This week we are going to take a look at the Book of James in the New Testament. We’re going to camp out in chapter 1, verses 2-4 and find a few bits of wisdom contained therein. Hopefully, you will be encouraged by the words of James the Apostle, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. So let’s take a look and see what we can learn from this passage, and then do our best to apply it in a way that makes us better Faith Driven Consumers (FDCs).
 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,  for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.  And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (ESV)
A lot of us have experienced real difficulties this past year. We’ve endured a pandemic that has touched virtually every aspect of our lives. And many have experienced these effects in intense and negative ways. Some have lost loved ones. Others have endured isolation. And countless individuals’ live have been upheaved in various ways that affect our jobs, finances and families. As a result, many have had their faith tested through these trials and tribulations.
But James 1:2 reminds that we have a stake in something much greater than the sum total of the good and bad things that happen to us in our lives. Moreover, it reminds us that there is a purpose in it. Because we have a God who is sovereign, but who is also our Father, we can trust that we aren’t experiencing these struggles in vain, nor are we experiencing them alone. That’s how we are able to do something utterly counter-intuitive and counter cultural: we can rejoice in our suffering. We can count it all joy when we have troubles and when life gets us down because we know that there is a purpose in it, and that God is in control. He is strengthening our faith, fortifying our souls, and equipping our minds to endure all that God is preparing us for. He is making us steadfast.
We’ve not only seen a terrible pandemic this year, but also, as Christians, we’ve seen the continued rise of a culture and a society that is increasingly hostile toward Christians. It is evident more than ever before in the U.S. that Bible-believing Christians, defenders of traditional morality, and, indeed, Faith Driven Consumers, are a minority in this country. To be clear, we are not being severely persecuted, and we shouldn’t compare the freedom and comfort we experience as Christians in America to the intense persecution of the church in history or around the world today. However, there is a clear and unmistakable trend towards the marginalization of Christians and an adversarial posture toward FDCs in culture, politics and the marketplace. Traditional Christians and their beliefs may not be tolerated in the near future, and with that intolerance will come a host of hurdles and struggles.
But James 1:2 tells us how to respond to these and other struggles that we face and will increasingly face in America. James doesn’t say “Life isn’t that difficult, so put a smile on your face” or “Life is difficult, so vote for the right person to fix it” or “Life is difficult so fight back against your enemies.” Instead, he tells us to respond with something pretty counter-intuitive. He says to count it all joy. That’s a radical notion. But hear what James is saying. He’s not saying you should be happy when someone gives you bad news, or that you should jump for joy when you find out you lost your job. James isn’t telling you to pretend bad things are good or to turn off your emotions and fake a smile. Instead, he says “count it all joy.” He’s saying that when you think about the struggles in your life, and decide how you will respond, consider it all joy. Because of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and the truth revealed in Scripture, we have the privilege of being able to take a heavenly perspective on the troubles of life. The Apostle James is calling us to put our difficulties and struggles in perspective. He’s reminding us that we have a loving and sovereign Father in heaven who is using all things for His glory and for our good. This allows us to do something that seems impossible in the eyes of the world: it allows us to count it all joy.
So whether it’s the pandemic and all that it has wrought on our nation, or cultural pressure and marginalization, or just plain ole spiritual warfare evident in daily struggles and trials, we should remember that we have a good, good Father who is in control. Further, you should remind yourself that none of it is in vain. The second part of this passage says that all of this isn’t meaningless. Instead, it’s producing something good in us. It’s making us steadfast. It’s equipping us so that we won’t be lacking in any way. As you go this week and experience everything that the world and the devil have to throw your way, tell yourself “Actually, I’m going to consider it all joy, because I know God is working through this and wants to make me better. And that’s something I can truly rejoice in.”