James Writes an Encouraging Letter

Google produces a list of Scriptural passages when you ask, “Which 10 encouraging bible verses do I need to read each day?” The ninth passage on that list is James 1:2-4. Today’s Daily Bread email message very briefly explains that James, the half-brother of Jesus who was the leader of the church in Jerusalem, wrote, in those verses, an encouraging letter to Christian believers.

James 1:2-4

Other authors, such as Paul, often open their letters with gradual introductions. Not so with James. Without warming up or giving comforting introductory words, James immediately launches into the foundation of his letter. He begins with a profoundly challenging command. In essence, he says that we should find joy in bad things happening to us.

James 1:2-4 explains that God intends trials to test our faith and produce spiritual perseverance, endurance, steadfastness, and patience.


Many of James’ readers were likely facing poverty and persecution, but he purposefully uses the words “trials of various kinds.” Everyone experiences trials. James means for believers to respond to troubles, regardless of size, by counting that experience as “joy.”

Trials are like training challenges for an athlete. They build physical endurance and stamina. The athlete looks forward to physical and mental challenges because of the benefits that follow. Trials develop our spiritual muscles, giving us the stamina and endurance to stay the course (Romans 5:2–5).

James regarded trials as inevitable. He said “when” nor “if” you fall into various trials. We are to “fall” not “go in step by step” but are precipitated and plunged. When are so surrounded there is no escaping them.

As usual, context is key to understanding the meaning of Scripture. Verses 3 and 4 provide crucial explanations for what James means. Also, we must notice what James does NOT say. He doesn’t command Christians to “feel happy” when trials come. He tells us to “call it” joyful, to label it as a thing worth rejoicing over. James means for believers to respond to troubles, regardless of size, by counting that experience as “joy.”

James is not talking about our immediate emotional response to a flat tire, an illness, or the loss of a loved one. He’s talking about how we categorize that moment when assessing our life as a whole.

When James says to “count it all joy,” he encourages his readers to evaluate the way they look at trials. He calls believers to develop a new and improved attitude that considers trials from God’s perspective. James wants believers to know to expect “trials of various kinds” (James 1:2) in the Christian life. We should be prepared and not caught off guard when a sudden trial comes upon us. Trials are part of the Christian experience. Jesus told His disciples, “In this world, you will have trouble” (John 16:33).

Trials distress us just as King David was in Psalm 116:3.

But counting that experience as “joy” is still a hard command. And yet, it acknowledges something important: we can decide how we will describe any moment to ourselves. We may not be able to control our circumstances, but we can control how we think about our circumstances. When bad things happen, we could can immediately say to ourselves, “This is a bad thing, but I will get through it. I will learn and be stronger. I will call the growth and strength worth rejoicing over, even while it hurts.”

Knowing there is a bigger picture, we can consider trials as things to rejoice in. Even though joy is contrary to our normal reaction, James urges us to work on changing our attitude toward troubles from dread to positive expectation, faith, trust, and even joy.

God also uses trials to discipline us: “God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in His Holiness” (Hebrews 12:10). Trials help to purge our spiritual shortcomings and mature our faith. They promote joy because they produce holiness in the life of steadfast believers.


Trials are occasions for joy not discouraged resignation. We can “count it all pure joy” amid trials because they are used to produce perseverance/patience.

This patience isn’t so much the quality that helps you sit quietly in the doctor’s waiting room, as it is the quality that helps you finish a marathon.

The Testing Of Your Faith Produces Perseverance…

The Greek word translated to “testing” in verse 3 implies demonstrating the true quality of something under pressure.

Faith is tested through trials, not produced by trials. Trials reveal what faith we do have; not because God doesn’t know how much faith we have, but so that our faith will be evident to ourselves and those around us.

If trials do not produce faith, what does? Supernaturally, faith is built in us as we hear, understand, and trust in God’s word. (Romans 10:17)

James did not want anyone to think that God sends trials to break down or destroy our faith; therefore, comes back to this point in James 1:13-18.

Trials don’t produce faith, but when trials are received with faith then faith produces patience. Yet patience is not inevitably produced in times of trial. If difficulties are received in unbelief and grumbling, trials can produce bitterness and discouragement. This is why James exhorted us to “count it all joy.” Counting it all joy is faith’s response to a time of trial.

But James did not say that they must feel it in joy, or that trials are all joy.

