” Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. “
– James 1:2-3 –
Commentary by Enduring Word
Count it all joy when you fall into various trials: James regarded trials as inevitable. He said when, not if you fall into various trials. At the same time trials are occasions for joy, not discouraged resignation. We can count it all joy in the midst of trials because they are used to produce patience.
Moffatt translated James 1:2 as, Greet it as pure joy, pointing out a play on word between the Greetingsat the end of James 1:1, and a similar word used to start James 1:2. It is “an attempt to bring out the play on words in the original, where the courteous chairein (greeting) is echoed by charan (joy).”
The older King James Version says, when ye fall into divers temptations; but the rendering trials in the New King James Version is preferred. The word translated trials “signifies affliction, persecution, or trial of any kind; and in this sense it is used here, not intending diabolic suggestion, or what is generally understood by the word temptation.” (Clarke)
When you fall into: “Not go in step by step, but are precipitated, plunged. . . . When ye are so surrounded that there is no escaping them, being distressed, as David was, Psalm 116:3.” (Trapp)
Patience is the ancient Greek word hupomone. This word does not describe a passive waiting but an active endurance. It isn’t so much the quality that helps you sit quietly in the doctor’s waiting room, as it is the quality that helps you finish a marathon.
The ancient Greek word hupomone comes from hupo (under) and meno (to stay, abide, remain). At its root, it means to remain under. It has the picture of someone under a heavy load and choosing to stay there instead of trying to escape. The philosopher Philo called hupomone “the queen of virtues.” (Cited in Hiebert) The Greek commentator Oesterley said this word patience described “the frame of mind which endures.”
Knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience: Faith is tested through trials, not produced by trials. Trials reveal what faith we do have; not because God doesn’t know how much faith we have, but so that our faith will be evident to ourselves and to those around us.
We notice that it is faith that is tested, and it shows that faith is important and precious – because only precious things are tested so thoroughly. “Faith is as vital to salvation as the heart is vital to the body: hence the javelins of the enemy are mainly aimed at this essential grace.” (Spurgeon)
If trials do not produce faith, what does? Romans 10:17 tells us: So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. Supernaturally, faith is built in us as we hear, understand, and trust in God’s word.
James did not want anyone to think that God sends trials to break down or destroy our faith; therefore, he will come back to this point in James 1:13-18.
Produces patience: Trials don’t produce faith, but when trials are received with faith, it produces patience. Yet patience is not inevitably produced in times of trial. If difficulties are received in unbelief and grumbling, trials can produce bitterness and discouragement. This is why James exhorted us to count it all joy. Counting it all joy is faith’s response to a time of trial.
“It is occasionally asserted that James asks his readers to enjoy their trials . . . He did not say that they must feel it all joy, or that trials are all joy.” (Hiebert)