those trials we bear today are intense, and some of them we have carried for quite a long time.  To those undergoing trial today—as well as those who have recently and those who will soon—let us hear from our loving Lord in His Word today.

(HERE READ THE TEXT)

This letter, ultimately from the Holy Spirit, comes to us from the pen of James.  James was a half-brother of the Lord Jesus, and, in the early years of the New Testament Church, he was a pillar in the Jerusalem church—in a sense the mother church.  James, who calls himself here by the Spirit a servant of God and of Christ, wrote this letter sometimes within the A. D. 40s.[1]  Hence, this is one of the earliest, if not in fact the earliest, book in the entire New Testament.[2]

James writes, at the Spirit’s behest, to the twelve tribes of the diaspora (or dispersion) and to us.  During the 40s A. D., James wrote to Jewish-background Christians—most of whom were scattered far from Palestine.  These scattered Christians were everywhere afflicted—due to their refusal to worship the head of the Roman Empire, Caesar, and due to their increasing estrangement from Jews over their insistence that Jesus is the Messiah foretold and promised in the Old Testament.  Hence, such a letter as we have would be salve to their wounded souls.  This letter also applies to Christians generally—wherever they are and from whatever background they arise.  To each of these James writes, “Greetings.”  The very Greek word here rendered greetings is from the same word that is rendered rejoice in other contexts.[3]  James proceeds from the greeting, with joy implicit, to urging joy explicit in his readers.

When met with trials of various kinds, let us count it all joy.  Notice that James does not say if we meet with trials, but when.  When we meet this trials, or fall into them, or experience them (Greek peripipto [peripiptw]), the Lord calls us to count it all joy (literally: “Be ye of opinion, ‘All joy.’”).  We are not to react to our trials by railing against them—or by railing against the One Who ordains them.  Nor are we to accept them with impassive calm, like the Stoics of the ancient Greco-Roman world.  God calls us to something else via His inspired penman.  He calls us to joy amid trial.  Why would God call us to such?  It seems so counter-intuitive to react to trial is this way.  Indeed it is, but let us see a portion of what God is doing in our trials—and, after seeing, maybe our hearts will incline toward rejoicing just a bit more than formerly.

The testing of our faith, James tells us, results in endurance (Greek hupomone [upomonh]), which is the capacity to continue to bear up under difficult circumstances.  Once this endurance has its full effect (literally complete work), we are perfect ones.  Do not think of perfect here as free from sin and defect, but think of it in terms of maturity and completeness.  Therefore, when endurance has its full effect, we are mature ones, complete ones, one not lacking in any needful thing from Him.  Note, then, that we arrive, from trials to maturity and wholeness in Christ, through one intermediate step—namely, endurance.  This squares with Romans 5:1-5 (esp. 5:3-5).  Rather than rail at our troubles, or receive them impassively, we boast in our troubles.  Our troubles, says the Spirit through Paul, result in endurance, and endurance results in proven character, and proven character results in hope.  Hence, from troubles we progress directly to hope through two intermediate steps—namely, endurance and proven character.  These are good things at which to arrive, to be sure, but we get there from a beginning that does not seem good at first glance—and may not be good at all per se.

I would love to tell you that, once you became a Christian, there will be neither trials nor troubles again to all eternity.  That, however, is error at best and falsehood at worst.  Trials are endemic to the human condition in this world.  We simply are not exempt from them as long as we are here in the flesh—even if we be in Christ.  Some of our trial arises from our own sin, while other trial arises from the sin of others against us.  Still other trials results from living in a fallen world generally.

