Devotionals by Dr. James MacDonald

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Outrageous Counting

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds  (James 1:2, esv).

I’d like to nominate James 1:2 as one of the most outrageous statements in the Bible: “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds.” Count it all . . . joy?! Those are the words James wrote, through the inspiration of God’s Spirit, but from our perspective, it doesn’t add up.

Perhaps that’s because we tend to confuse joy with happiness, and this verse does not say, “Be happy about your trials.” Happiness is a fleeting, circumstantial, in-the-moment, excited feeling—an emotional high.

Joy is very different. You can’t make yourself joyful. Joy comes only from God. Joy is a supernatural delight in the Person, purposes, and  people of God.

Have you ever sensed God at work in you or seen His obvious hand in a situation and knew in your heart that God did that? Have you ever stared up into starry space and sensed your soul being eclipsed by the God who made it all? What you felt in that moment was joy in who God is.

Joy is also something we exchange as brothers and sisters in Christ, a oneness of heart. We all belong to the same Master, follow the same Book, are filled with the same Spirit. We can experience a moving, connected, wonderful resonance with people we don’t even know; that too is joy.

A supernatural delight in the purposes of God means you know there’s something bigger going on here, something so far beyond the temporal that’s unfolding according to God’s plan. And you can take joy in God’s purposes.

Only Christ-followers would ever consider trials joy. If life is only about here, now, and your happiness, then trials would make zero sense and be worthless. If all you are living for is the next fifteen minutes, then unfortunately those fifteen minutes of happiness are almost over, and you would have good reason to resent a fly in that ointment. But those of us who are committed to a higher purpose and see this short life in its eternal perspective can get our thinking to a place of joy—no matter what.


Let’s get very practical with this. If you want to quit the pity party and get back on the joy train, then try this method. On four notecards, write the following:

What happened to me?  On the first card, write the details of your trial.

Why am I here on earth?  On the second card, write the purpose of your life, according to God’s Word.

How can this trial advance that purpose?  On the third card, write what you can do today to advance the purpose of displaying the superiority of a life lived in God.

What resources can I access this moment to help me?  On the fourth card, inventory all that’s available to you as a follower of Christ: the strength and comfort of the Holy Spirit; the Word of God giving you wisdom to direct your path; supportive Christian relationships; the grace of God, which allows you to begin again when you fail. Think through how you can draw down upon those resources as you plow through this trial.

Then keep going over these cards so that God’s purpose in your life will not be lost. This is a practical exercise to help you consider your trials joy.

Lord God, You specialize in the outrageous. In Your economy, even trials can equal joy, but I need You to train me to accept that radical idea. Teach me what true joy is. Forgive me for chasing fleeting happiness. Help me to have an eternal perspective about how short my life is and what it’s really all about: Your kingdom, Your glory, Your will here on earth, as it is in heaven. Give me today my daily bread—the resources I need to endure the trials You’ve ordained for me. Thank You that Christ is enough for me, and it’s in His mighty name I pray, amen.

For more from Dr. James MacDonald please visit Walk in the Word on  


You are perfectly, unconditionally, and forever loved by your Heavenly Father. When you receive and share that love, it’s a catalyst for God to transform every area of your life. There is nothing stronger than real, selfless, Biblical love. It’s time to let God’s love transform you and everyone around you.

I am beyond excited about a new teaching resource my wife Kathy and I have put together for you this month. For as long as I can remember, Kathy has sent handwritten notes of encouragement to people as God leads. It’s part of her personal ministry, and she’s so faithful to it. She’s blessed so many people with this simple act of love, and I want to share that with you today. Please don’t miss this.  â€”James MacDonald

Request the  You are Loved  Collection with your gift of any amount to the ministry of Walk in the Word.

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Walk in the Word...Igniting passion in the people of God through the proclamation of truth.

About Dr. James MacDonald

James MacDonald (D. Min. Phoenix Seminary) is married to his high school sweetheart, Kathy, and both are from Ontario, Canada. He is the father of three grown children, two daughters-in-law, a son-in-law, and grandfather to five amazing grandsons. James has committed his life and ministry to the unapologetic proclamation of God’s Word. In 1988, along with a small group of ministry partners, James and Kathy planted Harvest Bible Chapel ( which now has more than 13,000 people meeting at seven locations across Chicagoland each weekend.

Walk in the Word, a Bible-teaching television and radio broadcast ministry (, was established in 1997. The radio program reaches more than three million people daily, and the television audience extends around the world. In 2002, through James’ leadership and by God’s grace, the church-planting ministry Harvest Bible Fellowship ( was founded and has established more than 100 churches across North America and around the world. James’ vision is for God to use Harvest Bible Fellowship to plant 1,000 churches by 2020.

James’ extensive ministry also includes a training center for pastors, a year-round camp, a center for biblical counseling, a disaster-recovery organization, and a Christian school—all used to reach more people with the life-changing message of the gospel.

James is the author of several books including Vertical Church, Authentic, Lord Change My Attitude, When Life is Hard, Always True, Come Home, and most recently, Act Like Men.

Find out more about James and his ministries at:
@pastorjamesmacdonald on Instagram
@jamesmacdonald on Twitter
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Mailing Address
Walk in the Word
P.O. Box 5368
Elgin, IL 60121