The testing of our 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 NA28)

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 translated from the NA28 Greek text) 

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 NASB:

2 Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. 4 And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
5 But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. 6 But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. 7 For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, 8 being a double- minded man, unstable in all his ways.
9 But the brother of humble circumstances is to glory in his high position; 10 and the rich man is to glory in his humiliation, because like flowering grass he will pass away. 11 For the sun rises with a scorching wind and withers the grass; and its flower falls off and the beauty of its appearance is destroyed; so too the rich man in the midst of his pursuits will fade away.
12 Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord 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 by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. 14 But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. 15 Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death. 16 Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. 17 Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow. 18 In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth, so that we would be a kind of first fruits among His creatures. (James 1:2-18 NASB)

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

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