Yet God’s purposes in trials overrule the foregoing.  Look at the laundry list of good things that God accomplishes in us through trial.  We gain maturity and wholeness in Christ (James 1:4).  We gain hope in Him—a hope that does not disappoint and never makes us ashamed (cf. Romans 5:5).  Our trials, grievous and painful though they be, result in a refined, valuable faith in Christ (1 Peter 1:7)—a faith more valuable than gold refined by fire.  Trials also serve to develop our spiritual fiber (James 1:3, Romans 1:3), or our spiritual muscle, if you will.  Hence, trial serves to make us stronger in Jesus.  Trials, furthermore, teach us more of God, His ways, and His things.  There are some things about Him that we cannot know in this life apart from our trials under His Lordship.  Trials also serve to wean us from self-sufficiency to God-dependency.  We see, at critical points, that we do not have sufficient resources in ourselves to live independently of God—and we fly to Him for relief and supply.  Finally, for today, trials expand our ministerial capacity (2 Corinthians 1:4).  The things we endure in God’s good providence, and the things we learn of Him, and the strength we gain in Him, make us a blessing unto others who may be tried in similar ways.

See all of the good that God accomplishes in our trials.  Remember also that trials, someday, end.  They will not accompany us to Glory—and, when we arrive there, we’ll never see another trial.  Therefore, in view of all we heard today, let’s be of the opinion, “All joy,” when we meet various trials.

AMEN.

[1] D. A. Carson, Douglas J. Moo, and Leon Morris, in their An Introduction to the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Zonderva, 1992), 414, argue for a date in the early-to-mid 40s.  I, for reasons that cannot be argued here, contend for a date ca. A. D. 45-50—which still makes the epistles one of the earliest, if not the earliest, book of the New Testament.

 

[2] Other contenders for earliest New Testament book include 1 Thessalonians (ca. A. D. 49), and Galatians (ca. A. D. 48-51).

 

[3] This fact, and other remarks concerning the Greek New Testament, rise from the following: Johannes P. Louw and Eugene A. Nida, eds., Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains (New York: United Bible Societies, 1989), Kurt Aland, ed., et al., Novum Testamentum Graece, 26th ed. (Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 1992), and J. Gresham Machen, New Testament Greek for Beginners (New York: Macmillan, 1923).


James 1:1-4

Today we begin our extended spring and summer series from the letter of James—a series entitled The Wise Life.  Today’s text—and next week’s, God willing—are precious to us in times of trial.  Many of us undergo trial this very day.  I look at you in our pews today—and the only pew sure to be free of trial today is the one with no one sitting upon it.  Some of those trials we bear today are intense, and some of them we have carried for quite a long time.  To those undergoing trial today—as well as those who have recently and those who will soon—let us hear from our loving Lord in His Word today.

(HERE READ THE TEXT)

This letter, ultimately from the Holy Spirit, comes to us from the pen of James.  James was a half-brother of the Lord Jesus, and, in the early years of the New Testament Church, he was a pillar in the Jerusalem church—in a sense the mother church.  James, who calls himself here by the Spirit a servant of God and of Christ, wrote this letter sometimes within the A. D. 40s.[1]  Hence, this is one of the earliest, if not in fact the earliest, book in the entire New Testament.[2]

James writes, at the Spirit’s behest, to the twelve tribes of the diaspora (or dispersion) and to us.  During the 40s A. D., James wrote to Jewish-background Christians—most of whom were scattered far from Palestine.  These scattered Christians were everywhere afflicted—due to their refusal to worship the head of the Roman Empire, Caesar, and due to their increasing estrangement from Jews over their insistence that Jesus is the Messiah foretold and promised in the Old Testament.  Hence, such a letter as we have would be salve to their wounded souls.  This letter also applies to Christians generally—wherever they are and from whatever background they arise.  To each of these James writes, “Greetings.”  The very Greek word here rendered greetings is from the same word that is rendered rejoice in other contexts.[3]  James proceeds from the greeting, with joy implicit, to urging joy explicit in his readers.

When met with trials of various kinds, let us count it all joy.  Notice that James does not say if we meet with trials, but when.  When we meet this trials, or fall into them, or experience them (Greek peripipto [peripiptw]), the Lord calls us to count it all joy (literally: “Be ye of opinion, ‘All joy.’”).  We are not to react to our trials by railing against them—or by railing against the One Who ordains them.  Nor are we to accept them with impassive calm, like the Stoics of the ancient Greco-Roman world.  God calls us to something else via His inspired penman.  He calls us to joy amid trial.  Why would God call us to such?  It seems so counter-intuitive to react to trial is this way.  Indeed it is, but let us see a portion of what God is doing in our trials—and, after seeing, maybe our hearts will incline toward rejoicing just a bit more than formerly.

