Pastor Edward Brouwer 9-23-18 “Count it All Joy” 2 Corinthians 1:8-10

Count it All Joy

How can James say to believers “count it all joy when you experience trials of many kinds?” Because our eyes are not to be focussed on the present trial but rather, they are to be on Jesus. Because trials and testing of faith produce steadfastness, and steadfastness produces perfection and completion in Christ. Trials, steadfastness, completion. That is the trajectory.

Trials—the Bible is so realistic about the fact of suffering in this world. Bad things happen in this world, and bad things happen to good people, bad things can even happen to you as a follower of Jesus, in fact some suffering can be a direct result of you being a Christian! Jesus said “in this world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer for I have overcome the world” Peter writes to suffering Christians during the reign of Nero: 1 Peter 4:12: “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.”

What kind of trials are you facing right now? Physical trials? Are you struggling with health issues, cancer, something looming over you that is threatening your very existence? Or perhaps emotional trials? You’re struggling with feelings inside of you, am I loved? Can I really be who I am and will people still accept me? Maybe relational trials—testing in your marriage, with your children or grandchildren. Perhaps it’s a financial trial, there’s not enough $$ to cover your expenses and you are fretting. I don’t know what kind of storm you are in right now but I want to assure you that God sees your life and he cares for you. Storms happen, and sometimes they are not of our own making. Paul writes about his experiences, how he was shipwrecked and jailed and flogged and stoned. He said “we nearly despaired of life itself”

2 Corinthians 1:8-10
8 For we do not want you to be unaware, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. 9 Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. 10 He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again.

Have you ever been so utterly burdened in your trial that you despaired of life itself? With all humility I encourage you to embrace that! O that God would show us His severe mercy to put us through something that the old self must die to– in order that He might live in us to a greater degree.

How on earth can James tell us to count it joy in the midst of our own deathly struggle? The trial is not the focus of your joy! The trial is producing steadfast faith in Christ. Jesus is forming trust in our hearts. I’m reminded of the hymn “’Tis so Sweet to Trust in Jesus”. Here’s the backstory on that hymn that took place in the 1880’s: Louisa Stead and her husband were relaxing with their 4 year old daughter on a Long Island beach when they heard a child’s cry for help. A boy was drowning in the surf, so her husband dove in to rescue the boy and they were both drowned. Without a husband or a support network Louisa fell into dire poverty. One day in a particularly desperate situation of no food or money she cried out to the Lord. She got up to leave the house and outside the front door was a food package and money. That was the day she wrote this hymn: ‘Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus, just to take him at his word, just to rest upon his promise, just to know “thus saith the Lord”.

Count it all joy when you face trials of various kinds. Why? Because Jesus is with you, and God is using the testing of your faith, so precious to Him, to make you more like Jesus. Being rooted and grounded in Christ through the means of trials, our faith becomes steadfast. And the purpose of steadfast faith is that we become perfect and complete. From glory to glory God is changing us, perfecting in us the likeness and image of Christ. Joy, it’s a funny thing. How can we really be joyful in the midst of trial? Because our eyes are on Jesus! And we are only following the path of Jesus. Look what Christ himself did. Jesus endured the most unspeakable suffering in human history. Jesus, God Incarnate came to bear our grief and sin and shame. And He did that with steadfastness, (with a single eye) because Philippians 2 says he did it for the JOY set before him. Strange. What joy? Jesus did that for us. WE are his joy. He endured all the wrath of God because of His love for us. In the midst of your trial understand that the JOY of the LORD is your strength. He is with you. He has promised “I will never leave you nor forsake you”. Trust Him because “HE who began a good work in you, will be faithful to complete it in you”.