Wednesday, September 16, 2009

“Consider It Pure Joy...” Unto Fulfilment of Faith

Shudder at the thought! Whenever a well-read Bible-believing Christian reads those words... “Consider it pure joy,” they know exactly where it came from and where the rest of it’s headed. It is, of course, the initial charge from that ‘right strawy epistle’ (Luther’s words, not mine) of James. Most people will find it absurd to connect joy with trials. Yet James’s letter shows us how.

The complete passage (in a different version to the NIV) goes like this:

“My brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance; and let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing”

–James 1:2-4 (NRSV).

I want to focus on the Greek word for “consider,” hagēsathe,[1] which means to think, consider, count, esteem, regard. It’s a pretty regal word in its aorist form as it’s presented—it has the feel of ‘consider always’ and not merely ‘consider.’

One commentator summarises the verse for James, that life is to be lived “entirely of joy.”[2] And surely the hedonistic world shudders at that thought! ‘How can that possibly be so in this painful world?’ might be the astonished thought.

The pervading mindset might be first to consider everything that occurs to us from as even-a-perspective as possible. To first think—as the troubles in life occur—what is this event saying to me? When we’ve bolted on the higher mind and we’ve groomed the heart we can achieve this, but it requires the virtues of developed patience and peace, among others.[3]

The concept of considering everything in life an utter joy is, of course, expanded upon in the reading of James 1:3-8, and even unto the rest of the letter. James chapter 1 is a wonderful introduction to the rest of his very pungently theological ideas of spiritual wisdom. So, the relevance is in the enveloping stanzas that follow from the initial statement.

Seemingly James commences with this idea that everything we receive in life is to be considered pure joy for a reason. He builds the rest of his nuggetty piece of wisdom literature off this. It’s a lever, and central to faith.

When we boil it all down, if we can only get our minds around this concept, considering and pondering it in peace before the war, we can finally understand true Christianity—not a masochistic faith—but a faith which knows where real strength in character development is... a faith that faces this concept in courage and truth, and in the manifest power of the risen Lord Jesus through the Holy Spirit—the resplendent, flourishing Spirit within every true believer.

© S. J. Wickham, 2009.
[1] The actual root word (verb) is hegeomai, Strong’s 2233. I admit the spelling of my aorist in the article is problematic.
[2] Luke T. Johnson, The Letter of James: Introduction, Commentary, and Reflections (Nashville, Tennessee: Abingdon Press, 1998), p. 190.
[3] As a flow on, one can but imagine how much easier it is to forgive, for instance, when we’re already full of patience and peace.

No comments: