Good Reason to Rejoice
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds.(James 1:2-4)
We can be sure that the development of a beautiful Christian character will not occur in our lives without diversity. Think of those lovely graces Paul calls the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23. The first four traits he mentions- love, joy, peace, and patience- can be developed only in the womb of adversity.
We may think we have true Christian love until someone offends us or treats us unjustly. Then we begin to see anger and resentment well up within us. We may conclude we have learned about genuine Christian joy until our lives are shattered by an unexpected calamity or grievous disappointment. Adversities spoil our peace and sorely try our patience. God uses those difficulties to reveal our need to grow so that we’ll reach out to Him to change us more and more into the likeness of His Son.
Both Paul and James speak of rejoicing in our sufferings (Romans 5:3-4, James 1:2-4). Most of us, if we’re honest with ourselves, have difficulty with that idea. Endure them, perhaps, but rejoice? This often seems like an unreasonable expectation. We are not masochistic; we don’t enjoy pain.
But Paul and James both say that we should rejoice in our trials because of their beneficial results. It is not the adversity considered in itself that is to be the grounds for our joy. Rather, it is the expectation of the results, the development of our character, that should cause us to rejoice in adversity. God does not ask is to rejoice because we have lost our job or a loved one has been stricken with cancer or a child has been born with an incurable birth defect. But He does tell us to rejoice because we believe He’s in control of those circumstances and is at work through them for our ultimate good.
All the valuable gems and both gold and silver experience great heat and pressure to form them into beautiful jewelry. Diamonds, for example, are noting more than carbon, the same thing as coal. Coal is produced as a result of decaying organic material buried beneath the earth’s surface and through time and heat and pressure it solidifies into hard chunks of black rock. Though this coal has experienced some heat and pressure to become what it is; the diamond goes deeper and experiences intense pressure and heat to crystallize into that translucent stone that becomes a treasured jewel. Gemstones of every nature are the result of matter being subjected to intense heat and pressure. Gold is often found interlaced with quartz and must be crushed and ground until it’s separated from its natural environment. Placer gold has been subjected to mighty streams of water that wash it from its surroundings and tumble it over the rocky bed, grinding it and smoothing it until it becomes a nugget. Silver is filled with impurities that can only be removed with smelting- a heating process that brings the dross to the surface where it is skimmed off. When you look at beautiful jewelry take a moment and think about what it went through to give you such pleasure and make it so valuable. Those metals and those stone who are not required to be subject to such an intense process and are plentiful usually don’t make it to the jewelry category.
It’s interesting that as God speaks to us about becoming His treasure, He refers to both gems and silver and gold.
“They shall be Mine,” says the Lord of hosts, “On the day that I make them My jewels. And I will spare them As a man spares his own son who serves him.”
“But who can endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears? For He is like a refiner’s fire And like launderers’ soap. He will sit as a refiner and a purifier of silver; He will purify the sons of Levi, And purge them as gold and silver, That they may offer to the Lord An offering in righteousness.
So then, how can we rejoice in adversity? First, we rejoice because God is with us in the trial and storm. Hebrews 13 tells us that He “will never leave us nor forsake us.” We rejoice because every adversity brings our sin nature to the surface and God skims it off and like silver, we begin to reflect more of Him. We rejoice because we know that adversity like the grit in a tumbler is polishing us into beautiful jewels to be presented to God on that day. We rejoice not in victories or adversities for their sake but we rejoice in every season of life that we are the children of God.
And He said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Behold, I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you. Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven.”
The beauty of the teaching of scripture is that it doesn’t expect what is impossible. I realize that there are those who may insist that we act happy in adversity, what I call the Pollyanna syndrome, but that is not the truth of scripture. The Bible teaches us that there will be times of adversity. Jesus called them “tribulations.”
These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”
The idea that we will not experience adversity is not biblical. Since we know that adversity will occur, we then prepare our hearts to face it. Every boater knows that they have to anchor deep and fold the sails before the storm arrives for in the storm it is impossible to do so. We, then, having been given warning, prepare for adversity before it comes. We do this by anchoring our faith deep into Christ the Rock and trusting in His grace and power to bring us through.
The second misconception is that we are to be thankful for everything. I must confess that if this is true, I fall really far short. Though I recognize that adversity will develop character and deepen faith, I would just as soon avoid it and I am not spiritually developed enough to be thankful for the trial. What I can do is to find things to be thankful for in the adversity and this is what the Bible teaches.
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, ineverything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Finally, we rejoice that adversity will cease at some point for every believer.
“Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God [set aside self-righteous pride], so that He may exalt you [to a place of honor in His service] at the appropriate time, casting all your cares [all your anxieties, all your worries, and all your concerns, once and for all] on Him, for He cares about you [with deepest affection, and watches over you very carefully]. Be sober [well balanced and self-disciplined], be alert and cautious at all times. That enemy of yours, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion [fiercely hungry], seeking someone to devour. But resist him, be firm in your faith [against his attack—rooted, established, immovable], knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being experienced by your brothers and sisters throughout the world. [You do not suffer alone.] After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace [who imparts His blessing and favor], who called you to His own eternal glory in Christ, will Himself complete, confirm, strengthen, and establish you [making you what you ought to be].”
1 Peter 5:6-10
Dr. John Thompson