How to Maintain Joy When Enduring Trials – Study 8/2021
“Consider it all joy, my brothers, when you meet with various trials.” James 1:2
Watchtower Study Article Review
[Study 8 from ws 2/21 p.26, April 26 – May 2, 2021]
How to maintain joy when enduring trials? There is a lot involved with this subject. How does this Watchtower study article address the subject? Does it address it seriously?
“Let us examine the letter of James and answer these questions” proclaims paragraph 5. The questions are “What is the joy that James wrote about? What could rob a Christian of that joy? And how can wisdom, faith, and courage help us to maintain our joy no matter what trials we face?”.
Like most Watchtower Study articles these days the article gives us little more than sound bites. It also skips from one item to another, without any meaningful depth to what is provided.
Therefore, in this review we will endeavour to add some meaningful depth to this theme instead.
Why did the Apostle James tell the early Christians to “Consider it all joy, my brothers, when you meet with various trials.”? (James 1:2). Trials are not something we look forward to, are they? Yet, James was familiar with the words of Jesus recorded in Matthew 5:10-11. There Jesus told the listening crowd: “Happy are those who have been persecuted for righteousness’ sake, since the kingdom of the heavens belongs to them. Happy are you when people reproach you and persecute you and lyingly say every sort of wicked thing against you for my sake”. In Jesus words did you notice it was the end result that was important? Why, because the kingdom of the heavens would belong to them. Because they had represented Jesus’ name.
But are these the only trials James was talking about? Note he said, “various trials”. The Greek word (“pirasmos”) translated as “trials” means (a) trial, testing, being tried, (b) temptation, (c) calamity, affliction.[i] It is most commonly translated as temptation. Such as in Luke 11:4 when Jesus gave a model prayer, saying “do not bring us into temptation”. “Various” means diverse. What diverse trials or temptations do we face as humans? Is it not such things sickness, poverty, loss of loved ones, or too much alcohol, immorality, and so forth?
James confirms this in James 1:3, as he focuses on the result saying, “This tested quality of your faith produces endurance.”.
Any experience we go through in life changes us to some little or larger degree. We make better decisions next time faced with the same situation, or we face a problem with less worries as we know how better to handle it. Yes, we build up experience. Those that are wise use this experience to make decisions. It makes us a more rounded out person. For example, if we have sadly faced the death of a loved one, we can be in a better position to empathize with and offer practical help to those who also sadly have to face the death of a loved one. That is why James said about endurance “Let endurance complete its work so that you may be complete and sound in all respects” James 1:4.
If we give up then Satan wins, but enduring for a purpose means we can succeed. In Luke 21:19 Jesus encouraged us saying, “By endurance on your part you will acquire your souls (lives)”. A little later in James 1:12 the Apostle James reminds us that “Happy is the man that keeps on enduring trial, because on becoming approved he will receive the crown of life, which the Lord [Jesus] [ii]promised to those who continue loving him.”
But should we rely upon our own experiences alone? Maybe this is the first time we are facing a particular trial. For example, a serious permanent health problem arises, whereas we have always previously been healthy. How can we cope? Maybe we do not know of anyone who has found themselves in a similar situation. James gives us the answer. James 1:5-7 says “So if any one of you is lacking in wisdom, let him keep asking God, for he gives generously to all and without reproaching, and it will be given him. 6 But let him keep asking in faith, not doubting at all, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven by the wind and blown about. 7 In fact, that man should not expect to receive anything from Jehovah; 8 he is an indecisive man, unsteady in all his ways.”.
Yes, the answer is to ask God. Note, not for it to go away. The apostle Paul has a thorn in the flesh. In fact, 2 Corinthians 12:7-9 shows that he asked for it to be taken away 3 times, but he was told by Jesus, that rather he would have to rely on the power of Christ to cope with it.
Rather, we ask for wisdom. James tells us that God gives wisdom to those asking in faith. What is the primary way God can give us wisdom? Is it not from the communication from God, the word of God we already have? The Bible? God can use his holy spirit to remind us of scriptures we have read in the past that are relevant to our situation. Jesus promised this to his disciples in John 14:26 where he said, “But the helper, the holy spirit, which the Father will send in my name, that one will teach you all things and bring back to your minds all the things I told you.”.
In verse 13, James reminds us of one important thing about facing and enduring trials. How they occur. Is it God, or Jesus or Satan or usually another cause? James 1:13 states “When under trial, let no one say:”I am being tried by God.” For with evil things God cannot be tried nor does he himself try anyone.”. So, when we are under trial, God has not brought this trial upon us, nor is God testing our faith.
Rather the issue is usually with ourselves. It is a fact that not even Satan the Devil can be blamed for most things, though we may tend to (wrongly) do so. James 1:14 reads, “But each one is tried by being drawn out and enticed by his own desire. Then the desire, when it has become fertile, gives birth to sin;”. With many trials and problems, often the biggest problem is ourselves. Are we worrying unnecessarily, perhaps over something that only could happen, and perhaps a slim chance at that? Instead, we would be better off handling the immediate problem. As Jesus encouraged us when speaking about seeking first the kingdom and his righteousness, he said “and all these things [necessary things, food, clothing], will be added to you. So never be anxious about the next day, for the next day will have its own anxieties. Sufficient for each day is its own trouble.”. Yes, if we deal with the problems and trials as they come rather than imagining what might happen, but never does, we will find it a lot easier to handle the trials and problems.
