Reason to be joyful
This letter is from James, a slave of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ. I am writing to the “twelve tribes”—Jewish believers scattered abroad. Greetings! Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. James 1:1-2 NLT
James is the leader of the church in Jerusalem. Yet, he describes himself from the text, “a slave of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ.” He understood that Christ has to have the supremacy over a believer’s life and it is a privilege to serve Him. So, he begins his letter addressing the “Jewish believers scattered abroad.” Due to persecutions, Jewish believers has been scattered. When Stephen was stoned to death, the persecutions intensified. “Meanwhile, the believers who had been scattered during the persecution after Stephen’s death traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch of Syria. They preached the word of God, but only to Jews” (Acts 11:19). Though they were being persecuted, they remained steadfast in their faith and even shared the gospel among the Gentiles. “However, some of the believers who went to Antioch from Cyprus and Cyrene began preaching to the Gentiles about the Lord Jesus” (Acts 11:20). James did not waste time in providing these believers encouragement reminding them that even in their difficulties, they could still experience God’s comfort and joy. He may sound irrational when he said, “when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.” But James is not advocating that Christians are to enjoy trials. He knew that trials are painful. “No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful!” (Hebrews 12:11). What the passage is telling believers is that when we go through various trials, we can always find reasons to be joyful. Paul, despite the trials that he is going though told the believers in Corinth, “You have greatly encouraged me and made me happy despite all our troubles” (2 Corinthians 7:4). When the disciples were arrested and flogged because they kept on proclaiming the gospel and after they were released by the religious leaders, they “left the high council rejoicing that God had counted them worthy to suffer disgrace for the name of Jesus. And every day, in the Temple and from house to house, they continued to teach and preach this message: “Jesus is the Messiah” (Acts 5:41-42). They could have felt beaten and despaired but they knew that despite their trials they knew that nothing can separate them form the love of God. Trials are part of the life of every believer. In Christ, finding the reason to be joyful in the midst of trials is not irrational but is appropriate for our joy is in Him no matter what circumstances we are in.