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James 1:2 by Robert Dean
Series:James (1998)
Duration:1 hr 4 mins 1 sec

Joy, Gratitude, and Spiritual Growth
James 1:2

In response to a question about emotion:

Definition: Emotion is a capacity of the human soul that is a responder or appreciator. Emotion is good; God created it. Emotionalism is bad. Emotionalism is when you start making decisions in life based on emotion, and using emotion as a criterion for using your relationship with God, your spiritual life, what to do, what not to do in life. That is when all of a sudden instead of thinking things through objectively you are thinking them through subjectively in terms of emotion. God is never emotional, He never gets involved in emotionalism; these are totally contrary to the character and makeup of God. But a lot of people are confused about this and a lot of theologians are confused about this, and so no wonder people are confused.

The Christian life is a system of thinking. James 1:2, we have an aorist active imperative: "Count it all joy." The aorist active imperative of HEGEOMAI [e(geomai] means to add up all the facts. No doctrine, no facts; not facts, no joy. That's how it works. You have to have something to add up before you can add it up. When you add up all aspects of the situation the conclusion is, "Count it all joy when you (believers) fall into various tests." When outside pressure comes along and puts pressure on the soul we have to think, to consider. Count is a thinking noun. This kind of happiness is the result of what is happening in the mentality of the soul, it is not emotive. We have to realize that the spiritual life is a system of thinking. Over and over again the Bible stresses the importance of thought, thinking doctrine. Emotion is never the basis for making decisions or evaluating the Christian life or your relationship with God. Emotion can never learn, can't analyse, can't solve problems, and can't produce spiritual growth. Unfortunately it is easier for most of us, because we are human, to rely on emotion than to invest the energy to concentrate and use discipline to teach ourselves how to think. We don't want to put forth that mental sweat to think, we would rather just go with the flow. Once emotion starts overrunning our mentality we are just half a step away from yielding to the sin nature and getting involved in the whole emotional complex of sins. Once emotion overruns the mentality of the soul you become dominated by subjectivity, irrationality and self-absorption. Emotionalism is a major distraction to the spiritual life and will keep you from "counting it all joy." When you get into the pressure cooker of adversity the last thing in the world that is natural it seems is to stop, stabilize your thinking, concentrate, focus, and move forward with solid thought. What you want to do is just come unglued and frazzle, and yield to all of those emotions. 

Scripture says: "For as a man thinks within himself (within his soul), so is he," Proverbs 23:7. 

Colossians 3:2 NASB "Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth." The Greek word there is PHRONEO [fronew] which means to keep thinking objectively.

Ephesians 4:23 NASB  "and that you be renewed in the spirit [by means of the Holy Spirit] of your mind [the mentality of your soul]." That doesn't mention emotion.

Philippians 2:5 NASB  "Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus." There we have that same word again, PHRONEO. It should be translated, "Have this thinking in yourselves..." What enables the believer to think like Jesus Christ? It is the knowledge of doctrine that he has. That knowledge of doctrine is called the mind of Christ in 1 Corinthians 2:16. We may have tremendous emotional response to doctrine, we may get very excited, we may sometimes get angry because it steps on our toes. Who knows that our emotional responses might be to doctrine? But we cannot allow those emotions to dominate our decision making because then we go on a roller coaster of emotional highs and lows that will absolutely destroy our spiritual life. Remember, Romans 12:2 says: NASB "And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect." It doesn't say "by the renewing of your emotions," it says "mind," the mentality of your soul. That is where the Christian life takes place, thinking, thinking, thinking. What is happening in you mind in terms of your application of doctrine determines everything. So when we come to a passage like James 1:2 the issue is: what are you thinking in order to produce inner happiness in your soul?

Three principles have been stated in the past:

1)  To the degree that you base your happiness on people, circumstances and events, to that degree you are enslaved by those things.

2)  When you base your happiness on people, circumstances, and 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 will be miserable and an absolute failure in the spiritual life.

