Jas 1:2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, Jas 1:3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.
1Co 15:58 Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.
Let me try and combine these two verses hopefully in a way that brings out proper application for both of them. 1 Cor. 15:58 says to always abound in the work of the Lord and James 1:2 says that one aspect of the work of the Lord is to count it all joy when we are tested through trials of various kinds. Then if we go back to 1 Cor. 15:58 we see that to be faithful will mean that our labor is not in vain which I would take to mean that it will glorify God and bring reward.
So the reason I want to combine these two verses is to consider what the work of the Lord is. Too often it might be seen as full time Christian service or when we are actively involved in some sort of Christian ministry as a lay person and all that is the work of the Lord for sure but it involves much more than these things. If we boiled it down further we might say that the work of the Lord involves being faithful at all times in everything that comes our way in life. Whether we are helping someone out with a problem or on vacation or driving home from work; a Christian is always to be doing work of the Lord.
I think this helps us see how James 1:2-3 fits into 1 Cor. 15:58. Since the Lord brings all types of afflictions and trials into our life to build us up in the faith then these must be seen as part of the work of the Lord. And it seems that often our main pursuit when we encounter trials is to get out of it as soon as possible! I think of martyrs who patiently endure persecution knowing that escape is impossible or missionaries who are deliberately living under extremely difficult circumstances and are in it for the long haul because this is an expression of their love for the Lord. But then I think of how many of us when some difficulty comes immediately are consumed with trying to escape.
Don’t get me wrong. Suffering by definition is painful and if we can be free of it then we should; if we can do so in a godly fashion. If we can avoid sickness then by all means do so. The same would be true if we can improve our financial lot in life without compromise and sin. But there is something else to consider in all this as well. The trials that we suffer are given to us as a means to serve; they are not given to us so that we can consume our lives with trying to remove them! What is to consume us is how to serve the Lord even in affliction; secondly we can look for removal.
One way we can see how this can be confused is when we examine our prayer requests. Are they mostly requests for the removal of trials or for faithfulness in them? For instance, you hear this a lot when someone asks for prayer for an unsaved relative who is sick or in some sort of trouble. They want lots of prayer for physical health but it is much rarer to hear requests for their spiritual problems. But is it not wrong to ask that God would heal an unsaved person with no thought of what that extended life will accomplish for Christ? It is not unusual for a lost person to ask me to pray for them for some physical problem because I am a preacher. But I try to be clear that while I don’t like to see them suffer and will pray for them, my first concern is that they get right with God and if their affliction is used to that end then my first concern is not their ease but their soul.
I can image a scenario where Hitler was a boy who attended church and came down with a serious health issue. His parents asked the church to pray that he would recover. But perhaps that is all they asked for because that was really all they cared about. It never crossed their minds that he would recover so that he might be saved and become a servant of the Lord; just that he could live a long life. Well, that prayer would have been answered but the lack of spiritual depth of their prayers actually turned out far different than they might have imagined.
And this holds true when we pray for the saints. Is God pleased if we get sick and all our prayers are for healing but the thought of why we want to be healed never goes beyond the fact that we don’t like pain? Should we ever ask for help if our motivation isn’t firstly so that we can be better servants of the Lord? Is asking for help but for other motivations just asking “amiss”?
How often do we hear of trying to determine what the Lord’s calling is for your life? And by that they mean job or career, etc. But the calling that we had better learn to focus on is not how you make money but how well you serve in every situation. The calling of a saint is to serve well while sick or poor or depressed and not to get out from under the trial as fast as we can. This is why Paul could say he has learned to be content in any situation. Php 4:11 Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. Php 4:12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. Php 4:13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
Let us always be abounding in the work of the Lord because the reward for our labor is not getting healthy or wealthy or a fulfilling career or perfect family. It is to stand in the presence of God forever already secured for us in Christ. Let’s face it, some of us are just going to suffer severely until the day they die and if all we ever want is for the suffering to end and all we ever do is pray for it to end, we will not be content and we will forget to serve in the meantime.