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I laughed at this post.

Day two without sports. Found a lady sitting on my couch. Apparently, she’s my wife. She seems nice.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (James 1:2-4)

James calls them trials of many kinds, but any kind adversity tends to reduce our supply of courage. That’s why we call it being “dis”-couraged. But James says that trials no longer need to trigger discouragement. The joy Jesus gives us is so immersive, that it can truly be characterized as “pure,” regardless of what might be happening at the moment.

Pure joy is not forced joy. It’s not “I’m freaking out but I have to put on a happy face for the kids” kind of joy.

Neither is it partial joy. It’s not “I can get there sometimes for a few minutes, but that’s about it” kind of joy.

Neither is it phony joy, that temporary sense of satisfaction when we have a particular level resources or the favor of others.

No, pure joy is a full on, unadulterated, uncontained, genuine, “no I really mean it when I say I have it” pure kind of joy.

You might say, “Sorry, that passage must not apply to me because I’m not that joyful right now…this coronavirus thing is too scary for me to be joyful.” Fair enough, but not good enough. James said that there’s a reason for our lack of joy when adversity starts to pile up. He said that joy won’t ever consume us until we take some time to consider it.

“Consider it pure joy!”

The word “consider” is the Greek hegeomai (pronounced he-ge’-oh-my). One of its meanings is to lead. There you go! That may be why you’re not feeling pure joy. You’re letting the bad news lead the conversation, or letting the media lead the conversation, or letting the CDC lead the conversation. I’m not saying that they don’t have some very important things to contribute to the conversation, but James warns us about what happens when they lead it. We want Jesus in the driver’s seat, James said, so take ownership of this conversation and make sure He’s the One who’s got the wheel. You can allow more voices to get on the bus, just make sure you don’t let anyone else drive.

Hegeomai was also used as a financial term. That’s why some translations chose the term count, as in, “Count it pure joy…” Put it all together and James is literally challenging us to take some initiative and start adding some few things up, starting with your purpose.

You know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (James 1:3-4)

God hasn’t actually sent every kind of trial we’re facing today, but whether He sent it or simply allowed it, He will still use it to accomplish His great purpose in our lives. Perseverance is like a skilled craftsman, it does good work.

Abraham and Sarai wanted a child so badly that they didn’t let perseverance finish its work. They made some adjustments to God’s plan and, let’s just say, the world is still dealing with the consequences.

Moses wanted to deliver the Jewish people from Egyptian oppression so badly that he didn’t let perseverance finish its work, killed a man, and had to spend 40 more years in the desert to learn the power of perseverance.

Peter didn’t let perseverance finish its work, so he drew a soldier’s sword, almost killed a man (thankfully, just got the ear) and took three giant steps backward in his spiritual development. Denial. Denial. Denial.

The only way God teaches us how to wait is through adversity, like what we’re experiencing right now. You won't learn to persevere by reading a book on patience, or by listening to a sermon about steadfastness. You only learn perseverance by appreciating the work it can do and allowing it to finish it!

Keep in mind, it’s not the persevering itself that impresses God, but the work persevering does. God doesn't just want us all sitting around persevering for just anything. Perseverance is the means to the much greater end of purpose. God isn’t impressed with patience, but what our patience keeps us around to do. For example, in Acts 16, when Paul and Silas were thrown in prison, the earthquake hit, the jail walls fell down, the chains fell off, yet they were willing to wait, not run. The result was an opportunity to bring an entire oikos to Jesus. It wasn't just their sitting around that God used. It was what came after the waiting! Their perseverance accomplished some eternally important work!

Here’s another one. When you consider the Daniel narrative, you quickly notice that the man who wrote the book isn’t really ever the center of attention. His experience frames the course of the narrative, so we (those of us who grew up in church) have been taught to simply focus on what happened to him. Granted, he and his three Jewish friends are supposed to represent us, but what happened to those four God-fearing men is not the reason the stories are so compelling. Their experiences were simply the means to the greatest end of all—their worlds were changed. Their perseverance accomplished some amazing things. When the dust settled at the end of each of their stories, it’s what has happened to the people in their relational world (their oikos) that clearly mattered the most.

For example, Chapter 3 is not about God saving Daniel’s three friends from the fiery furnace any more than Chapter 6 is about God saving Daniel from the jaws of the lion. Those are simply events that set the table for the work that perseverance loves to do, to turn lost people into saved people.

You have to admit, we tend to look at the Bible pretty selfishly. We look at the trials of our lives and say, “Lord, save us like you saved Daniel from the Lion’s den” or “Lord, save us like you saved Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego from the fiery furnace!” We say those things because we’ve been trained to say those things. I mean, how many times have we heard, even taught those passages, with that as the big takeaway. “God saved those guys from their crisis, so God can save you from your crisis too”? It is so easy to find a way to spin the Bible into something that’s all about us.

We’ve all read those stories a hundred times without maybe noticing that the spotlight actually shines on Ashpenaz, the chief of the royal court officials; on Nebuchadnezzar, the undisputed ruler of the known world; on Arioch, the commander of the King’s guard; on the Queen Mother who was the daughter of Nebuchadnezzar; on Belshazzar who was the last King of Babylonia; and on Darius who was the King of Medo-Persia.

Have you ever read about the work that Daniel’s perseverance did in the life of King Darius?

Then King Darius wrote to all the nations and peoples of every language in all the earth: “May you prosper greatly! I issue a decree that in every part of my kingdom people must fear and reverence the God of Daniel. For he is the living God and he endures forever; his kingdom will not be destroyed, his dominion will never end. He rescues and he saves; he performs signs and wonders in the heavens and on the earth. He has rescued Daniel from the power of the lions.” (Daniel 6:25-27)

God indeed rescued Daniel, but for reasons beyond Daniel’s physical well-being. And He may very well rescue us from whatever crisis we’re facing today. But, when He does, it will be for more than simply our physical or financial well-being.

The truth is, your world, your nation, your people, those who understand your language, yep, your oikos need to know who God is. Now, being forced to sit at home, you might have more time to think about that.

Trials create unique opportunities to engage our purpose is because they slow life down so much. Time flies when you’re having a good time. It slows down when you’re not. Sheryl and I were supposed to be in Hawaii last week, celebrating our 40th Wedding Anniversary. If we had been there, the days would have flown by. (They always do in Hawaii.) But the week went much slower because we were quarantined in the High Desert, not sitting on the beach. But pure joy allows us to discover God’s purpose in being home today. We have more time to smell the roses, as they say, and think about the impact that God always generates when we focus on His purpose.

I’ll leave you with this post, one sent by a member of our team.

Sometime in 2030…

College kid: In history class, we learned that the COVID-19 Pandemic in 2020 was really bad. What was it like?

Parent: “Well everything was shut down in an attempt to kill the virus, but not everyone followed the order to quarantine for 15 days, so it lasted longer than anyone expected. Many people died who shouldn’t have. Grocery stores were out of things because people were hoarding as much as they could. We were scared of economic failure for our country and for ourselves because we couldn’t work. Don’t you remember it? You were eight years old.”

College kid: “All I remember was my school closing and being homeschooled. I remember doing scavenger hunts in our yard. I remember getting great sleep because I wasn’t up late for homework or getting up early for school. I remember board games as a family. I remember watching our pastor on our laptop. Honestly, it was the happiest time of my childhood.”

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (James 1:2-4)

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