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  • Writer's pictureDeborah

Count it All Joy

Series: Flowers in the Desert



James 1:2-4 ESV

Acts 11:1-18 (Peter’s Vision)

Acts 11:26 (First reference to Christians)

Acts 1:8 ESV

Romans 8:28 (Good always comes)


Years ago when I was young and I read James’ words on joy I thought WHAAAT???


Being young has many advantages, but deep insight that comes from difficult experiences isn’t always something young people posses. At least I didn’t. While there are exceptions, that usually comes with age.


James 1:2-4 says, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.“


In time, and through changes the disciples learned to listen to the Spirit.


Many of the words written in the first century after Jesus returned to heaven remind us what the early Christians were forging new paths and the Spirit was speaking to them, but there were trials. Everything was about to change. James’ words to the church are a perfect example.


We know from Acts 11:1-18 that Peter went to Jerusalem and told them about a vision he had in Joppa. In the vision, he saw animals, reptiles, and birds and he was told to kill and eat them because God had made them clean and that happened three times. Then three men arrived from Caesarea and the Spirit told Peter to go with them. He went to a man’s house and he was told he saw an Angel who said to bring Peter who will declare the message of salvation. In the vision he saw the Holy Spirit fall on them (even though they were Gentiles). From Peter’s vision they knew the Gentiles had been given repentance. We are told in  Acts 11:26 in Antioch the people of the Way (of Jesus) were first called Christians.


We have to remember all of the original disciples were Jews and when the Spirit told Peter Gentiles had been given repentance, that was a huge change.


Also, history tells us of many trials the early Christians faced because of Emperor Nero. “Nero was the first Roman Emperor to persecute the small sect of Christians actively. They had grown greatly since the crucifixion of Jesus. They had established themselves in Rome and attracted many adherents. They were not popular with other groups, and their beliefs were treated with suspicion. After all confessed followers of Jesus, they were lawfully executed by the Roman governor of Judea. In 69 AD, a great fire swept through Rome and caused general unrest in the city. Nero accused Christians of starting the fire to shift blame away from himself.” (https://dailyhistory.org/What_was_the_impact_of_the_Emperor_Nero_on_the_Roman_Empire)


Nero made is so the people who professed to be Christians were enemies of the people. His persecutions of Christians made their lives uncomfortable and produced trials but Christianity continued to spread. The killing of Christians (Christian martyrs) only made the Christians grow stronger in the faith.


Remember James’ words to the early Christians…


We might wonder what could have come about because of Nero’s determination to eradicate the early church if they had not been given the gift of the Spirit to guide them.


Jesus said in Acts 1:8 before He Ascended to heaven He said, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”


Jesus knew what was coming.


But He also knew the Holy Spirit would guide and guard the early church. Even as Nero was plotting and planning the demise of all of the followers of Jesus, God had a plan.


The plan knew about Nero’s persecutions.


Many members of the early church packed up and left the region, traveling to many different places. Jesus’ reference to the scattering of the early church to the ends of the earth is exactly what happened.


The believers (disciples of Jesus) packed up and moved to other parts of the globe. When they left, they took the message of the Gospel with them to all parts of the globe.


News of Jesus spread.


New believers were baptized.


Those new believers gathered together to worship.


The church grew.


The persecution of the early Christians at the hand of Nero was very difficult.  But because they were persecuted, they left that region and they took the message of Jesus with them.


God blessed them greatly and they grew in numbers.


A very good thing came about because of the persecution.


Now, many many decades later when difficulty comes I intentionally look for the good God brings from it. Good always comes…remember Roman’s 8:28!


So, when a trial comes, count it as joy. In the same way, bright blooming flowers that survive in the harsh conditions of the desert bring great joy when they survive and thrive!


Spiritual Practice: All things Good


If you face a difficult situation, ask God to show you the way and the good filled with joy that God will bring about when His plan is revealed. Remember what God did for the early Christians.


In God, Deborah

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