The testing of our faith, James tells us, results in endurance (Greek hupomone [upomonh]), which is the capacity to continue to bear up under difficult circumstances.  Once this endurance has its full effect (literally complete work), we are perfect ones.  Do not think of perfect here as free from sin and defect, but think of it in terms of maturity and completeness.  Therefore, when endurance has its full effect, we are mature ones, complete ones, one not lacking in any needful thing from Him.  Note, then, that we arrive, from trials to maturity and wholeness in Christ, through one intermediate step—namely, endurance.  This squares with Romans 5:1-5 (esp. 5:3-5).  Rather than rail at our troubles, or receive them impassively, we boast in our troubles.  Our troubles, says the Spirit through Paul, result in endurance, and endurance results in proven character, and proven character results in hope.  Hence, from troubles we progress directly to hope through two intermediate steps—namely, endurance and proven character.  These are good things at which to arrive, to be sure, but we get there from a beginning that does not seem good at first glance—and may not be good at all per se.

I would love to tell you that, once you became a Christian, there will be neither trials nor troubles again to all eternity.  That, however, is error at best and falsehood at worst.  Trials are endemic to the human condition in this world.  We simply are not exempt from them as long as we are here in the flesh—even if we be in Christ.  Some of our trial arises from our own sin, while other trial arises from the sin of others against us.  Still other trials results from living in a fallen world generally.

Yet God’s purposes in trials overrule the foregoing.  Look at the laundry list of good things that God accomplishes in us through trial.  We gain maturity and wholeness in Christ (James 1:4).  We gain hope in Him—a hope that does not disappoint and never makes us ashamed (cf. Romans 5:5).  Our trials, grievous and painful though they be, result in a refined, valuable faith in Christ (1 Peter 1:7)—a faith more valuable than gold refined by fire.  Trials also serve to develop our spiritual fiber (James 1:3, Romans 1:3), or our spiritual muscle, if you will.  Hence, trial serves to make us stronger in Jesus.  Trials, furthermore, teach us more of God, His ways, and His things.  There are some things about Him that we cannot know in this life apart from our trials under His Lordship.  Trials also serve to wean us from self-sufficiency to God-dependency.  We see, at critical points, that we do not have sufficient resources in ourselves to live independently of God—and we fly to Him for relief and supply.  Finally, for today, trials expand our ministerial capacity (2 Corinthians 1:4).  The things we endure in God’s good providence, and the things we learn of Him, and the strength we gain in Him, make us a blessing unto others who may be tried in similar ways.

See all of the good that God accomplishes in our trials.  Remember also that trials, someday, end.  They will not accompany us to Glory—and, when we arrive there, we’ll never see another trial.  Therefore, in view of all we heard today, let’s be of the opinion, “All joy,” when we meet various trials.

AMEN.

[1] D. A. Carson, Douglas J. Moo, and Leon Morris, in their An Introduction to the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Zonderva, 1992), 414, argue for a date in the early-to-mid 40s.  I, for reasons that cannot be argued here, contend for a date ca. A. D. 45-50—which still makes the epistles one of the earliest, if not the earliest, book of the New Testament.

 

[2] Other contenders for earliest New Testament book include 1 Thessalonians (ca. A. D. 49), and Galatians (ca. A. D. 48-51).

 

[3] This fact, and other remarks concerning the Greek New Testament, rise from the following: Johannes P. Louw and Eugene A. Nida, eds., Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains (New York: United Bible Societies, 1989), Kurt Aland, ed., et al., Novum Testamentum Graece, 26th ed. (Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 1992), and J. Gresham Machen, New Testament Greek for Beginners (New York: Macmillan, 1923).

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