Count It All Joy

Exploring the Book of Ya’aqov, Pt. 1

From יַעֲקֹב, Ya’aqov, a slave of God and of the Master יֵשׁוּעַ, Yeshua the Messiah; to the Twelve Tribes of Yis’rael who are in the Dispersion: שָׁלוֹם, shalom. Count it all joy, my brothers, when you fall into various ways of testing, knowing that the proving of your faith brings about perseverance in you. And let the perseverance have a maturing work, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing.
(יַעֲקֹב Ya’aqov 1:1-4, mjlt)

Ya’aqov had every right to brag. Being the brother of Yeshua, he also garnered a great deal of respect and influence as an authoritative voice among the Emissaries. And yet, when he wrote his powerful letter to the Jewish believers “who had been scattered abroad from the oppression that came after Stephen” (Acts 13:19, mjlt), he identified himself in his greeting simply as “a slave of God and of the Master יֵשׁוּעַ, Yeshua the Messiah.” More than a mere statement of humility, acknowledging one’s position as a “slave” emphasizes and elevates the position of one’s “Master.” It speaks categorically as to whose purpose one will serve, and whose will one will subvert. It is from this lowly vantage point that Ya’aqov is fully qualified to address the plight of his brothers and sisters, and to advise them in their behavior and actions as they live their own lives as slaves of Messiah.

It was the oppression of Ya’aqov’s fellow Messianic Jews—their being persecuted and scattered for their belief in Yeshua as Messiah—that caused Ya’aqov to begin his letter with the famous exhortation to “Count it all joy.” It dramatically changes our understanding of Ya’aqov’s words when we realize that the “various ways of testing”—the “testing” which Ya’aqov is encouraging his readers to consider as joy—are a direct result of their dispersion from their homeland at the hands of their own unbelieving Jewish family. What could be a greater source of depression and fear than to be so harshly rejected by one’s own people? And yet, this is Ya’aqov’s entire point. Though they had had to flee to safety for fear of retribution, imprisonment, or worse, everything they endured was for “the proving of [their] faith,” and by knowing this, it would “bring about perseverance” in them. God’s tests show us what our faith is made of, and from that faith, we may find the joy to persevere.

There is a reason for God’s people to persevere with joy—to struggle and press through in the face of adversity—especially in times that our safety is threatened and our faith is challenged: we must “let the perseverance have a maturing work, so that [we] may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing.” Though it is easier said than done, we persevere for the same reason that Ya’aqov exhorted those early Jewish believers to persevere: at the end of all the running is the destination God has planned for you. The end-goal of the Messianic faith, then, is not persecution and adversity; rather, the adversity is what prepares us to fully and effectively live out our Messianic faith. Ya’aqov wants his readers to be “mature and complete, lacking in nothing” in spite of what the persecution and adversity have already taken away. As disciples of Messiah, we need to learn to live with nothing but our burning passion for serving Yeshua, so that even in the worst of circumstances, we will never go without.

And this brings us back to joy.

An immature, incomplete follower of Messiah will take the safe route and avoid adversity, and he might even feel happy… for a time. But the mature Messiah-follower will put his faith even above safety and comfort, and when he sees how triumphantly he perseveres, he will consider the times of testing a joy to him. He will see God’s hand. He will see God’s faithfulness. He will see how enduring hardship for the sake of the Messiah pleases the Master he serves and readies him to fulfill his purpose as Yeshua’s disciple.

Let us not wait until we are under grave oppression before we consider various ways of testing as tremendous times of joy. Every day, in far less severe ways, we have the opportunity to practice finding that joy—so do it! Our God has a destination in mind for you, and when you arrive, he wants you fully grown, lacking in nothing, and ready.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments below!

7 replies
  1. Yvonna
    Yvonna says:

    This is such a wonderful reminder that we are to be ready in season and out of season. Various testings have come to me and sometimes I say, “I Well, I failed that test!” and other times I can say, “I think I passed that test!” I know that Adonai wants only the very best for us and sometimes that very best comes after a time of testing. So be encouraged when that time of testing comes.

  2. Steven J.
    Steven J. says:

    A number of times, throughout my life, I have gone through hard times without realizing that they were “times of Testing”…until much, sometimes years later. All of a sudden, one day, all that I have been through, suffered through, comes into full focus and I, by the Ruach HaElohim, understand the “purpose” for those various trials. The result of one time of testing, which lasted for years, was that ‘through MY test’ 8 members of my family were brought to faith as a result. Thus, I earned that OUR times of testing can benefit not only ourselves, but can also enrich the lives of others as they see and experience what we are going through…and how we handle it all.

    May it all be counted as JOY!

    • Kay Wonderley
      Kay Wonderley says:

      Thanks Steven for sharing that how you handle trials of various sorts is for the benefit of others, and in your case 8 members of your family got saved.
      That has really put it in perspective for me.

      • Steven J.
        Steven J. says:

        Thank you Kay for the kind reply to my posting. I’m glad it was helpful to you.

        May YHVH bless you in every way as you “seek His Face and the knowledge of His Grace.”

  3. Layn
    Layn says:

    I have, on and off for a while now, been reflecting on suffering. When I became redeemed by repentance and saving faith years ago, all family and previous friendship relationships were destroyed. When my husband and I bent our knees to YHVH when He told us to move from the land of our birth to live in another state, we entered a time of protracted loss and other trials in many areas of our lives … some of which were the consequence of our commitment to our Covenant relationship with Him in the midst of an ever-growing population of people (within the local church and messianic/Hebrew roots environments) who were turning from the truth of Scripture to the traditions of man, and some were the consequence of our lawlessness, spiritual immaturity and weakness in response to a time of protracted spiritual battle.

    In all of the suffering we’ve known, we moved in and out of awareness that YHVH was using the trials in our lives to prove us and show us what was in our hearts toward Him. When we chose to see and respond to our circumstances in light of the Scriptures and by the power of the Spirit, we knew various levels of joy. When we chose a carnal view and response to our circumstances, we knew no joy. And when we chose a lawless response to our circumstances, we opened ourselves to a suffering from our adversary that greatly compounded our lack of joy because we moved away from faith and trust in YHVH.

    In my experience, it’s one thing to respond carnally to trials and quite another entirely when a carnal response ultimately gives way to the sin of giving in to the temptation of our adversary to move away from YHVH in faithlessness and distrust.

    Obeying Messiah and so walking in love for Him is great, great joy. I ask for YHVH’s mercy as I seek to live a life of increasing victory in this area.


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