“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-4).
Every Sunday as we enter for worship, I am reminded that each one of us comes that day with a new story, having been shaped and refined by the circumstances of your lives. Sometimes these are great joys, and at other times they are deep sorrows. Yet in all, we together are learning to “count it all joy…” This is no less true of my own life, and it is a great encouragement to know that God is present in all these things. As the sons of Korah wrote so very long ago:
God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea.
though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble at its swelling.
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God.
the holy habitation of the Most High.
God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved;
God will help her when morning dawns.
The nations rage, the kingdoms totter;
he utters his voice, the earth melts.
The Lord of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our fortress.
Come, behold the works of the Lord,
how he has brought desolations on the earth.
He makes wars to cease to the end of the earth;
he breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
he burns the chariots with fire.
“Be still, and know that I am God.
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!”
The Lord of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our fortress. (Psalm 46)
Through the ebbs and flows of our daily lives, God truly is “a very present help in trouble.” This is what James is exhorting us to do. No matter the circumstance, we can “count it all joy.” There is an aim and trajectory of our lives, hidden in Christ Jesus, for God to purpose good for us in all things. This is the work of sanctification, and it will not be completed until we enter glory.
It is marvelous to be able to see this played out in our experience. It is not that our experience informs God’s word, but rather God’s word informs our experience and enables us to live out God-glorifying lives through the power of the Holy Spirit. For, “every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures” (James 1:17-18).
So we can live lives characterized by Martin Luther’s rendition of this Psalm: “And though this world with devils filled, should threaten to undo us, we will not fear for God hath willed his truth to triumph through us. The prince of darkness grim, we tremble not for him; his rage we can endure, for lo! his doom is sure; one little word shall fell him.” Let us rest in that full and final Word that God has given to us, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Blessings to you all.