In the words of a famous song, “Ha’kuna ma’tata[iii], what a wonderful phrase, hakuna matata, ain’t no personal craze, it means no worries for the rest of your day. It’s a problem free philosophy.”. Now in real life under serious trials, that may not be fully possible, but it shows the principle, that it is our attitude that counts. It is a well attested to scientific fact that for example two people may have the same serious illness or injury, and both have an equal chance of surviving, but only one will survive and one will die. Yet, the main reason for the difference being that the one that survives has a more positive outlook on live and is more “hakuna matata” like. This has borne out the statement in Proverbs 14:30 “A calm heart is the life of the fleshly organism”.
The best way to help ourselves prepare for future problems is what we decide to do now. That is, if we take time to reading and study God’s word now for ourselves. By this we can gain wisdom beyond our years, and faith in the Bibles teachings. Do you worry about how to cope with a future loss of a dear loved one? Why not take time to review all the accounts of resurrections in the Bible. Look at their circumstances, look for why it was done, and how people felt when it occurred. If you do this, you will be in a position to “not sorrow just as the rest also do who have no hope.” (1 Thessalonians 4:13).
We need to prove these things for ourselves and not rely on what we have heard or been taught at meetings. As James encourages “… become doers of the word, not hearers only …”. It means far more to us if we have proved it for ourselves directly from God’s word. We should not rely on an Organization to tell us what to think and what to believe.
Why did the Apostle James compare someone who hears the word and does not practice it to a man that looks at his face in the mirror? It was because usually if we look in a mirror, if we see some imperfection, a spot or a cut, or hair out of place, etc, we will usually try to improve its looks. However, if we ignore the blemishes we have just seen and continue on as if nothing happened, then we are not benefited by that look in the mirror. Similarly, if we hear the word [of God] and yet do nothing to correct the blemishes we see with our spiritual eye, then likewise we are not benefited.
It really depends on what we have doubts about. Yes, it is true that at times “we might have difficulty understanding something in God’s Word.” (paragraph 14). If this is the case, then praying for wisdom and studying God’s Word directly as discussed earlier is the best way of clearing up those doubts. If we are upset because Jehovah did “not answer our prayers the way that we had hoped for”, then the best thing is to check his word and make sure he actually answers prayers in the way we hoped. In an effort to persuade us that God will answer all manner of prayers and fix things for us if we stay within the Organization, the Organization has conjectured way beyond what the scriptures clearly teach. We cannot allow false teachings we have been told and accepted to cause us to have doubts. Romans 3:4 warns us that “let God be found true, though every man be found a liar”. Yes, check God’s word for ourselves, do not accept what others tell us he says.
For example, do you have doubts that Armageddon is right at hand? If so, you are not alone. Yet, that is what the Organization teaches and promotes. But should that cause you to doubt God’s promises?
Why not take time to meditate on the following passages from Matthew 24:23-27, 30, 36-39. Use other translations, such as those available free on Biblehub.com and other sites, particularly interlinear ones. You will be able to see a difference between the Bible and the teachings of the Organization.
For example, take a close look at Matthew 24:39, where the interlinear reads “they (the world in Noah’s day) [did] not know [anything] until the flood came and took all away”. Yes, “They knew nothing”, it does not read, “they took no note”.
Also, Matthew 24:23, “then if anyone to you says Behold here is the Christ or Here, do not believe it”. Yet, the Organization claims Christ is here, but invisibly so you cannot see him.
How can we maintain joy when enduring trials?
In conclusion, doubts can be good or bad for us. If we do proper research, those doubts will benefit us and be good for us. As 1 Thessalonians 5:21 reminds us we need to “Make sure of all things; hold fast to what is fine.”. Let us be firmly resolved in our hearts to properly research in the Bible any such doubts. In this way we will be able to sort the wheat of Bible truth from the chaff that is provided by the Organization. More importantly, we will also be able to keep our faith in God and our saviour Christ Jesus.
In this way we will be able to maintain a level of joy whatever trials come upon us.
[ii] The NWT reads here “Jehovah”, having, wrongly, in the opinion of the author, replaced “Kyrios” with “Jehovah”. In biblical context the crown of life is mentioned in Revelation 2:10 where Jesus is giving the Apostle John the revelation and states “… and I [Jesus] will give you the throne of life.”. See also 2 Timothy 4:8 where the Apostle Paul talks about “… the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give me as a reward in that day, yet not only to me, but also to all those who have loved his manifestation.”. 1 Peter 5:4 speaks about Jesus saying, “And when the chief shepherd [Jesus] has been made manifest, you will receive the unfadable crown of glory.”
[iii] Swahili (East African language) meaning “no trouble, no worries and take it easy”, literally “there is no/there are no, worries.”