Thursday, March 7, 2013

“Rejoice – Always?” Part 3

“My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into diverse temptations, knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience” (James 1:2-3).

James’ command solely addresses born again believers in the Lord Jesus Christ – “My brethren” – because only those inhabited by the Holy Spirit can possibly rejoice in losses, pains, sorrows, heartaches and heartbreaks.

“We also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:11).

The Apostle Paul confirms that true rejoicing occurs as the result of a Divine presence and working within our hearts – “in God, through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Only thereby can we expect and experience joy where it seems it could not be, or in terms expressed by the Apostle Peter, “joy unspeakable and full of glory” (I Peter 1:8). Yes, just as there is a “peace which passeth all understanding,” there is a joy that defies description, a joy that appears where, again, it seems it could not be (Philippians 4:7).

James provides vivid insight into how we enter into such wonder. He calls us to “count it all joy when ye fall into diverse temptations.” Note that he doesn’t command that we “feel” it all joy. Few more important truths present themselves to us in Scripture than this illumination that joy is not first a matter of emotion, but of reasoned and determined faith. The word “count” is translated from the Greek root, “hegeomai,” meaning to lead with thoughtful and reasoned consideration.

Herein lies a beautiful insight into our relationship with God regarding true joy. By definition, Christians do not lead themselves – “as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God” (Romans 8:14). We do, however, respond to our Lord’s leadership – “Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children” (Ephesians 5:1). Therefore, when James commands that we rejoice by a reasoned and thoughtful leadership, he calls us first to direct our attention unto our Leader. We “look unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2). Then, with remembrance and consideration of who He is, we make the choice to rejoice as a matter of faith, whatever we may feel emotionally. In times of trouble and difficulty, our Good and Great Shepherd beckons us to a field of joy. “Come with Me. I know where your rejoicing is. Trust Me and follow.” As we consider His perfect faithfulness and respond, we find ourselves rejoicing as a matter of deep conviction long before we reach that supposed “field of joy.” Indeed, we discover that which the Psalmist long ago experienced, namely, that God Himself is the essence of true joy: “I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my soul shall be joyful in my God” (Psalm 61:10).

Joy often expresses itself in happy feelings. Let us give thanks for those blessed times. The essence of joy, however, resides not in our emotions, but in God Himself and in our response of faith to who He is. Those who consistently “count it all joy” know this blessed truth of a rejoicing that can be known wherever, whenever, and in whatever.

“O send out Thy light and Thy truth: let them lead me; let them bring me unto Thy holy hill, and to Thy tabernacles. Then will I go unto the altar of God, unto God my exceeding joy.” (Psalm 43:3-4)

Tomorrow: the effects of “count it all joy.”

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