Guest Post by Brice Johnson:
The stoning of Stephen inaugurated a great persecution of the church in Jerusalem, spearheaded by Saul, that caused them to scatter abroad. (Acts 8) James is writing to these displaced Jewish Christians who are experiencing, among other things, poverty and persecution. Daily life is rough for these believers, and how does James encourage them? What’s the first thing he says to these dejected Christians?
Count it all joy when you meet trials of various kinds.
This seems strange, but James isn’t encouraging his audience to feel pleasure or happiness in their pain, or to go out looking for it. He’s not telling them to be masochists! And he doesn’t tell them to ignore it. He’s exhorting them to view their suffering in light of what God is accomplishing through it: steadfastness. The word “testing” has a connotation of smelting in the Greek. Ore is put in the furnace to produce valuable metal as impurities are sloughed off. That’s what trials are, these testings of our faith; suffering is a furnace that refines us.
The trial you’re going through with your spouse, child, coworker, friend. The health problems or financial struggles. The thorn in your flesh that will not go away.
As believers, we can rejoice as we go through trials because we know that our suffering is not without purpose in the hands of a sovereign God. He is building a greater faith and endurance in us.
Indeed, He is the one persevering us.
Process Question: How does this shape the way you view a recent trial you’ve walked through, or are currently walking through?
Originally from Queens, NY, the Lord brought Brice’s family to Texas, where he eventually went to the University of Texas. There, God opened his ears to hear and really understand the gospel, and that lead him to pursue vocational ministry. An avid Longhorn, Brice lives in Austin and works at The Austin Stone Community Church. He enjoys writing, reading, and spending time outdoors. You can read his blog at www.briceajohnson.com and follow him on Twitter/Instagram: @bricej87.