The reason we count them as all joy is the purpose of trials. Verse 3 tells us the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. You are steadfast when you do not waver in your faith, when you endure, when you are firm. Steadfastness and endurance are traits of a mature believer. A mature believer is one who is much like Christ. God works in us for our sanctification, making us more and more like Christ.
Did Jesus have joy in trials? Hebrews 12:2 tell us to look to Jesus who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame. Jesus did not have this trial to sanctify himself, but to save us. But the writer of Hebrews used it as an example for us so that we will endure, not grow weary or fainthearted. (Hebrews 12:3) In other words, so that we will be steadfast.
Steadfastness is not the end result, however. Steadfastness has an effect on us, making us perfect and complete. (4) James said to let it have its full effect on us. We grow in faith. We grow in holiness.
Some of you have faced great trials. You have been seriously ill. You have lost a job. You have been divorced. You have lost friends. You have been persecuted for your faith. All of us will face trials at some point. You can get angry or panic. Or you can count it as joy, trusting God to do his work on you, and wait for it to be over. Once you have trusted God through a trial, you have even greater faith. You become steadfast. You become holy. You become complete.
In addition to Jesus himself, there are other examples in the Bible. As I mentioned, Job faced great trials, but honored the Lord. When Peter and John were arrested for preaching, thy rejoiced that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name of Jesus. (Acts 5:41) Paul went to prison but wrote that he rejoiced because he believed that Christ would be honored in his body, whether Paul lived or died. (Philippians 1:18)
You may be thinking, how can I get to be like that. James gives us the answer. In verse 5, he said if we lack wisdom we can ask God for it. We quote this out of context all the time. But he is speaking in the framework of trials. If we lack wisdom on how to handle this trial, God will give it generously and without reproach.
Sometimes we face a trial and know exactly what to do. When I faced political turmoil in my job a few years ago, I knew God wanted me to trust him to fix it and avoid taking revenge. I knew this from study of the Bible. But when I faced a trial due to a bad business parter, I did not know what to do and prayed for God to show me. He did and I got through it and learned to trust and to ask.
James says God gives generously. He will give you the wisdom you need to handle the trial. He will not withhold from you. He also does this without reproach. Have you ever asked somebody a question, and gotten the answer, but made to feel stupid? God does not do that. He literally gives wisdom single-mindedly.
And in the same way, we must ask for wisdom without doubting. You cannot really stand firm and doubt at the same time. So, you cannot ask God for wisdom on how to be steadfast if you doubt that God can or will give it. You are unstable, saying one thing and believing another.
I think many folks approach a test this way. They ask God to help, but actually doubt that he can help. Then they face the trial in doubt and fear and anger and do not receive any spiritual growth from it. Sometimes God is gracious and still handles the trial or makes it come out all right, but the believer does not receive the full benefit of the trial. So his or her testimony is “I was not sure God would help me and I really was terrified but he did and now I am relieved”. But it could have been, I asked God for wisdom and he gave it to me. I endured the trial and praise God for the ability to face it and grow from it.