Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. —James 1:2-3
What makes James 1:2-3 a Christian verse and not just a good proverb that shows up in a fortune cookie? Imagine a poster of an athlete, sweating, head down, decorated with the following phrase: “Be joyful when you face trials, because trials will test you so that you can be stronger and firmer when it’s over.” Plenty of self-help gurus would have you believe that positive thinking in adversity is the key to a happy life. But is that the point of James 1:2-3?
Emphatically no. James 1:2-3 is grounded upon the glorious work of Jesus Christ on our behalf. We can count trials as all joy because (here’s the reason James gives) the testing of faith will show that our faith is genuine.
How Is Faith Tested in Trials?
Trials cause us to despair of ourselves and we realize afresh that we are not in control. We have a choice to make. Do we cleave to God and his promises or do we become doubters, grumblers, anxious, and angry?
For example, you get a phone call from the doctor and he says you have a malignant tumor. It is in this moment that your faith in Christ is tested. Do I despair of life, or do I, with trepidation and through tears, meditate on a promise of God: “If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things” (Romans 8:31-32).
The Joy of Pointing Back
So before this trial you believed in God, but after this trial you can point back to genuine faith expressed in the fact that you cleaved to God in a difficult circumstance. What an opportunity for joy!
Furthermore, not only is the testing of faith a fresh opportunity to glorify God and trust in his unfailing commitment to you in Christ Jesus, but there is reward waiting: “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him” (James 1:12).