James tells us to look upon it as pure joy when faced with many kinds of trials. But what is joy? Do we have a definition of joy? And what on earth could James have meant? After all, tribulations seem to be anything but happy occasions.
What is joy in the Bible
There's a well-known verse in thereJames 1:2that doesn't seem to make much sense humanely. In this very practical New Testament epistle, James begins his important teaching on overcoming trials by writing: "My brethren, rejoice when ye fall into various trials" (NKJV).
It is probably true that most readers will hear this verse and respond with a striking follow-up question: "How can this be true?" James' teaching makes no sense. How is it possible to have joy as we experience life's "various trials"?
The process of learning to respond with joy during times of life's trials must begin with a conscious awareness that God is at work in our lives and that He has a tangible purpose for why we may be experiencing these trials.
In other words, when we have placed our faith and trust in Jesus Christ as our own personal Savior (Romans 10:9), and when we believe His Word teaches us that God is at work in our lives (Philippians 2:13), then we come to the logical conclusion that trials, suffering, and difficult times in our lives are ultimately ordained by God and that He has a specific purpose in mind for us.
The Bible makes this point in the same passage. Let's look againJames 1:2,but let's add verse 3: "My brethren, rejoice when you fall into various trials, knowing that the trial of your faith produces patience" (NKJV).
The text is clear. We can respond to life's trials with genuine joy when weknowsthat the Lord has a purpose in allowing these difficult times of suffering and trials. In this passage, the purpose of trials was to invoke patience or perseverance (the ability to withstand a trial) in our lives.
Knowing that our loving Heavenly Father is doing something specific in our lives and that He is doing what is best for us helps us respond with genuine joy. Life's trials are certainly no fun, but we can respond to these painful situations with joy when we understand that God is demonstrating His ownlovefor us through these circumstances.
Romans 15:13says, "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace of faith, that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may be full of hope." So that God can fill us with joy. But do we have a proper understanding and definition of the gift of joy? Let's define it below.
What is the definition of real joy?
Let's go back to the beginning and identify a working definition forJoy.Simply put, biblical joy is choosing to respond to external circumstances with inner contentment and satisfaction, knowing that God will use those experiences to accomplish His work in and through our lives.
James tells his readers that even in times of trial and tribulation, they can choose to respond with joy. Joy is a choice! But it comes from the Lord - and He alone is the author of true joy. We don't have to produce or drum it ourselves.
What does the Bible teach us about joy?
1. God himself is the source of our joy
Galatians 5:22-23gives us a list of the fruits of the Spirit - and joy is listed there as one of the by-products of the Holy Spirit living and abiding in us. This chapter of Galatians tells us that it is possible to "walk in the Spirit" and "walk in the Spirit."Geist" (Galatians 5:16and25), meaning that if we live for Him, He will naturally bring forth His fruition in our lives.
God alone can produce true joy - and He does so naturally through His Spirit living in those who trust Him. It is important that we understand that only God Himself can give us the ability to respond to life's difficult circumstances with that inner contentment and satisfaction.
2. We can choose to respond with joy to life's trials as we reflect on God's purpose for these times of suffering
It is true that only God can bring true joy. However, there is a key techniqueJames 1:2to help us. Again that verse says, "My brethren, rejoice all when you fall into different trials." Notice the word "number."
Some other English versions of the Bible translate it as "consider." It is a word meaning to systematically question or examine how one takes an examination (see Jamieson-Fausset-Brown "Bible Commentary" inLogosBible software). The idea here is that the believer should carefully list the potential benefits of this situation in order to gain a better understanding of God that he wishes to attain.
A simple example of this truth would be a child counting the change in his piggy bank and then realizing he has more money than he thought he had. The old choiryou can be thankfulby Johnson Oatman, Jr. makes the same point: "Count your many blessings, name them one by one, and you will be amazed at what the Lord has done." If we really count or ponderwhat God is doing, we will come to the conclusion that our response should indeed be joy.
3. It is possible to have the fullest joy even in the most difficult times of life
It's also important to note the simple word "all."inJames 1:2.The author uses it to describe the kind of joy that can only come from God Himself. It is a word meaning complete or complete. It's not just "some" joy. We can experience “all joy” orJoy to the fullest or the most complete joy.
The apostle Peter also writes about this kind of joy, even in the midst of a multitude of trials1 Petrus 1:6, "Therefore you rejoice greatly, though now, if need be, you have been grieved a little while by various trials." He teaches us that we can "rejoice greatly."
This is an overflowing, exuberant, living joy. This is just the kind of joy that God's people can experience even when faced with a multitude of trials or difficult times. God provides this abundant and perfect joy.
It is a natural human tendency to believe that living through trials and negative circumstances is no cause for joy. Choosing to respond to life's difficult situations with inner contentment and satisfaction doesn't seem to make sense.
Yet the believer can experience real joy to the fullest by taking initiative and actively reflecting on all that God is doing and that He has a specific purpose in mind for His people.
Joy does not mean forcing happiness in sad circumstances. We can usually tell when someone is trying to fake it until they succeed. But joy comes in every season. It's an outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Joy comes from our decision to choose joy.
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