James 1:2-4 (ESV) 2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
I love these verses!
There are those moments when verses telling us to count the hard things as joy feel burdensome, of course. But…when our vision clears, they become a relief!
We live in a world where there is immense obligation to be upset. My mom used to say, “Don’t kick against the pricks.” Now, in a world where fast pace and pressure (stress) are a badge of honor, counting the hard stuff as joy can seem foreign…senseless.
A prick is a long stick with a piece of metal on the end, intended to poke a working ox when he is being stubborn, not moving or doing what his owner needs him to do. When the creature is poked by his master with a prick (or goad), he will sometimes resist by kicking at it. Kicking back at the goad is pointless, of course, and painful.
I imagine the prick is somewhat of a retraining tool. Maybe the animal eventually learns to do what is expected of him. Maybe he eventually rebels less!
This verse is during the time Paul was resisting God and persecuting Christians. It is in the Amplified Version… a wordier version which sometimes clears the reader’s vision:
Acts 26:14 (AMP) 14 And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice in the Hebrew tongue saying to me, Saul, Saul, why do you continue to persecute Me [to harass and trouble and molest Me]? It is dangerous and turns out badly for you to keep kicking against the goads [to keep offering vain and perilous resistance].
Here James says we can actually count it all joy when we have struggles and trials and hurtful things happen. Paul and James are saying, if we trust God (even with the hurts) we can look forward to the results that will be coming. Or…we can kick against the pricks…keep hurting ourselves and be robbed of the present and future He so desires us to experience.
It’s a good word from James and Paul…not foolish or impossible! These are hopeful words that tell us our problems aren’t just empty happenstance. They can become a tool in the hand of God for our hope and future and for His glory.
But…not if we kick against the pricks. Only if we…
Count it all…joy…