Jesus wants us to know Him, not just of Him.
James, the brother of Jesus, has an amazing story. You see, James didn’t actually become a follower of Jesus until after His resurrection. He knew Jesus, he even grew up with Him, but He didn’t really know Him. James observed as Jesus never failed to respect his elders, never had a bad attitude, and never acted selfishly, even through his teen years. It wasn’t until after Jesus was raised from the dead that James’ eyes were opened. Then he not only became an apostle of Christ, but he wrote a book in the Bible.
Even before James was born, God had a plan for him. No matter what James did or did not do before his eyes were opened, Jesus never gave up on him. In the same way, though family can be the hardest people for us to witness to, we should never give up on them.
Look at the very first thing James says in his book:
“Consider it pure joy, my brother 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
Joy is always on the other side of your trial. The key is to look through what you’re going through to see what God has called you to. Joy is not circumstantial. It’s not just an emotion, it’s a fruit of the Spirit! As a fruit of the Spirit, it’s not only an outward feeling, it’s an internal trait.
In his book, James addresses the Church, encouraging the people not to worry about what they’re going through. Yes, they were facing severe persecution — brothers were being killed for their faith — but James told them to count it all joy. Likewise, we are to count it all joy when we face injury, illness, less playing time on the field, rough patches in our marriage, or relationship heartaches. In every trial we can count it all joy when we take on the perspective of Christ. God is not calling many of us to die from persecution, but we do face hardships that test our faith. When we look at these trials through the lens of Christ, we can respond to God in a way that pleases Him. But if we don’t have an accurate perception of the truth, we won’t be able to react appropriately.
James goes on to say, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of Heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:17). We serve a good God who wants to give us good things! We have to look at our lives through the lens of our good Father, knowing He gives us what is good. He is not orchestrating the evil things that come into our lives, but He will use them to bring Him glory.
“We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” — Romans 8:28
In order to find joy in our trials, we have to know our God who is orchestrating all things for good. We need to “know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance” (verse 3). Most people don’t know this. We too easily adopt tradition and religion over what the Word of God says. If we study the God of the Bible, as opposed to the god of “religion” or tradition, we know that this God does not tempt or test us.
The testing of your faith, though not brought about by God, produces good fruit in you. When trials come, God will use them to build something greater within you. He’s got you, so count it all joy! Let the patience you learn through the trial make you perfect and complete, so you are lacking nothing.
So don’t avoid the refining process. You better believe that if you come through this trial without learning the lesson God wants to teach you, He’ll have you retake the test. He’ll stop at nothing to make us reflect His image, the image of the perfect One. Our character needs work and that work takes patience. Don’t hop off the potter’s wheel before you’ve been fully formed. When God sees us, He sees our full potential and He will continue to work in us until that potential has been reached.
Let patience have its complete work in you. Count it all joy to be molded into the image of God.
— LaMorris Crawford, Cincinnati Bengals chaplain