What we are  suppose to do is to pay attention to doctrine and use doctrine to evaluate the tests and circumstances in our life and add it all up to joy. But to do that we have to have some basic understanding of what the Scriptures teach about suffering, so we have talked about the doctrine of adversity and stress.

1)  Adversity is the inevitable outside daily pressure of life that attacks and seeks to penetrate the soul. Stress is the optional inside pressure of the soul caused by reaction to the external principles of adversity.

2)  Adversity has two categories: suffering from the law of volitional responsibility (what you do to yourself through bad decisions) Galatians 6:7 NASB "Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap." It also comes as suffering for blessing, and this is when we are in fellowship and God uses that suffering in order to accelerate our spiritual growth, and that is the subject of these verses 2-4 in James chapter one.

3)  Adversity is what the external circumstances of life do to you; stress is what you do to yourself.

4)  Adversity is inevitable; stress is optional and depends on your negative volition. If you do not know doctrine, if you do not apply doctrine, then the bottom line is you are going to have stress in your soul and that is tantamount to sin nature control of the soul. 

5)  Stress in the soul always results in sin nature control of your life and if left unchecked it will reverse your spiritual growth, and you will end up a neurotic and eventually a psychotic Christian on the road to the sin unto death.

So we looked at the fact that God provided 10 problem-solving devices or stress-busters to avoid converting adversity into stress.

The doctrine of joy or inner happiness

1)  Joy is a translation of the Greek word CHARA [xara]. This is inner happiness, tranquillity, contentment in all circumstances. It may even involve a certain aspect of animation.

2)  Biblical joy is not an emotion, it is a mental attitude. Emotion is going to swing with every circumstance and situation. Circumstances are irrelevant; joy is a mental attitude. Biblical joy is a fruit of the Spirit, the production of the Holy Spirit in our lives as a result of our spiritual growth.

3)  Joy is a mental attitude by which the spiritually maturing believer, utilizing divine power under the filling ministry of the Holy Spirit, maintains an attitude of optimism, reassurance, animation and contentment in every circumstance, including adversity. When the spiritual life takes precedence over external circumstances, i.e. when what God says is more real to you that what the people in your life are saying, how people in your life are acting, what the circumstances are or how disappointed you may be, when your eyes are on divine solutions rather than human solutions, then the result is going to be inner tranquillity, contentment and joy. When we come to James 1:2 which says to count it all joy, this is not something for baby believers, even though they can begin to learn this, it is primarily involves a maturing believer who is learning doctrine. Talking about joy in John 15:11, Jesus said NASB "These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and {that} your joy may be made full." That is a profound statement. Jesus said he had been teaching them doctrine so that the joy that He had, His inner happiness and stability, could be in them. So if you want your joy to be full, how do you get there? By learning and applying doctrine. In John 17:13 NASB "But now I come to You; and these things I speak in the world so that they may have My joy made full in themselves." We actually share the happiness of God. His joy becomes our joy because of doctrine that we learn. In the human realm there is a pseudo happiness, a false happiness that is based on emotion. This is completely contrary to divine happiness. Human happiness is temporary, superficial, and it depends on the details of life—a pleasant environment, stimulating circumstances and enjoyable people. It depends in many ways on having things go the way we want them to go, which is nothing more than arrogance. Such happiness is based on the worst of human experience. It is based on self-absorption, on arrogance and self-deception. However all such happiness is transient, it comes and it goes. Once we get done with it we have to look somewhere else for a little more stimulation, a little more excitement, and we are going to just ride that rollercoaster right into our own self-destruction.

4)  It is related to the character of God. God has always possessed perfect happiness, perfect stability, perfect tranquillity. It can never be diminished. Nothing can add to, destroy, or diminish God's happiness.

5)  Inner happiness is related to our orientation to God's plan. The only way to orient to God's plan is to learn doctrine. God's plan is God's blueprint for your life. The only way you can know it is to know the Scriptures. It begins at salvation and proceeds through the daily learning and assimilation of Bible doctrine in the soul.

