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Count It All Joy â" Really?
by Susan Budensiek
9/01/2017 / Christian Living
Jesus Christ saved me fifteen years ago (1972), and ever since that very first hour it has been a long, slow, and many times painful, process of growth and learning. Nevertheless, the inner peace, joy, and contentment that have been produced in the process far outweigh the difficulties involved.
It seems to have taken me this many years to learn those things that now seem so basic, things I feel I should have learned long ago at the very beginning of my Christian walk. [And now in 2017 I look back at what I thought was progress and shake my head at how little I knew when I wrote this!]
It is my sincere desire that by reading these, my stumbling, bumbling efforts at real Christianity, someone else can avoid some of the same pitfalls I encountered. But then, the Father knows that experience is the best teacher.
“Delight thyself also in the Lord; and He shall give thee the desires of thine heart.” Psalm 37:4
I think the hardest lesson for me to learn was the one about why Christians suffer and have problems in this life. At one time I had begun to feel like we had the corner on the market as far as suffering and tribulation. If it wasn't one thing, it was another two or three. I could have sent out invitations to my little pity party but I didn't need any help finding things to complain about or question God, “Why?” I had self-pity to spare. I had slipped into this same crevice many times before, eventually pulling out of it, yet never learning how to avoid ending up there in the first place. My last journey down to the pits of self-pity lasted a couple of weeks before I finally began to hear my Jesus gently beckoning. He wanted to teach me a very important principle. At last I was ready to listen and learn.
To begin with, He led me to the first chapter of James and opened up the meaning of that as if I had never read it before. “James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting. My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; James 1:1-2 As soon as I got to the second verse I was already telling God I didn't understand how to “count it all joy” when I fell into various “temptations”.
First of all, why does God tempt me – I thought that was the devil's job. Lesson 1: God doesn't tempt us. (Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: (James 1:13) The word “temptations” here means “testings”. I conceded that since God created me, He has the right to test me. But how do I “count it all joy?” I mean for real, count it all joy. I could say with anyone that we have to count our trials as joy but actually doing it is a different story. I couldn't help but think of old Abraham trudging up that mountain, knowing God had asked him to kill his son as a sacrifice. Its common knowledge now, thousands of years later, that God was testing Abraham. However, I'm sure it was much easier for that old saint of God to count the whole experience as joy as he and Isaac made their way back down the mountain together after sacrificing the ram God had provided at the last minute. If the Lord would give a man like Abraham, the “friend of God” (“And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God.” (James 2:23) such difficult testings, there is no reason to think I should have it easy. To make sure I really comprehended this point He led me to a few more passages of scripture: Psalm 11:5, John 15:2, and I Peter 1:7.
Verse 3 of the first chapter of James says that the trying of my faith is supposed to help me develop patience, something like doing push-ups develops biceps. Apparently, this is important too, because the Father sent me to Romans 5:3, Luke 8:15,Ephesians 4:2, I Timothy 6:11, Titus 2:2, Hebrews 12:1, James 3:10, Romans 12:12, and II Timothy 2:24 . This too, I filed away in my mind. Granted, its good to have patience but why is it so important?
Verse 4 says to let patience work that I may be “perfect and entire, wanting nothing.” Me – perfect? Now that would be a miracle! This doesn't mean perfect like I automatically thought of it to mean. Instead, perfect here means “mature”. I was beginning to understand, but just to make sure I had this part too, God sent me to Job 23:10 and Psalm 66:10-13. I began to think there might be hope for me now that I knew perfect didn't mean flawless!
Then came the finale, verse 12. In order to get the full picture I had to go to the dictionary for the word “endure”. To me it meant hanging on somehow until the crisis passed. I should have known its more than that. Webster's Dictionary defines “endure” as “to bear without breaking or yielding, to bear without sinking under the pressure, to suffer without yielding, to continue in the same state without perishing.” This implies strength, not merely surviving. To help me put all of the pieces in place the Lord showed me more scripture. James 5:11, Lamentations 3:31-33, Habakkuk 3:17-19, and Isaiah 43:2 (Notice the first word here in is “when”, not “if”).
As I sat meditating on all of this our gracious Lord topped the whole lesson off with a few more priceless nuggets of His wisdom. We go through these various trials not only so He can teach us things for our own good, but to prepare us to help others. If God gives us trials, He must consider us worthy of working for Him. Matthew 22:14 says that “many are called, but few are chosen”, simply because few are willing to really work for God, and He of course knows who the truly willing workers are. Thus, the willing workers are likely to undergo more intensive training – more trials to “worketh patience”. The training is tough, but I have yet to experience anything quite as wonderful as knowing God has used me in some way or another.
I was raised in church but always felt like I was missing something. Now the Word of God excites me! My curiosity enhances pursuance of discernment. I have often felt discouraged, but not totally defeated knowing that in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.
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Read more articles by Susan Budensiek
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