My brothers, count it all joy when you fall into divers temptations;…
"Count it all joy" means, "Count it nothing but joy," "Count it pure joy," "Count it the highest joy," when trials of many different kinds surround you. They had trouble enough, and therefore they might have joy enough, if they could but learn the secret of extracting joy from trouble. And why should they not learn it? It is simple enough. A paradox to the thoughtless, it is an axiom with the wise. For "trial" means "test." And it is as we are tested that we learn our own weakness, learn what and where it is, and are set on correcting it. The gospel affirms that we are infected with a moral weakness, or disease, of which our sorrows are the natural result, and of which they may become a sovereign remedy. For the sorrows bred by sin dispose us to hate and renounce the sin which produces them. The sorrows that disclose unsuspected weakness set us on seeking a strength that shall be made perfect in weakness. Nay, even the sorrows which involve shame and remorse have a cleansing virtue, if only our sorrow be of a godly sort. "But the Jews of the Dispersion," it may be said, "were not suffering for their sins, but for their virtues, for their faith in Christ and their obedience to His law!" True; but in suffering for our faith, may we not also be suffering for our faults — for the weakness of our faith, for instance? The faith of these Jews must have been weak and immature. It may be that, but for the "many trials" which the hostility of the world and the synagogue brought upon them, they would have remained very imperfectly Christian to the end of their lives, even if they had remained Christian at all. Their trials put them on their mettle. When nothing was open to them but publicly renouncing Christ, or cleaving to Him, their choice was clear, their duty plain. They must cleave to Him; and, cleaving to Him, they would be driven closer and closer to Him by the very opposition designed to detach them from Him. On one point, happily for us, St. James is quite clear: viz., that tribulation is discipline; that by the divers trials which befall us God is making, or seeking to make, us perfect and complete. And where can we find a more inspiriting view of tribulation than this? It is God, our reconciled God and Father, who appoints these tests, God who applies them. And therefore we may be sure that they come for good ends. "The proving of your faith worketh patience, i.e., it results in a firm and steadfast constancy, in a fidelity which can face all allurements and fears. "Tried" and "faithful" are all but synonyms in our common speech, so close is the connection between trials and fidelity, But if our trials are to produce this constant and faithful temper in us, we must "let patience have a perfect work." Since chastening is grievous to us, the danger is that we should seek to escape it as soon as we can, forgetting that only "he that endureth to the end will be saved." The acid that tries the gold bites the gold, or rather, it bites the alloy in the gold. Tests are painful; and they make unwelcome calls on our fortitude. We must therefore let patience have her perfect work, we must suffer our constancy, our fidelity to God, to be exposed to many and searching trials, if we would reap the full benefit of our trials. And what is this full benefit? "That ye may be perfect and entire, lacking nothing," or lacking in nothing. The fall benefit of trial is, that, if we endure it with a patient fidelity, we become mature men in Christ Jesus, nay, complete men, lacking nothing that a Christian man should have and enjoy. And what higher reward could possibly be set before a reasonable and religious being? What we want, what we know we want, most of all, is to have our character fully and happily developed, its various and often hostile affections and aims absorbed and harmonized, by having them all brought under law to Christ. To become such men as He was, and to walk even as also He walked, is not this the supreme end of all who call and profess themselves Christians? is it not our chief good, our highest blessedness?
(S. Cox, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations;