On Sunday I led the children at church in a few songs, and one of them was a very old favourite of mine which I’d taught my kids, and since they liked it I thought I’d risk it at church too! ‘Joy is the Flag Flown High’. Basically it says that if we have the King (Christ) living in our heart then we will have the flag of joy raised and flying.
But it always makes me think – how true is that of Christians in general? Are we really characterized by joy as we should be?
I was just reading James, and it was brought to my notice that trials give us a great opportunity to practice and grow in three major areas – joy, faith and patience.
‘My Brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.’ James 1:2,3
How Can We Count it all Joy?
We are supposed to ‘count it all joy’- every trial that we fall into. Obviously that’s not our natural instinct, as we more usually complain, moan, cry, and spend all our time and energy trying to figure out how to get out of it!
We have lots of opportunities to practice this very difficult thing – joy in the midst of hard circumstances. But the good news is that we will get better at it, and if we can work out how to be joyous in the middle of bad times, then it will be a lot easier to be filled with joy at other times too!
Here are some thoughts on how we can start to practice joy in trials:
- Be thankful for what we do have, as that will lead to a whole different mindset, as you can see if you read Ann Voskamp’s story in One Thousand Gifts.
- Remember who God is and that He is still faithful, never changes, and therefore still loves us and cares for us, and will work out everything for our good.
- Look at them as an opportunity to grow more like Christ.
- Look at them as ways of glorifying God.
- Remember that through them we will be more well equipped to minister to others with the comfort we have received.
How Do We Stand Firm in Our Faith?
Our faith is tested when we go through trials. But we need to stand firm on the foundation that we know:
- Remember God does not change and He is faithful, He always stays the same – loving, merciful, gracious, and He is in control
- Remember Jesus Christ who went before us, suffering even to death. When we suffer and look to Him, we are come closer to knowing the ‘fellowship of His suffering, being conformed to His death’
- God’s Word is truth and we need to cling to it, study it, quote it and stand by it. When everything else is unstable and uncertain, we know that the Bible is the truth and it is also the sword of the Spirit, so we can use it to fight the Devil and his temptations.
- Don't lose hope – that God will work things out for our good, that He will provide a way of escape so that we can stand up under it, and that one day we will reach heaven where there will be no more of this horrible stuff!
How Do We Grow In Patience?
This passage says that when our faith is tested it will produce patience. How does it do that?
Well probably more than anything I think it is from learning to persevere and endure through these hard times. And from the combination of the first two as well – from learning to rejoice in our trials and stand firm in our faith through them.
I remember laughing when I first put my own name instead of love in the love passage ‘love is patient, love is kind’ etc. because it made me realise I have so much to work on. Now I still have a lot to work on, but I know I have grown in those areas – and it’s through trials more than anything else.
After all how would we learn to be patient in perfect circumstances? We wouldn't because there would be no need to practice it or pray for it! Since having kids I have had to pray for patience almost daily!!
So there is the encouragement, that even though it is very difficult to count it all joy in trials, and to stand firm in our faith, yet when we do it produces patience, and as James goes on to say:
‘Let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.’
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