Perfect Work

James 1:4 says a believer who perseveres through trials is made “perfect.” This does not mean he or she becomes sinless or without moral failings. “Perfect” speaks of maturity or spiritual development. Christians who face trials with a joyful outlook—trusting God to accomplish His good purpose—will develop into full spiritual maturity. They will be equipped with everything they need to overcome every trial they encounter. That’s certainly a good reason to rejoice.

The work of patient endurance comes slowly and must be allowed to have a full bloom. Patient endurance is a mark of the person who is “perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”

The natural tendency of trouble is not to sanctify, but to induce sin. A man is apt to become unbelieving under affliction: that is a sin. He is apt to murmur against God during trials: that is a sin. He is apt to take some ill way of escaping from his difficulty: and that would be sin. Hence, we are taught to pray, “Lead us not into temptation (Luke 11: 3);” because trial has in itself a measure of temptation.

Luke 11 2:4

he natural tendency of trouble is not to sanctify, but to induce sin. A man is apt to become unbelieving under affliction: that is a sin. He is apt to murmur against God during trials: that is a sin. He is apt to take some ill way of escaping from his difficulty: and that would be sin. Hence, we are taught to pray, “Lead us not into temptation (Luke 11: 3);” because trial has in itself a measure of temptation.

We all want a shortcut, the easy road. We want to skip the difficult parts. But in order to grow, in order to experience the life that God has for us, we must go through trials. Not because we enjoy the pain, but because we know what they will produce.

James ends verse 4 with the phrase, “not lacking anything.” In other words, God doesn’t just throw us to the lions. We have everything we need. 

While Jesus promised us we’d have difficulties, He also promised He’d be with us. Whatever you are going through you aren’t walking alone. God is right beside you, and He will provide everything you need. 

Why would God want us to respond to bad things in this way? The next two verses (James 1vs. 5, 6) answer that question.

How You Can Count It All Joy In Your Everyday Life 

1. Shift Your Focus 

The world tells us we need money, fame, sex, cars, vacations, health, perfect families, and all sorts of other things to be happy. And those things are not inherently bad when used as God intends. But they aren’t ultimate things; they are not things to build our life upon. They won’t make us happy and fulfill our desires. 

The natural inclination of the flesh, still awaiting full redemption, plays a part. The temptations of the world beckon the heart (James 1:2-4; 1 John 2:16).1  

When we center our lives around the things that culture tells us we need we will struggle to face the trials that come our way. Counting it all joy will become harder and harder because we are focusing on the wrong things.

As followers of Jesus, we need to shift our focus. Rather than striving for and focusing on the things the world does, we need to focus on Jesus. We need to strive for what he’s leading us to do. After all, all those other things never live up to what they promised anyway. 

So, when you find yourself pursuing those things, stop. Pray. And refocus on God. 

2. Keep God In His Place

One of the biggest temptations we face is to worship the giver and not the gift. We worship and desire the things that God has given us rather than God Himself. When we do that, we remove God from His place and instead strive for something or someone else.

When we remove God from His place and instead worship the gifts He gives we can lose sight of what God is doing. Hardships can seem unfair and even hateful. But when we keep God in His place, we can see that God is working through the trials of our life to produce something of great value. 

Again, the gifts aren’t a bad thing. They are good things God gives us. But they are not ultimate things. They are there to point us back to God. And we should enjoy the good things God gives. But we should keep God in His place so that we can count it all joy that God is producing something of value in us.

3. Prioritize Calling Over Comfort 

If you are a follower of Jesus, He has a calling on your life. You are created on purpose and for a purpose. 

Many followers settle for what’s comfortable rather than step into what’s meaningful. This keeps us from counting it all joy because we don’t want those hard times. We want peace because there’s no storm. But the Bible teaches us that peace is found not in the absence of storms, but in the presence of our Savior.

So, prioritize the calling that God has given you. It won’t always be easy, but it will be meaningful. It’s a life worth living.

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Consider the Daily Bread email message sent on 9/04/2023 which says,

James 1 2:4

James 1:2-4 – Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (NASB)

The meaning of James 1:2-4 is powerful and challenging. Because the reality of life is that we will all face difficulties and hardships. There’s no way around it.

At first glance “counting it all joy” might seem impossible and maybe even insensitive.

But the truth of this passage is profound. This is a passage that every follower of Jesus should reflect on and be encouraged by. 

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