11a Behold, we count them happy which endure.
James wrote these words when the church was under much persecution. It was not too long ago that Stephen, a zealous Christian, had been stoned to death by a mob of Jews who were angry at his preaching (Acts 7:59). Not long after, James himself, the brother of the apostle John, would be slain by King Herod (Acts 12:2). In between, Peter and the other apostles were also imprisoned (Acts 5:18). Men, like Saul, “made havock of the church”, entering into Christians’ houses, dragging men and women away to prison (Acts 8:3). Great persecution was unleashed “against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria” (Acts 8:1). This epistle was written to such persecuted and scattered Christians (James 1:1).
James sought to comfort and strengthen the suffering Christians, saying, “Behold, we count them happy which endure.” But are these words still relevant and significant to those believers who no more experience violent persecution? Yes, they are no less pertinent to Christians who live in times of quietness and repose! Even in the absence of concerted hostility and persecution, the Christian has to endure abundant labours and trials of faith in his life and ministry. No Christian should expect a trouble-free life and service. Due to spiritual conflict, our paths will be strewn with many stumbling blocks and obstacles. To overcome them, we must move forward with a patient and enduring spirit.
We must also endure the troubles brought by our own temptations of sin and sins of others. Every Christian must fight gruelling battles against sin and all kinds of provocations! We cannot expect to live our Christian lives without struggles.
When we are in the midst of heart-wrenching trials, it may be hard to see how enduring such experiences would benefit us. But let us remember that only he who endures is truly happy. An easy life will not bring out the virtues and powers of the soul. It does not test the mettle of one’s faith and commitment. Endurance will form and fashion our character, regulate our temper, build up our faith and confidence in the Lord, nurture humility within our hearts, and bring out our best for the Lord. It is by enduring and overcoming our trials that we taste the joy of victory. Honour and joy belong to those who endure.