6)  We enter into the plan of God through faith alone in Christ alone. Titus 3:5 NASB "He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit." Once we enter into God's plan then we have to proceed. We proceed by the study and assimilation of God's Word.

7)   Sharing the happiness of God is the result of the production of the Holy Spirit in your life which comes as a result of applying the doctrine in your soul. First of all you have to go through the discipline of learning. Then you believe it and store it in your soul. It is then recalled and you have to decide to use it, to apply it, so volition comes to bear once again. As a result of that, when you go through this process, the Holy Spirit is going top produce some things as a result of that. You don't go out and try to produce these things. When you do this you begin to grow spiritually, the by-product is growth, and the Holy Spirit is the one who produces that growth and we see this evidence in the fruit of the Holy Spirit: Galatians 5:22, 23 NASB "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control…" The Holy Spirit does not operate apart from the Word of God; the Word of God does not operate apart from the Holy Spirit; they work in tandem.

8)  Happiness is the result of God's grace, it is not a result of the people in your life, the circumstances in your life, the things in your life, your possessions or events.

9)  The means of implementing inner happiness in your life. How do you do this? What is the tool? The key is gratitude. The degree to which you exhibit gratitude in life for the specific circumstances and situations in life is the degree to which you will experience inner happiness.

The doctrine of gratitude

1)  Gratitude is a tool for measuring the progress of the spiritual life in the soul and is the means for implementing inner happiness. Gratitude is the ministry of God the Holy Spirit in making the benefits of the spiritual life of the church age believer pleasing to his mind.

2)  The spiritual progress in the soul of the believer is based on the consistent use the filling of the Holy Spirit and learning and assimilating the Word of God. As doctrine increases in the mentality of the soul we begin to move toward grace orientation and doctrinal orientation and we begin to understand all that God has provided for us that develops our appreciation for life, to understand the mechanics of testing and why we have these tests, and that in turn increases our gratitude because we understand what the dynamics are. We understand that these are not just random events knocking us around willy nilly, but there is a design and a purpose and God is overruling everything so that no testing is going to come upon us that is outside of His plan or beyond His control.

3)  Gratitude is described in four Scriptures. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 NASB "in everything give thanks; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." The key word is "in." That refers to whatever circumstances or situation we find ourselves in. Gratitude is our response to grace. That is why this begins to develop as a result of grace orientation. If we don't have grace orientation we can never start to develop true biblical gratitude. It is God's will that we thank Him in every situation for every situation. No one can fulfil this mandate if they don't have doctrine in their soul. As we develop gratitude we begin to imperceptibly inner happiness, tranquillity, contentment, because we know God is in control, He has provided this and we can be grateful. When our focus is on God and in gratitude then the by-product is tranquillity. Ephesians 5:20 NASB "always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father." Thanksgiving is not just something we run through in prayer but it is an attitude of the soul, truly being grateful for what God has for us, whatever it is. Colossians 2:7 NASB "having been firmly rooted {and now} being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, {and} overflowing with gratitude." So the consequence here of doctrinal orientation, as you begin to grow spiritually, is beginning to overflow with thanksgiving. So gratitude is a measure of our spiritual growth. Colossians 1:12 NASB "giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light."

4)  Gratitude here is not directed toward other people but towards God. The issue is not people, the issue is God. Gratitude is directed toward God in response to His grace and His provision, it is not necessarily directed toward people. That doesn't mean you don't express gratitude to people, that is just part of good manners. Psalm 119:11 NASB "Your word I have treasured in my heart, That I may not sin against You." If our relationship with God is correct then it will overflow into our relationship with others. But it starts with God and goes to people, it doesn't start with people and then go to God. The measure of our gratitude reflects the maturity of our relationship with God. It is also a measure of our capacity for fellowship with God and for life, for happiness, for love, and for the ability to solve problems in life.