James 1:2-3 NIV
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.
—James 1:2–3, NIV
How can any believer in Jesus possibly find pure joy in the most gut-wrenching and faith-challenging trials of this life? Isn’t protection and safety for those we love and the things we hold dear the focus of many of our prayers? And do we not search the Bible to find answers for the difficulties and challenges of life?
Yet the Apostle James, who was no stranger to hardship and persecution, wrote these instructions for new believers. Before the trial and stoning of Stephan in Acts 7, the first Jerusalem believers in Jesus Christ following Pentecost enjoyed this type of fellowship in Acts 2:42–47:
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
Even the very first believers could not remain together in this ideal relationship of worship and sharing. The intense persecution drove them out of Jerusalem and scattered the gospel message of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ into places the gospel had not reached before.
James goes on to say that testing produces perseverance. And those who persevered through the persecution made converts and planted new churches wherever they went. And the suffering believers of the first church in Jerusalem did indeed rejoice joyfully with the new converts as they found eternal life in Jesus.
Perhaps a more important question to ask is this: How are my sufferings and difficulties advancing the gospel of Jesus Christ?
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