The Joyful Perseverance of the Saints

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“Joyful perseverance” is my daily prayer. Recently, an acquaintance emailed me asking me for a prayer request. I responded as I normally do: “Joyful perseverance.” Perhaps you can relate. Rather than merely enduring the “good fight of faith” (2 Timothy 4:7), I want to enjoy the Captain of our salvation in my spiritual warfare (Hebrews 2:10). Rather than merely surviving the trials of life, I want to soar through them. The stoic stiff upper lip is no honourable way for the Christian to encounter the various trials of life. Jesus Christ, not Margarette Thatcher, is our model. We are told that, “for the joy that was set before him” he “endured the cross, despising the shame.” The assurance of a joyful accomplishment empowered him for joyfulperseverance (Hebrews 12:1–2).

Jesus exemplified joyful perseverance and the Scriptures exhort his followers to follow in his footsteps. James, our Lord’s brother (Galatians 1:19) could write, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2–4). Later, in the same passage, he offers further encouragement for joyful perseverance: “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him” (v. 12).

As we continue to face the trials associated with a pandemic, let’s be joyfully persevering toward this crown. As Lutheran pastor Harold Senkbeil recently wrote, “When it comes to facing trials, let us test positive for faith.” Joyful faith, I might add.

To “test positive” for joyful faith, you need to be motivated by the love of God: His love for you, reciprocated in your love for him. The biblical revelation that “God is love” (1 John 4:7–8) is a glorious and yet too often neglected truth.

Think about it: Christian, God chose to save you before the foundation of the world because he chose to loveyou (Ephesians 1:3–5). Motivated by nothing but his free and sovereign determination, Almighty God is devoted to your eternal well-being. God’s love demonstrated in the gospel of his Son is the filter through which we need to sieve our trials. Such filtering will enlighten us to conclude that there is a good reason for them. We therefore will “esteem them all joy.”

Such thoughtful estimation kindles love in our hearts for our loving and wise God. This love fuels joyful assurance that what we are going through is for our good and for God’s glory. This is important for joyful assurance is at the heart of joyful perseverance. James wants his tried, tempted and tested readers to think about this.

They are expected to think about God’s purposes for their circumstances, including the crown that awaits them (chapter 1). They are to think about Abraham and Rahab and their faithful response (chapter 2). They are to think about responding to trials with wisdom (chapter 3). They are to think about the dangers of worldly responses to trials (chapter4), and they are to think about the fruitful outcome of such trials (chapter 5). Such thoughts will stir us to joyful perseverance. Yet, there is one outcome which I find exceptionally motivating. We are told that Abraham’s faithful response resulted in his being “called a friend of God” (2:23). Wow! That is humbling, and very inviting. To experience friendship with the Creator and the Controller of the universe is cause for joy—persevering joy.

Brothers and sisters, as we persevere in these trying days, let us do so with the joyful assurance that God’s gift of faith to us is a seal of our friendship with him. And remember that true friends “love at all times” (Proverbs 17:17). God always loves us, including when he brings calamity to us. This calamity is an opportunity to joyfully persevere in our friendship with God. As God’s friends we are to love at all times, including when God allows calamity. Rather than being a demanding, grumpy, fair-weathered friend to God, be rather a friend who joyfully remains faithful; a friend characterised by joyful perseverance.

Persevering to joyfully persevere with you,

Doug