The Testing of Your Faith

by Mike Ratliff

2 Πᾶσαν χαρὰν ἡγήσασθε, ἀδελφοί μου, ὅταν πειρασμοῖς περιπέσητε ποικίλοις, 3 γινώσκοντες ὅτι τὸ δοκίμιον ὑμῶν τῆς πίστεως κατεργάζεται ὑπομονήν. 4 ἡ δὲ ὑπομονὴ ἔργον τέλειον ἐχέτω, ἵνα ἦτε τέλειοι καὶ ὁλόκληροι ἐν μηδενὶ λειπόμενοι. (James 1:2-4 NA27)

2 Consider it all joy my brothers whenever you fall into various trials 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. 4 And let endurance have its full effect that you may be mature and complete lacking in nothing. (James 1:2-4 Possessing the Treasure New Testament V1) 

The man-centered religions that claim to be “Christian” in our time could never take James 1:2-4 literally. No, instead, they must demand from their own man-made Jesus that they have their best life now and that the Sun stand still so that they can fulfill the vision that they claim to have received from him. This whole idea of a faith that is self-renouncing while submitting to Christ as Lord in all things, taking up our crosses, bearing his reproach outside the gates because he bore our reproach to pay the price to atone for our sins is totally alien to those “so-called Christians” in those “religions.” Add to that the fiery trials of sanctification and they claim that we are taking the Bible too literally and that since God is love, he would never do that to anyone. 

Here is James 1:2-18 from the ESV with all of the textual apparatus.

[Testing of Your Faith]

            [2] [e]Count it all joy, my brothers,[f1] when you meet trials [f]of various kinds, [3] for you know that [g]the testing of your faith [h]produces steadfastness. [4] And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be [i]perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

            [5] [j]If any of you lacks wisdom, [k]let him ask God, [l]who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. [6] But [m]let him ask in faith, [n]with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like [o]a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. [7] For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; [8] [p]he is a double-minded man, [q]unstable in all his ways.

            [9] Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, [10] and [r]the rich in his humiliation, because [s]like a flower of the grass[f2] he will pass away. [11] For the sun rises with its scorching heat and [t]withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits.

            [12] [u]Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive [v]the crown of life, [w]which God has promised to those who love him. [13] Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. [14] But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. [15] Then desire [x]when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and [y]sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.

            [16] Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. [17] [z]Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from [a]the Father of lights [b]with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.[f3] [18] [c]Of his own will he [d]brought us forth by the word of truth, [e]that we should be a kind of [f]firstfruits of his creatures.           

(James 1:2-18 ESV)

 

[Cross References]

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[e] See Matt. 5:12

[f] 1 Pet. 1:6

[g] 1 Pet. 1:7

[h] Rom. 5:3; [ch. 5:11; Heb. 10:36; 2 Pet. 1:6]

[i] 1 Thess. 5:23; See Matt. 5:48

[j] 1 Kgs. 3:9-12; Prov. 2:3-6

[k] See Matt. 7:7

[l] Prov. 28:5

[m] Mark 11:24

[n] Matt. 21:21

[o] [Isa. 57:20; Eph. 4:14]

[p] ch. 4:8

[q] [2 Pet. 2:14; 3:16]

[r] Jer. 9:23

[s] [Ps. 102:4, 11; 1 Cor. 7:31; 1 Pet. 1:24]

[t] Isa. 40:7

[u] ch. 5:11; Matt. 10:22; 1 Pet. 3:14; [Dan. 12:12]

[v] Rev. 2:10; 3:11; [1 Cor. 9:25; 2 Tim. 4:8; 1 Pet. 5:4]

[w] ch. 2:5

[x] Job 15:35; Ps. 7:14; Isa. 59:4

[y] Rom. 5:12; 6:23

[z] Ps. 85:12; John 3:27; 1 Cor. 4:7

[a] 1 John 1:5

[b] Mal. 3:6

[c] John 1:13

[d] [Gal. 4:19; 1 Pet. 1:3, 23]

[e] [Eph. 1:12]

[f] Jer. 2:3; Rev. 14:4; [Rom. 8:19-23]

 

[Footnotes]

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[1] 1:2 Or brothers and sisters. The plural Greek word adelphoi (translated “brothers”) refers to siblings in a family. In New Testament usage, depending on the context, adelphoi may refer either to men or to both men and women who are siblings (brothers and sisters) in God’s family, the church; also verses 16, 19

[2] 1:10 Or a wild flower

[3] 1:18 Some manuscripts variation due to a shadow of turning

What do we learn here? The word “trials” translates the noun πειρασμοῖς or peirasmois, which is the Dative, Plural of πειρασμός or peirasmos, “refers either to a testing or a temptation to do something wrong.” In other words, this is anything that challenges our faith. How are we as Christians to react when we fall into various πειρασμοῖς? James uses the phrase, “Πᾶσαν χαρὰν ἡγήσασθε,” or “all joy consider it.” In other words, Christians endure with complete joy in the Lord who is sovereign over all things including their trials. In vv3,4 we see what God accomplishes in these trials. As we endure these tests of faith by being joyful in the Lord in the midst of them this produces steadfastness or endurance. As God takes us through these trials and we continue to increase in endurance by His grace, then we mature, becoming more and more Christlike, wise, and humble as we are able to live in the midst of this lost and dying world with peace and joy.

As we go through these tests and trials, we ask God for wisdom in faith believing. James’ example in vv5-8 contrasts one who asks believing with those who ask in doubt. I have seen both. I have seen Christians overcome with despair in the midst of trials and it was as if there was nothing I could do for them. I prayed for them to calm down and trust the Lord, but those people were very self-centered and I often wondered if they were believers at all. On the other hand, I have ministered to wives who have lost husbands and parents who have lost children and their maturity, their joy in the Lord in the face of those trials was astounding. Yes they grieved, but I could see the peace of the Lord in them.

