James 1 v 2-4 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,whenever you face trials of many kinds,3because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.4Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything
I think it’s fair to say that a lot of Christ’s teachings are what I would Class as “Hard Sayings”. In no way do I use that phrase as a term of disrespect to our Lord. I simply use it to describe the hard teachings of Christ. Teachings such as “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” Matthew 5 v 44 and “Take up your cross and follow me” Matthew 16 v 24 are but two examples of Christs hard sayings which, in the natural can cause us to swallow hard and wonder how they can possibly be achieved and incorporated into our everyday lives.
I guess the question we must ask ourselves in total honesty before God is “Why do we find these teachings so incredibly difficult? Does the fault lie with our personality, our walk with God, previous sin or an unwillingness to bend to our masters will? In many respects it may be some or all of the aforementioned but at the heart of understanding our difficulty with Christ’s hard sayings we must consider the sinful nature of man. (Romans 7 v18) For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.
Fighting against this sinful nature is a daily battle for all believers because some of scriptures hardest teachings demand that we live our lives in the exact opposite of how our sinful nature tells us (Galatians 5 v 16 & 17). In many respects we are like errant children who constantly rebel against their father not simply out of spite or disrespect but as the result of the sinful nature we are born with. It is easy for us to hate those who hate us, it is easy for us to return evil for evil, it is easy for us to lash out in anger and bitterness because this is simply what comes naturally to us as human beings.
As we consider hard sayings and our attitude towards them let us turn our attention to James 1 v 2 which will become a very familiar passage to us all over the coming days and months. Here James calls on believers to rejoice in times of difficulty and praise God in their deepest and darkest adversity. The questions you may ask are “can this truly be achieved? Is it possible for me in this situation I’m facing? And, “what possible benefit can this bring to my life?”
Of course, these are all valid questions but all journeys start with a single step. For all of us the first step to incorporating James instruction to us must start with “death to self.” The apostle Paul puts it beautifully in Galatians 2 v 20 when he says “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live but Christ lives in me”. Spiritual growth like our physical development can be a very difficult time, but spiritual growth can only begin with death to self, feelings, situation and circumstances. Only then can we truly “Consider it pure joy” James 1 v 2