Welcome to Welling– For Your Spiritual Wellbeing and Your Ministry Overflowing. Someone said, it is OK if you don’t know what “prefix” means. It’s not the end of the word.
Now a suffix is a kind of an affix which is not a prefix, and it is found at the end of the word. Suffix is found at the end of the word. The suffix -ist, I-S-T, means you’re expert at something. So a man said, I must be a sadist. I am an expert at being sad.
I could have called this talk “Joyist,” but I’m not an expert at joy. The -ist ending, more so, is simply a description, not a decision. I could use the suffix joyize, J-O-Y-I-Z-E, for a similar meaning. And it is better than joyist. I’ve used that suffix for the subtitle to the series “Optimize Trials.”
My suffix today, for a lovely noun, is far more memorable. I want to talk about the -fy suffix, to turn something into joy. What I’m going to do with trials is “joyfy,” to joyfy them, to make the trials– consider them, cause them to render, to become joy.
The people to whom James wrote were experiencing polycrisis of all sort. In the next talk, I want to speak about the reality of their lives, having been abandoned and betrayed by their own heritage, lonely, confused, not only by family, but oppressed by other trials, generally, but also socially. They had to face these trials. Often from an economically lower tier, there were not many options for them. And instead of denial and self-pity, they had victory. They “joyfied” trials.
Now in verse 1, in James 1, there is the traditional greeting for a Greek usage. Just like we say “hi” and “hello” and “hey” in English, the Greeks used the word [GREEK], or the word “joyous” in that greeting. In some of the cultures and places, they used the word “shalom,” which means peace, or “salam,” peace. And “joy” was a general greeting for the Greeks.
It was OK to have a general greeting. I, too, wish you that kind of joy. They say “joyous wishes” at Christmastime, or “best wishes,” that you are in an experiential situation of joy, or that you’re the recipient, beneficiary of joy. But in verse 2, there is much more than a mere general greeting. Joy is connected to a specific command to consider it all joy, the joyfied life. James is talking about everyday joy, earthly joy, in the present, despite the presence of trials, that there will be a joy, a “joyfying” of trials.
I said last time, this is a mystery of Christian experience. It is commonly used in the New Testament. For example, the apostle Paul, Romans 5:3, says, “We exult in our tribulations.” How do you do that? Why do you do that? The tribulation works perseverance, the perseverance, character, and character, hope. And character and hope, they do not disappoint because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts. So the Holy Spirit was given to us.
Or the apostle Peter in 1 Peter 1, he says, in this, “You greatly rejoice,” even though now for a little while, if necessary, you’re being oppressed, distressed by various trials, the proof of your faith. Then he goes on to say, even though you’ve not seen him and you love him, you believe in him, and you greatly rejoice– that’s the word “joy”– greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible, and full of glory, because one day, you’ll obtain the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
But James is not only speaking about our future joy. He’s talking about eternal joy now, not only in anticipation, but in experience, in the present, regardless of the problems we face and the presence of trials. We never have joy for the trials, but we joyfy the trials.
Now “joyfy” rhymes with “Hi-Fi.” Those of my age grew up with sound systems. We were sound purists. We turned up the volume. Now we can hardly hear. And then you’ve heard of Wi-Fi. When Wi-Fi slows down, you lose all your happiness, and that’s why they call it “wee-fee.” But I’m talking about “joyfy.”
To joyfy life– studies show, actually, there is some good benefit. It gives you better health. It makes you kinder. And because your attitude is much better, with a wholesome attitude, you have a possibility of career growth, and professional success.
But then one writer says, all we have right now, finally, we get one short and precious life here on the earth. On this planet, none of us is guaranteed anything more than what we have right here and now. We aren’t guaranteed better jobs or bigger houses or perfect health.
So if we can’t have control over all of our external circumstances, aren’t we better focusing on finding our joy right now? And the answer is yes. But how do we go about it? And that’s why we talked, the last time, nothing but joy. God is the source of joy and theological meaning. And it gives us practical courage for life. It gives us spiritual growth.
Aren’t we better focusing on our joy right now? Yes, that’s what the New Testament says happened to the early Christians. I want to quote the Britannica here. In the New Testament testimonials, joy appears as the characteristic mark of the distinction for the Christian. It’s the spontaneous result of being filled with the Holy Spirit. And it’s among the main fruits of the Holy Spirit.
Joy was the basic mood of congregational gatherings. It was often expressed in exuberant jubilation. It had its origin in the recognition that the dominion of evil had been broken through the power of Christ. The devil and demons no longer possessed any claim upon believers, that the forces of forgiveness– reconciliation, resurrection, and transfiguration– were effective in humankind.
I have experienced this viscerally entering to some of the poorest congregations in the world in Africa or Latin America and Asia. They don’t have much in the lower economic tiers. But when you walk in, the place is reverberating with joy, unexplainable, and inexpressible joy. They have learned to joyfy their life in the middle of trials, in spite of persecution, and without seeking martyrdom for its own sake.
Some of these pastors, missionaries– by the way, that’s happened in history– they live on James 1:2. They joyfy their trials. In the middle of hating and beating and belittling, they live with courage, which is one of the siblings of joy, the other being gratitude.
I remember one Nigerian pastor saying, unless I am convinced to leave this place, we will not– we will continue here until we die. Until I hear his voice saying it is time for us to leave, we will continue. They sense a centeredness into the danger, in the harsh environment in which they live, the danger of ongoing threats to their well-being.
When I meet them, I don’t have the right to even untie their shoelaces. Their faces are radiant. Their hearts are thankful. Their stories are energizing. They have learned to joyfy life with God, with Christ, with his words, with his spirit in the middle of troubles and tears and trials and temptations. They have not had triumph of their future yet, but they have the triumph of the present in their tragedies. Joyfy.