“My brothers and sisters, when you have many kinds of troubles, you should be full of joy …” James 1:2 (NCV).
James speaks here about a life where we overcome anger, bitterness, complaining etc in all our different trials.
Have you ever heard of such a joy during trials? If you listen to the testimonies of many Christians, you will hear about all the times they gave in to sin in all kinds of trials. All their trials are almost a curse because they so often give in to sin. And because they don’t want to have a bad conscience, they must pray for forgiveness for it all. But is this what James means when he says that we should be full of joy in our trials? No, not at all! He means that we should overcome our anger, our complaining, our unbelief etc in our trials. Then, when there are many trials, there will be many victories over these sins, and the result will be unending joy.
A terrible cycle of sinning and getting forgiveness
A person becomes angry because someone has offended him. He forgets all about how a Christian should live, and loses his temper with words and actions. The temptation was too great and he gave in to his anger. But then comes the Spirit of truth and shows that it is a sin to become angry, just as it is written in God’s word. And then he has to pray for the forgiveness of sins.
The same happens with his evil suspicion and seeking to please people, and all other miserable sins he suffers under. In every temptation he gives in to sin and then there is absolutely no joy in trials and temptations. He cannot be full of joy even though he is always sorry afterwards.
On the cross or at the foot of the cross?
The Bible has very good advice for us, but it is as if people are deaf. Here is an example: “We know that our old life [our old attitude of mind that wants to sin] died with Christ on the cross. This was so that our sinful selves would have no power over us, and we would not be slaves to sin.” Romans 6:6 (ICB).
This verse has become so twisted through preaching, writings, and songs that nowadays it sounds more like this: “At the foot of the cross is where I want to stand.”
Where in the Bible is it written that we should stand at the foot of the cross? I have never read that.
Why we can be full of joy when we come in trials
“You know that these things are testing your faith. And this will give you patience. Let your patience show itself perfectly in what you do. Then you will be perfect and complete. You will have everything you need.” James 1:3-4 (ICB). Through all our trials, if we overcome sin in these times of temptation, we will become perfect and complete. But if we fail in temptation and we sin, then we are far from becoming perfect and complete. And we won’t have an overcomer’s joy.
God leads us to our “enemies”—which is the sin in our own sinful nature, in our flesh. We find ourselves in many trials in which we are tempted to sin, but these trials give us the opportunity to get many victories over these sins, and that gives us much joy. It also brings us praise from God and respect from people.
Read more: “How to get through the minefield of our flesh”
“I have been crucified with Christ”
Young people have heard so much of this unclear “sin and grace” and preaching about “sinning under grace” that they find it impossible to understand such “Christianity”. But everyone can understand a word like this: “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.” Galatians 2:20.
Paul does not say: “I live at the foot of the cross; I am not crucified.”
No, that is not possible. If we want to find joy when we come in all kinds of trials, then our old attitude of mind that wants to sin should be “on the cross”, where it no longer has any power over us. We don’t need to do what our “old life”, our sinful nature, tells us to do, but we can do what Christ tells us to do.
Read more: “How can I say that I have been crucified with Christ?”
Led by the Spirit
We can’t live as we did before we were born again. It is written: “And if Christ is in you, then the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.” Romans 8:10. Now God’s Spirit should lead our lives, and He will lead us into all truth.
When we first come to Christ, we come as sinners who repent, who are sorry for their sins; but if people keep on “sinning and repenting” for 20 or 30 years, that is hypocrisy. Then they are not really sorry for their sins. They sin and want to have grace to be forgiven, but they don’t want to have the grace that will teach them to say “No” to sin. (Titus 2:11-12.) Shall we continue to sin so that God will give us even more grace? Of course not! (Romans 6:1-2.)
When our “old life”, our old attitude of mind, is put on the cross—by faith—then we stop with “sinning and repenting over and over again”. And we will overcome all the sin we are tempted to in the different trials.
Then we can be full of joy when we come into many kinds of trials!