Two simple words within a New Testament verse, regardless of translation, are perplexing and even oppressive to many, including or especially me: “pure joy”.
We are so admonished,
“Consider it pure joy my brothers, when you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.” (James 1:2)
According to James, while waiting in a detox unit for your loved one, standing by a grave site, while holding an unsurmountable financial debt, when sitting in the oncology office, when threatened by eviction, persecution, and surprised by deception and betrayal…..Consider it pure joy.
This is a high bar in Christian living which I have yet to reach. But an open heart before the Lord can receive understanding and discernment. The Holy Spirit often teaches spiritual truths as they are mirrored through the physical realm of our world. Enter the Navy SEALs….
Navy Seal Eric Greitens describes,
But “frontline” isn’t just a military term. You have a frontline in your life now. In fact, everyone has a place where they encounter fear, where they struggle, suffer and face hardship. We all have battles to fight. “As Navy SEALs, we understood the word “frontline” to mean the place where we met the enemy. The frontline was where battles were fought and fates decided. The frontline was a place of fear, struggle and suffering. It was also a place where victories were won, where friendships of a lifetime were forged in hardship. It was a place where we lived with a sense of purpose.
And it’s often in those battles that we are most alive: It’s on the frontlines of our lives that we earn wisdom, create joy, forge friendships, discover happiness, find love and do purposeful work. If you want to win any meaningful kind of victory, you’ll have to fight for it. (“Your Own Front Line: A Navy SEAL’s Guide to Building Resistance”, New York Observer, 3/3/15)
Without Scriptural quotes, Mr. Greitens’ article portrays great Biblical truths. We are living in the frontlines of history, the end times, where battles have eternal significance. “…be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus….Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs – he wants to please his Commanding Officer”. (II Timothy 2:1-4)
We have ‘fears, struggles and suffering’ and Paul forewarns that we will in II Timothy 3…
“But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days.”
The life of a believer, a follower of Jesus Christ, exists within two absolute mandates: live as sharp as a serpent, yet gentle as a dove…live as obedient and humble sheep, yet fight as strong and militant soldiers. The great challenge in all this is none of it comes natural. We must immerse ourselves in the training of the Word, receive our instructions through fellowship with the Lord in prayer, and apply this training to our ‘frontline’.
Many of us are content to live as sheep, led and fed by our Good Shepherd and find it impossible to conceive of ‘pure joy’ in oppressive trials. I believe the ‘pure joy’ is not in the fire itself but the sights through which we can see the end.
Like the courageous and admirable Navy SEALs, we are called to endure and persevere with great purpose. Unlike the military though, the Lord seems to choose the weakest and most unlikely to succeed. The unfailing strategy is this: the battle is not ours but the Lord’s, we are merely a vessel through whom He gains the victory.
Navy SEALs are uniquely trained, they are the elite of armed forces. Clothed with valor and fired up, they greatly deserve honor for service and sacrifice. Commitment to grueling and demanding training yields them glory on the battlefield and, given rare glimpses, the world marvels at their victories. How much can we glean from this ‘type and shadow’ of God’s Kingdom?
We are left on this earth to glorify Jesus Christ. That is our mission on the frontlines and with it come the certainty of great reward, eternal reward. This battleground is trod upon for thousands of years, with great victories won by spiritual giants – both the prominently known and honored as well as the obscure who secretly battle in the prayer closet. Unlike the Navy SEALs, our training manual has not changed, is not updated, and remains a living power in itself. Unlike any worldly military, our surrendered lives are sovereignly governed through every battle, trial, and grief – each is appointed and measured out with supernatural foresight and design.
Almighty God does not change, He will be high and lifted up and glorified in this dark world. As His surrendered and willing soldiers, we may be crushed in grueling training in preparation for this call. In fact, there is no other way.
Crushed for His glory, there remains the high bar of faith, to “Consider it pure joy”. A supernatural joy that cannot compare in the physical realm, it can only be birthed in the “renewed mind,” one that is “prepared for action”. It requires thorough and ongoing study of our manual, the Holy Bible, fellowship with our God and valuable refreshment through fellowship with other believers.
As we battle on the frontlines of these last days,these ‘terrible times’ I pray we separate from worldly distractions and entanglements, focus our sights on Him, on His glory, and somehow on this side of eternity, consider it pure joy.