“Consider it all joy, my brothers, when you encounter various trials” James 1:2
Consider – James would not make a good salesman. He doesn’t understand the technique of upgrades. He starts out with the top of the line product and doesn’t even mention a next best option. He says, “Lead with this, hold it in highest regard, esteem this the best”. What James wants us to do is focus on the first and best. That resonates! We all want the best. Why settle for the “better” grade when the best is available? But what James says next gives us a shock. What he says is that the “best” is found in the midst of the worst life can throw at you.
The Greek word hegesasthe is a command to place something first, at the head of the list. James says that we need to put our tests of character at the top of the list. We are to see these as opportunities to validate God’s handiwork in our lives. These are the proving grounds of our obedience. And obedience is the name of this game. It was the same for Jesus. Why should it be any different for us?
Do you think that Jesus chaffed under the pressure of his temptations? Forget about the wilderness encounters for a minute. Consider the other (continuous) temptations surrounding his life. The temptation to take the credit (after all, he was the center of attention in the miracles). The temptation to take on the will of the people as ruler. The temptation of arrogance. The temptation of spiritual supremacy. The temptation of intimacy (did you think he wasn’t a man surrounded by devoted women?). The temptation of celebrity status. Jesus learned obedience through suffering. That’s what the Bible says and we should believe it. Jesus counted those temptations as moments when God could be glorified because of his submission and obedience. What would change in your life if you had the same perspective?
So why do we hide from the confrontation with temptation? Why do we collapse under the strain? Why do we think that our trials are horrible?
James gives us the answer. We don’t have the right kind of counting perspective. We don’t prize the opportunity to stand up for God. Secretly (we admit in a whisper), we just don’t want to suffer. We don’t like the cross. But that’s not Jesus’ way:
“who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross,” Hebrews 12:2