Charles Naylor, 1918
Spiritual arithmetic is an important branch of study for the Christian. He who is not able to count properly in the spiritual life, may come to some very wrong conclusions. It is important, therefore, that he give his attention to learning how to count accurately. If we do not learn to do this, we may fail in some critical moment, or at least we may view things from our own standpoint and have wrong ideas concerning them.
James gives us a problem in this spiritual arithmetic and tells us how to solve it. He says, "My brethren, count it all joy when you face trials of many kinds" (James 1:2). Many people have tried to solve this problem in their lives, and have found that it did not work out according to the rule here enunciated. When they fell into trials of many kinds—they could not figure it out any way so as to make it come out joyful. The answer was something else always.
I have seen people in such difficulties and have heard some say to them, "Oh, count it all joy, brother! Count it all joy!" They tried to do so, but for some reason they could find no joy at all. It felt more like sorrow and grief and disappointment and things of that nature. I have heard others in like situations say resignedly, "Oh, I am counting it all joy," and their countenances at the same time were witnesses against them, for these showed that their owners had no joy in it at all.
When James said, "Count it all joy," he did not mean that we should simply pretend that it was joy—but that it should really be joy. If we get the correct answer, it will be joy. There is a way in which we can work out these problems so that they will come out joy. The reason that James could get joy for an answer is shown in the third verse: "Knowing this, that the trying of your faith works patience." He looked at the outcome, not at the trial itself.
Paul expressed the idea when he said, "If so be that we suffer with him—that we may be also glorified together" (Romans 8:17). The reason why he could count it joy was that he looked beyond the present, and saw the glorifying together at the end. He continued, "For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us" (verse 18). This is one thing that we must learn if we are going to find real joy as the answer in working out these problems. If we leave out that which is coming as a result of them, we shall certainly miss finding any good or glorying in them.
Paul said, "No chastening for the present seems to be joyous, but grievous." He knew that the joy was not in the trial or in the chastening, but he further said, "Afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness" (Hebrews 12:11). It was "afterward" to which he looked. It is the "afterward" to which you and I must look if we are to get the joy.
There is one more thing that we must know if we are to get the right answer, and that is that there are three things which we must add to every trial in order to make the answer come out joy. If we fail to add any one of these, the answer will not be what we desire. They are submission, obedience, and faith. Add these to anything that comes upon you, and the result is bound to be joy.
The first thing is to SUBMIT yourself to God's will in the matter. Let him have his way fully with you. Be willing to endure whatever is his will that you shall endure. Let him burn out the dross, if the fire must be hot. Let him work out his pleasure, for that is always "good pleasure."
In whatever comes, OBEY him. If we disobey for any cause whatever; if we turn our back on his commandments and the things that we know he would have us do, we cannot "count it all joy." There will be nothing joyful in it, no matter how hard we try to count it so.
Then, as we obey and submit, we must BELIEVE—believe that he will take us through victoriously; believe that he is working out his purpose; believe that he will be true to us. Believing thus, trusting thus, we can have the victory through it, and there will be joy indeed for our hearts. We shall not have to count it joy and feel it something else, for God will make our feelings correspond with the fact, and it will be joy to us.
The joy may not come until the end of the chastening; it may not come when we are overcoming the temptation; but joy will come in the end, and we shall see that the problem is worked out in a satisfactory manner, and we shall not have to count and make believe that we have the answer desired, but we shall have it in the satisfaction of our own hearts.
Let us look away from the toil, to the reaping; and when at last we come with the reapers to that great harvest-home, we shall bring our sheaves with rejoicing, and we shall enter into the joy of the Lord, there to abide and to share in the pleasures that are at his right hand forevermore.
Let us think more about the glory that shall be revealed in us. When our life on earth is over—we shall forget about the toils, the hardships, and the disappointments along the way; and we shall join with the ransomed in the song of rejoicing and surround God's throne, and through the ages of eternity we shall thank God that he brought us by that rugged way that led upward and onward to the world eternal. We shall then never repine for the thorns that were along our way. We shall then rejoice that he counted us worthy to suffer for him. We shall then rejoice in him with "joy unspeakable and full of glory." Let us therefore press on. Let us not hesitate.
Let us, therefore, press on with courage to the goal of life's race, where the heavenly hosts with harps attuned will greet our coming with anthems sweeter than any that ever fell on mortal ear, and where our glorious Redeemer will place upon each victor's brow a glittering diadem and will welcome him to life eternal in those mansions of resplendent beauty, where he may dwell content through ages without end.