Have you been in a trial for a long time?
Such prolonged trials have a unique way of emotionally and spiritually pinning us down. They have a way of pressing in on all sides. In the midst of the trial, our thoughts swirl around in our heads. We are pulled left by this thought and then right by that one. And the enemy takes advantage of our vulnerability and pain to throw his own take on our situation into the mix. He throws lies and accusations at us. He prowls around, waiting for just the right moment in our pain to devour us. Or perhaps he tries to take us apart slowly piece by piece. Without realizing it, we turn an ear to listen to our own confused thoughts or the devil’s crafty lies. We are led off course in our thinking, and we take our eyes off of the Lord. Our attention is divided; we become distracted. Doubt sets in followed by discouragement, depression, and even despair. Living under these thoughts and emotions impacts our deeds. What we think and feel becomes evidenced in our words and actions. We find it harder and harder to live for Jesus. We find it harder and harder to just get up in the morning.
James tells us to count our trials all joy. Some translations actually say count it “great joy” and another says “pure joy”! Pure joy? How in the world can we count our prolonged periods of suffering as pure joy? We may even be tempted to think that James’s instruction sounds cruel and unloving, or at the very least was written by someone who had no concept of what a real trial really is. But James is looking deeper than our narrow understanding of our trials. He understands that when properly understood we have great reason to rejoice when we suffer trials. Matthew Henry explains that it is “not that these afflictions were joyous in themselves, but in their circumstances, effects, and consequences…” Henry goes on to list some of the benefits that trials bring into our lives:
· Trials test and refine the gifts the Holy Spirit has given to us, and they give us an opportunity to put these “graces” into practice.
· Trials produce spiritual good in our lives that will last for eternity.
· Trials are used by God to produce greater righteousness in us.
· Trials are “attended with the presence and Spirit of God.” God is with us in our trials; as we suffer, His glory rests on us.
· Trials bring glory to God in our suffering.
· Trials will result in great rewards for us in heaven.
All of these benefits are certainly reasons to rejoice! In the remainder of this study we will look at Five Daily Steps taken from Philippians 4:4-8 that will help us count it all joy:
· Step One: Rejoice in the Lord—Always, Always, Always.
· Step Two: Entrust Your Trial—Give it All to Him with Thanksgiving.
· Step Three: Think on Truth—Believe God’s Word and Trust His Promises.
· Step Four: Guard Your Heart—Take Every Thought Captive.
· Step Five: Contemplate Excellence—Fix Your Eyes on Jesus Alone.
We will address one step each day.