HH, Sir Godfrey Gregg D.Div
How can James say that we are to “count it all joy” in our trials? How can suffering be joyful?
“My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations;” James 1:2.
James testifies here about an overcoming life: a life of triumph in all our various trials. Who could it be but God holding the reins of James’ life? Can we say the same as James?
When have we heard of such joy during trials? If you pay attention to the testimonies among the people of God, you will hear a continuous complaining about defeat and failure in various trials. All their trials are almost a curse because the defeats become so many. And in order not to have a bad conscience, they must pray for forgiveness for it all. But was this what James meant when he says that we are to rejoice in our trials? No, on the contrary! He means that we are to overcome in our trials. Then, when there are many trials, there will be many victories, and the result will be an unending joy. I want to speak to my Spiritual Baptist brothers and sisters in this message. Too many defeats and the church appears to be under siege for lack of a victory in even one life.
A vicious cycle of sin and forgiveness
A person becomes angry and falls. The old Adam [the natural human being with a fallen nature, who lives according to his natural inclinations, or lusts—ed.] becomes extremely angry one day—someone or something has offended him. He forgets all about Christianity, crashing about with words and actions as though Satan himself had been let loose. He is certainly far from being crucified. On the contrary, the old Adam is running around on the ground and is active on all fronts. And now, someone argues with him about his rights, and he becomes extremely angry. It will not be easy for him to speak about an overcoming life (Revelation 3:5) or about having a crucified flesh. (Romans 6:6) The temptation was too great, and defeat followed. Again, more prayer for the forgiveness of sins.
The same happens with his vanity and honour-seeking, and all other miserable plagues he suffers under. In every single temptation, the old Adam finds a way to express himself, and then there is absolutely no joy in trials and temptation. He (the old Adam) cannot manage to count it all joy, even though he gives himself the honourable old name of “penitent sinner.” Nevertheless, he is and will remain “the old Adam.”
On the cross or at foot of the cross?
Throughout the centuries, the Scriptures have provided excellent advice for “the old man” [the old attitude of mind that serves sin—ed.], but it is as though people are deaf in that ear. Here is an example: “… knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin.” Romans 6:6.
This scripture has become so twisted through preaching, writings, and songs that nowadays it sounds more like this: “At the foot of the cross is where I want to stand.”
Where in the Scriptures is it written that the old man is to keep himself at the foot of the cross? I have never read that.
Why we can count it all joy when we meet trials
“… knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” James 1:3-4.
Through the various trials, victory over sin in the time of temptation will lead us to become perfect and complete. But if we fail in temptation so we commit sin, then we are far from becoming perfect and complete. Neither will we have an overcomer’s joy.
The way has been made through the flesh (Hebrews 10:19-20), and God leads us to our enemies—the sin in our own flesh. We find ourselves in many trials in which we are tempted to sin, which give us the opportunity to experience many victories, and that gives us much joy. For no joy is greater than the joy of victory, which is pure and unadulterated. It brings honour from God and respect from people.
“I have been crucified with Christ”
Young people have heard so much of this foggy and unclear “sin and grace” and preaching about “sinning under grace” that they find it impossible to understand such “Christianity.” But everyone can understand a word like this: “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.” Galatians 2:20.
Paul does not say: “I live at the foot of the cross; my old man is not crucified.”
No, that is not possible. We must get the old man upon the cross if we want to find joy when we enter into various trials.
Led by the Spirit
We can’t allow the inclinations of our bodies to lead our lives, for that belongs to the old creation—the person we were before we were born again. It is written: “And if Christ is in you, then the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.” Romans 8:10. God’s Spirit is to lead our lives, for He will lead us into all truth.
When we first come to Christ, we do come as repentant sinners; but if a person continues to be just a repentant sinner for 20 or 30 years, that is hypocrisy. They sin expecting grace, but they will not allow grace to chasten and teach them. (Titus 2:11-12) Shall we continue to sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! (Romans 6:1-2)
When the old man is hung on the cross—by faith—then the penitent sinner, as he calls himself, loses his life.
On the cross with the hypocrite! Then we can count it all joy when we fall into various trials!