Joy versus Pleasure

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. (James 1:2-3)

Have you ever been one of those recreational joggers who decided that it would be a good idea to run a marathon? I was once. However, life’s responsibilities got in the way and I never made it to the starting line of a marathon.

I have watched others do it. I think I get the strange attraction. You punish yourself for several months just so that you can really punish yourself on one specific day for 4-6 hours until you cross the finish line 26.2 miles later. Then what?

Then you bask in the glow of the deep joy of great accomplishment. I don’t know that anyone considers marathon training to be the pursuit of personal pleasure. Joy, yes. Pleasure, no.

If you want to please yourself, take a slow stroll around the park while enjoying a tasty ice cream cone. If you want the satisfaction of the deep joy of great accomplishment, then pound the pavement for 8 – 10 – 12 miles or more.

So it is with the Christian faith. If you are after personal pleasure, you can find it everywhere. The world is full of fun things to do—things that please with very little effort on our part.

Joy, however, comes from “pounding the pavement”, that is, from the stress and strain of great personal trials—the “testing of your faith”, James calls it. Why test my faith facing “trials of many kinds”? Because when the testing is done, I have perseverance. Perseverance is “the ability to see past present problems and anticipate future blessing with confident reliance on God every step of the way.”

Consider Jesus. The Bible book of Hebrews says that Jesus “endured the cross, scorning its shame” because of the joy set before him (Hebrews 12:2). Jesus, the sinless Son of God found joy in the brutally hard work of bearing the sin of the world in his death on the cross. Don’t forget, this came after the 33-year marathon of living a completely sinless life on our behalf.

When we live our Christian faith no matter what painful trials we may have, we are living the life chosen for us by God. We are part of his joy. The testing is his testing. The perseverance is his perseverance. So “consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,” when Jesus sets you on his path leading you to his finish line.