Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.
(James 1:2–3, ESV)
Do you have Bible verses that you don't like? Don't be offended by the question! I am serious about it. Well, I do have passages of Scripture that I don't like. There are certain passages of Scripture that challenge me to go against the grain in my life.
How about where Jesus tells us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us (Mt 5.44; Lk 6.27)? There is nothing innate within me that wants to love my enemies. There is nothing within me that wants to pray for those who hate me. There is nothing within me...yes, this is true. But there is the Divine nature that subverts the innate nature within Christians, and it is this Divine nature that enables us and empowers us to love our enemies. It is this Divine nature that enables us to love those who persecute us. This is exactly what Peter was writing about in 2 Peter 1:4. We partake in the Divine nature and escape the desire of our sinful nature.
Have you identified any Scripture passages that are difficult for you? James 1:2-3 is a passage that is difficult for me. Steadfastness or patience is not a particularly glowing attribute of me. I suspect that this may be true for many people. We don't want to be patient when we feel like we have been wronged or when we are going through difficult times. Our sinful nature wants to fight back. Our sinful nature is angry. However, the Divine nature is joyful. Joy...in adversity? It doesn't make sense.
John Wesley wrote in his notes on the New Testament about this passage that "joy is the highest degree of patience." Think about that for a moment. Joy is the highest degree of patience. Adversity comes our way and there is nothing we can do about that. But there is something we can do regarding how we respond to it. Joy. We allow the Divine nature to flow through our hearts and we respond with joy.
This week may have been a difficult week for you. It has been for me. I will allow the steadfast love of God to flow through me -- his Divine nature -- and be joyful in adversity. This is the highest degree of patience.