The Book of James, Part 5:
Endurance: Consider it all Joy...

Review:

Last week, we finished the exhaustive introduction.  We focused on the Jewish nature of both the author, James, and of his book.   It was written by a Jewish Christian to Jewish Christians dispersed throughout the Roman Empire.

I suggested that we should study the book recognizing that the subtitle of the book could be Faith at Work!   The most prominent words in the book are faith and work, or forms of those words.

It appears that James wrote the book to guide the lives of the new Christians.   At the time James wrote this book, about 47 A.D., the other books of the New Testament had not yet been written and circulated, so James realized that the new believers needed practical guidance, which is what he gives.

Remember he opened the book with this salutation:

After the salutary verse 1, James jumps into a pretty deep topic.  He explains the extraordinary value of endurance.

Today: Beginning in the text of James:

There are a number of very practical everyday living topics that James will deal with in his book; temptation, love, wisdom, finances, faith, prayer and many others, but the topic he chose first, the topic he chose to start this letter with was endurance.  Maybe this gives us some idea of how important that he considered this virtue.

What are some reasons that we quit, give up on something:

It's important for us to remember that the Christian life is a marathon, not a sprint.  I am sure that you have known people who seemed serious about their relationship with Jesus at one time, but not any more.  I think we undervalue the importance of endurance.

What are some areas of life where we need endurance?

Imagine that the State Lottery had as a prize a character quality instead of several million dollars as the grand prize.  The ticket lines at convenience food stores are shorter than usual, but still thousands of people pay their dollars and guess at the winning numbers.  When the time comes for the winning number to be announced, eager radio listeners and TV watchers from all over the state hear that a forty-four-year old, balding store clerk has won the fully developed character trait of endurance.  And, let's call him Herman.   He comes forward and pretends to be excited, and for about two days he is the object of TV cameras and reporters' questions, and then he goes back to work at K-Mart and is completely forgotten.

Let's check in on Herman ten years later and see how he has done.  Ask him about his grand prize, and see him smile broadly and say, "You know, I wouldn't have believed it at the time.  In fact, I was angry that the one time I guessed the right numbers, I got a character quality instead of a check for seven million dollars.  But I was forty-four years old and still working for minimum wage because I could never keep a job.  I guess I always wanted instant promotion and instant money, and whenever a job got tough, I'd quit.

"But ever since I was given endurance, things have been different.  I've stayed at K-Mart for ten years, doing my best work wherever I've been assigned, and they've moved me up the ladder several times.  Now I'm assistant manager.  I went back and finished my high-school education by spending two years at night school.  I never could have done that before.  I would have quit after the second class.  But I kept going because now I have endurance, and I'm real proud of that diploma.  And I also put endurance to work in my marriage, which was almost washed up when I won the lottery, and my wife and I have been getting along just fine for several years now.  I had just about given up on God, too, but I started my search all over again and I now have an exciting spiritual life.  I feel good about myself for the first time in my life, thanks to endurance."

Herman cannot talk much longer because he is being paged over the K-Mart intercom, but he concludes the interview by saying, "Looking back on it, I see that a seven-million-dollar check would have enabled me to keep on quitting whatever I wanted to quit.  It probably would have destroyed my dignity and maybe even my life.  But this thing called endurance-now that has turned me into a successful, happy person." Lets consider what God says about endurance (and other qualities) in this short passage.  Let's look at the responses that God wants us to have.

How does God want us to respond to the trials and tribulations of life?   Consider it Joy.

Let's look at this verse, one word at a time, and see what we can learn:

Consider

"Consider" means to think about something.   More than that, in this context, it means to think about something in a certain way.  It has to do with attitudes and perspective.  Here James is talking about how we look at the problems we face in life.  Perspective is important because it determines how we respond.  It also determines whether or not we give up in a given situation.

In 1994, television networks featured the 50th anniversary of the Allied invasion of Normandy, called D-Day.  They rebroadcast actual film footage and commentary from the decisive battle.  The advantage of the fiftieth anniversary is that viewers know who won; the original films, radio tapes and commentaries could only report current events and future hopes.

Part of the anniversary celebration was a reenactment by former soldiers who took part in the invasion.  The celebrations were like the last public expressions of memories for men now in their seventies and eighties.  Some wore their half-century-old uniforms.  Others parachuted out of vintage aircraft to relive old moments of fear, courage and glory.

One telecast ran two interviews.  The first was with a soldier who fought the battle on the ground.  "I was convinced there was no way we could possibly win." he reported.  The other interview was with a pilot, who saw a much wider view of the conflict.  "I was convinced," he said, "there was no way we could possibly lose."  God has an infinite aerial perspective.  He sees everything that is happening and hears every prayer that is spoken.  When those of us caught in the heat of life's conflicts [tell] God that "there is no way we can possibly win" God confidently replies that "there is no way we can possibly lose."

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials..."   The Greek word translated as "consider" here is hegeomai.  This Greek word includes the meaning to deem.   So when we encounter trails, we are instructed to just realize that it is joy, deem it joy, consider it joy.   It's a word that's used many times in the New Testament. Its use suggests that the Lord wants to change our perspective about a lot of things in life: God tells us through James to change our perspective and realize that this is joy from God.

Let's look at some uses of this word and realize that it is an instruction to change our perspective.

1. How you consider others...

This regard is the same Greek word ... consider one another more important than yourselves.

2. How you consider sacrifice...

Same Greek word. Consider all things to be loss; consider them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ.

3. How you consider leaders...

4. How you consider rebellious Christians...

All Joy:

Back to verse 2: "All" is from the Greek word pas which is translated "all, entire, continually".  The NIV translates this word "pure" ("Consider it pure joy...").  It's a strong word in this context, isn't it? The words "joy" and "rejoice" are used over 400 times in the Bible!  There are over 120 references in the New Testament to joy.   Joy is one of the most important character qualities of the Christian:

When Paul listed the fruit of the Spirit in Gal. 5:22-23, the first quality he listed was love; the second was joy, right after love.

Someone has wisely observed that God doesn't want us to just act joyful;  He wants us to be joyful.

The sad truth is that Christians don't really have a reputation for being joyful, do they?

Someone once defined a Puritan as "a person who suffers from an overwhelming dread that somewhere, sometime, somehow, someone may be enjoying himself".  This is a descriptive of the muddled mentality of some believers.  This is a description that a lot of people think applies to most Christians.  They see Christians as joyless, humorless.

What do you think is the difference between happiness and joy?

What do you think this means to consider trials as "all joy"? Here are a couple of verses that speak of Jesus grieving. Paul grieved. Warren Wiersbe writes, Several years ago, Pastor Lloyd Olgivie went through the worst year of his life.  His wife had five major surgeries, plus radiation and chemotherapy; several of his staff left; large problems at his church loomed; and he was struggling with discouragement.  But this is what he wrote: Next week we will pick up verse two with the sixth word, brethren, and race on through this verse, or at least the next few words.

Your assignment for next week is to look at each word in the remainder of this verse and try to understand why the Holy Spirit put it there.