The Bible is full of commands that, on the face of it, are impossible to obey. In James 1:2 we are commanded to consider it all joy when we are faced with trials of various kinds.
To us in our 20th century, when we think of trials we think of difficult jobs, spouses, relationships or financial pressure. For the recipients of the letter trials meant having given up everything, being without any property, friends, family and being forced to live in an unfamiliar culture – all at the same time.
Nonetheless, they were still commanded to consider their trials pure joy. How is this possible. Even for believers how is this possible?
The answer is Christ. When we become a Christian we must do two key things… The first is that we must repent. We must turn from our sin and walk the other way. The second is that we must believe in or put our trust in Christ for justification and thus salvation.
With repentance must come transformation – or there was no true repentance. Once we have repented and trusted Christ we are then transformed as we live our lives in trust.
Trust in Christ implies that rather than relying on ourselves we rely on Christ. This is not just for justification, but for everything. In the words of Yoda – you must unlearn what you have learned – that is we must put aside all the worldly knowledge we have that relates to metaphysical realities and believe that Christ has a far better handle on things than we do. In other words trusting Christ means living the way He wants us to live – not because we are robots, but because we believe He knows what is pleasing to God better than we do.
As we trust Christ and forsake the ways of the world, we are transformed. Romans 12:2 says “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of the mind”. The renewal of our mind takes place through a number of mechanisms.
Firstly, it takes place through what we take in to our minds – i.e. what we read, watch and hear. Secondly it takes place through the circumstances we are put through.
God often uses circumstances to bring pressures to bear down on us as part of this transformation process. So being saved it is truly possible to consider trials all joy – these trials confirm that we are being transformed, and when we take our trials and circumstances to God we can see him work through them.
Take the suffering of Christ in the garden of Gethsemane for instance. Christ could feel the pressure of sin bearing down on him, and it made him tremendously uncomfortable – the point that he brought it to God and asked him to “remove this cup from me” (Luke 22:42). Obviously the cup was not removed from Christ – but it was there for a greater cause.
Christ knew this and continued “Nevertheless, not my will but yours be done” – while Christ was uncomfortable, He still recognized the sovereignty of His Father, and trusted Him.
This is the response God wants from us – He wants us to bring our trials to him – to depend on him, but yet to trust that He knows best. And through the trial because we know that He is working in us to build our character and to temper us into Christlikeness we can rejoice that He is working and we can rejoice that He is in control and more than able to be trusted.
After all – that is the promise of Romans 8:28 – “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good; for those who are called according to His purpose”.