by Pastor Joe Pullen
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
JAMES 1:2-4, NIV
Are you joyful today? You may be facing fear or anxiety, reduced income from being returned home, wondering about friends and family scattered around the country, or just counting the rolls of toilet paper you have. I admit that joy isn’t the first emotion I’m experiencing when I check the news or look for the latest update on what’s happening around the world. But this Scripture reminds me that God intends to develop me through this crisis we are facing together.
Regarding the trial we’re facing, we are first instructed “to consider it pure joy”. God is asking us to choose to use our thoughts to look at what’s happening differently than the rest of the world sees it. He’s not asking us to be Pollyannaish or ignore reality, rather He’s asking us to see reality through a different lens – the lens of joy. The Chinese word for crisis is a combination of two characters – “danger” and “opportunity”. As we look at the disease outbreak around us, we have the choice to use our mental energy to focus on opportunity as much as we focus on the danger. I can focus on the personal danger I face, whether my family is prepared, or will I still have a job when this is all over. Or I can use the same mind to focus on the opportunity that God is giving me – time with my children who are growing up way too fast, time with my wife that allows us to grow even more in love, and time to lean into God in ways I’ve never needed to until now.
We can focus on the things we can’t do or the things we get to do; that we might get sick or that we’re healthy right now; that the future is uncertain or that a believer’s future in Christ is unbreakably sealed. The choice to count it all joy is ours.
When we begin to look at situations the way God sees them – that they are full of His presence, and in His presence is fullness of joy (Psalm 16:11) – then our anxieties lessen, our resilience increases, and fear gets replaced with gratitude and joy. Now that’s the kind of mental stamina needed to endure – that’s perseverance.
Why is perseverance so important to James? The entire book of James focuses on putting our faith into action. James conveys to us that the testing of our faith produces perseverance, and perseverance makes us mature and complete, lacking nothing. When we become mature as believers and secure in our identity in Christ, we no longer focus on ourselves — because we will have grown to a point where we look beyond ourselves, put our faith into action, and love others through the same trials we’re facing . . . with the love of Christ compelling us forward.
Will you, as James put it, “let perseverance finish its work”? Will you look at your personal situation through the lens of joy, and put your faith into practice in the weeks ahead? Will you look beyond yourself and meet the needs of others around you and experience joy as you do?
I’m in it with you. In the days ahead, I and other pastors, staff members and volunteer leaders will post devotions three days each week to help us all mature as we go through this time together. I encourage you to share this if you find it helpful, and I’d love to engage with you in the comment section about how God uses His Word in your life. Let’s choose to tell the stories of how God is using you to meet the needs and speak to the anxieties of the world around us as we bring His joy to them.