Testing, Adversity and Stress; James 1:1-2
James 1:1-3 NASB "James 1:1 James, a bond-servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes who are dispersed abroad: Greetings. Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance."
"Count it all joy." What is not obvious at first glance here is that this is not a command to an immature believer. This is not something that a believer in spiritual diapers is going to be able to do. The command is to count it all joy but there is a circumstantial participle which begins verse 3 which describes the way in which the command of verse 2 is able to be fulfilled. That is, that you know something; you know some doctrine. In order to fulfil the command of verse 2 there has to be a certain amount of doctrine resident in the soul that we are ready to put on the line and use immediately when we get into a tough situation. So this is not the kind of thing that a brand new believer is going to be able to do because he doesn't have much doctrine in his soul. So in order to be able to fulfil this mandate of verse 2 we have to learn a few things, and that is what we will now focus on.
The verse begins with a command in the Greek, an aorist middle imperative of the verb HEGEOMAI [h(geomai]. One of the first things we have to do whenever we study the Word is to exegete through the verses that we are going to be looking at. This word means to lead, to think, to consider, to regard, and to esteem. This is one of several Greek synonyms that are used for thought, for the activity of the mentality of the soul. What is important in times of adversity and times of testing is thought, not emotion. What matters is what you think, not how you feel in that situation. We live in an age today that has been shaped so much by the thinking of Freud and psychotherapy that the average person on the street is so Freudian in his thinking and in his responses, but he has never heard of Freud. The same is true for all of us. In fact, Bruce Shelley who is a professor of church history at Denver Seminary calls the post-1960 period the therapeutic age. That is one of the primary characterizations of our era. We are very self-absorbed in our culture. The emphasis in a therapeutic age is to place the emphasis on feeling, not what you think about a situation. Under emotion is just the avoidance of responsibility in any kind if crisis or test and to focus on irresponsibility. The opposite is true of Scripture. The command here when you encounter various trials is to think about things, to disengage from the emotions and to put the emphasis on thinking. In fact, this verb HEGEOMAI has a background in accounting, and it has to do with adding up the figures and coming to a conclusion. So when we hit a situation in life where we are encountering difficulties and adversities we are to add it up and the result is a certain mental attitude.
When we look at any verb in Greek it is going to have a tense, a mood, and a voice; and all of this is relevant. The tense here is aorist. It is an aorist imperative, and that basically means that the aorist tense looked at the entire action as a summary command: Do this. It is not looking at it in terms of time, or to start doing something you are not doing, or looking at something in terms of continuation like the present tense. It is just simply issuing a summary command to do this; it should always characterize your life and your thinking. In terms of voice it is middle passive in form, but in Greek it is called a deponent verb because in the development of the language the active form died out, so while it is a middle or passive form it still has an active meaning. In an active verb the subject of the verb performs the action. The point here is that you, the believer, are the only one who can perform this action; no one else can do it for you. It is an emphasis on your volitional choice, that if you are going to consider it joy, if you are going to share the happiness of God, then that is your volitional decision. Happiness is not based on circumstances but on our mental attitude which is determined by whatever doctrine we have in our soul. That tells us three basic principles that we need to remember: 1) To the degree that you base your happiness on people, circumstances or events, to that degree you are a slave to those people, circumstances or events; 2) When you base your happiness on people, circumstances or events—the details of life—you make someone else or something else in charge of your emotional wellbeing; 3) If you base your happiness on the details of life then you will guarantee that you are going to be miserable and an abject failure in the spiritual life. So we have this summary command to consider something all joy. It is an imperative mood. As a command we know that it is addressed to the mentality of the soul and not the emotions, because the emotions cannot respond to a command, only the mentality.
This is a mandate to the operation of the plan of God in your life and something that is necessary for your spiritual life. If you can't get a handle on this principle you will never grow as a believer. These imperatives are vital if you are going to grow to spiritual maturity. Failure to implement divine mandates means that at that moment, as soon as you fail to do this, you are outside the plan of God. You are living in carnality and the sin nature is in control of your life. Recovery is possible though. Just because you blow it one time doesn't mean that you can't get up and start moving again.
Emotions cannot be commanded, only the mentality. Therefore the mind must be in control in order to implement this command. If you get into a test or adversity you can respond in one of two ways. You can react emotionally and go into a whole emotional realm of sins, with anger bitterness, frustration, resentment, or you can respond by applying the doctrine in your soul.