Skip down to vv16-17. James actually equates our fiery trials with good and perfect gifts from God . He then compares them with our salvation in v18 which he says was of God’s own will that he saved us by the Word of truth. Our regeneration is not just a wish, but an active expression of God’s will, which he always has the power to accomplish. In the Greek the phrase translated as “Of his own will” is at the beginning of the sentence, which means James intends to emphasize that the sovereign will of God is the source of our new life in Christ. Therefore, we should be all the more willing to trust God in the midst of the fiery tests and trials that we fall into because he has allowed them and he is taking us through them, all for his glory, and all for our eternal good.

Soli Deo Gloria

12 thoughts on “The Testing of Your Faith

  1. But I thought we were gonna be RAPTURED! /sarc/

    Amen and amen! At my last church, the then-new-to-us “senior pastor” preacher-boy (who claimed to be expositional) “preached” through the book of James. But – oopsie! – he left out the hard things like the true meaning of suffering for the glory of Christ and the entire bit of chapter 2 about faith and works. As if Christians have no need of those passages that God revealed to James and preserved for our benefit! He was a self-confessed “people driven” preacher and a hiring who has since moved off to where his god has called him – to a bigger church!

    Lord, keep us from idols.

  2. Manfred, I am convinced that God put Epistles like James in the New Testament as a sort of test of our discernment. Are we going to stand firm or are we going to go the way of the fellow you described? Those who follow that path butcher James and other passages throughout the Bible that say the same thing and so the Holy Spirit uses that to show us who they are. I heard Carl Trueman (sp) say the other day that the largest a church could get that he could pastor would be about 300 or so then he would probably start a mission church in another part of the city with another pastor (not himself on a flatscreen tv) and he would stay put and minister to those God gave him. What a humble, godly man and yet that is what all pastors are called to and yet again, why is that so rare in our time?

  3. Amen, my brother. 1 John as well.

    I listened to that interview (linked to from your site?) and was blessed by Trueman’s attitude (and accent). The elders of my church have told us – and demonstrated in practice – that if the church gets too big for them to know and shepherd us, it’s past time to send some off to a new church plant. So they train and test men so they can send qualified elders along with a few families to plant a new church that will not be a satellite. And this with one elder who is famous and well known and easily capable of being trapped in a celebrity cult – but God does not desire that! And so he labors as a humble pastor in a small church where he can know us and be known by us. And we work together to glorify our Lord and benefit His people – teaching the whole counsel of God’s Word.

  4. Just an awesome passage. Thanks so much for the translation. It really is encouraging to me to know that God is sovereign, takes the pressure off. Growing up ‘Word Faith’ we were always taught that if things werent going our way it was somehow our fault…we weren’t spending enough time at ‘church’ or giving the ‘correct tithe’. I have learned so much since leaving that false religion. I have so much more peace now. I’m so glad that I’m not saved by my own righteousness! Glory to God!

  5. Amen Shawn, yes, God’s Word is powerful and such a blessing to those who know him. What you shared about your experience in the ‘Word Faith’ stuff is not unique to it believe me. Even though the SBC that I came from would never see itself as “Word Faith” what you described is exactly how we were led to walk and believe. The leadership in those churches fear our Freedom in Christ believing it will lead to antinomianism, but they are wrong. I have also been accused of going too far the other way and preaching Pietism, but that isn’t right either for those who do that are looking to their own religiosity to save them. We look to Christ and his finished work on the Cross and his resurrection. What a blessing that his righteousness and perfect keeping of the Law is imputed to us!

  6. Have needed to repent lately for not rejoicing in small trials…When I know better..How often has the Lord revealed to me His love, especially in hard times! What weak things we be to forget His constant caring and keeping!
    Have also been so blest by the sweet joy that He has given in the great suffering of two of my sisters!
    I am much convicted by this post!

  7. Here is a little excerpt from D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones on effectual calling:

    “In the light of these things, it is very natural and we can understand it perfectly well. The greatest natural intellect cannot receive this, he is ‘a natural man’. And you need a spiritual faculty to receive the wonderful truth about the two natures in the one Person; the outstanding doctrine about the Trinity; the whole doctrine of the incarnation and the atonement, and so on. This is spiritual truth and to the natural person it is utter folly, it is foolishness, as Paul says. So when the Holy Spirit does enable us to believe it, it must be something beyond the heightening of our natural faculties. It is not simply that He brings the truth of His great moral suasion to us. No, no. We need some new faculty, some new principle, and that is the very work that He does. He implants within us this new spiritual principle, this principle of spiritual vitality and activity, and it is as the result of this that the general call of the gospel comes to us in an effectual manner.

    So, then, let me again give you some scriptural proofs of this, because I do have them. You will find a practical illustration in Acts 16:14 . Here is Paul, preaching in the town of Philippi. It is a very crucial passage for us because it was the Apostle’s first visit to Europe and it was the first time that the Christian gospel was ever preached there. And do not forget that the first convert that the Christian gospel obtained in Europe was a woman called Lydia. She was the first person in the history of Europe to whom the call of the gospel came. How did it happen? We are told: ‘A certain women named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us’ — as many others did. The Apostle sat down and preached the word. There was the external call; he told them the gospel, the facts about the Lord Jesus Christ and the meaning of the facts. He said all this and we are told that among those listening was a woman called Lydia and that she heard this, as many have heard the gospel preached in a church or a chapel but have gone home in an unbelieving condition and have died as unbelievers. What was it, then, that made the difference with Lydia? Notice! ‘… whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul.’”

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