Shelby G. Floyd
Our lesson today is one of a series from the book of James. You can prepare to learn more by reading this very practical book each week.
OUR FAITH MUST BE TESTED
In almost every area of life things must be tested before there can be any benefit to the human family. Medicine is one example where much testing must be done before it is made available to the public. These wonderful drugs are often tested for years to see if they will do what they were designed to do. Aerospace is another area where repeated testing is done to see if planes, rockets and missiles will do what they were designed to do by the engineers.
The same thing is true with computer products. Software companies test these products for months before they are marketed to businesses and the private sector of our economy. Even after much testing often the consumer will discover that the product has a “bug” that must be corrected.
Even nations are not exempt from testing. Our country was severely tested on Sept. 11, 2001 like it has not been tested for some time. This tragic event tested our people to see what we are made out of and to see if our country will do what it was designed to do—live in liberty and have justice for all.
In like manner God has chosen to test your faith and my faith. God does not test our faith for his benefit, but for our benefit to see if our faith is genuine. This testing is to see if our faith will do what it was designed to do. Scripture says, “Without faith we cannot please God” (Hebrews 11: 6). Faith is therefore the basis of our hope of eternal life and heaven. We may think that our faith is strong, but until it has been tested we do not really know for sure. We may say, “I will survive anything that comes my way.” But we do not know until we have come through the various trials that come our way.
We are all aware that there are religious leaders today who teach that if your relationship with God is right you will always be healthy, wealthy, and wise and you will never have any problems in your life. While it is true that many of our problems are self-induced, that is not always the case. Jesus also was tested, and the early church went through many trials that were not of its choosing. Jesus was sinless but nevertheless was crucified on Calvary: “In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering” ( Hebrews 2:10).
My Bible teaches that our faith will be tested by passing through various trials. We should believe God’s Word rather than the mere words of men:
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” (NASV).
Will God allow your faith and my faith to be tested? The answer is in the affirmative. Yes our faith will be tested! “Because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.” James also says, “count it all joy my brothers when you fall into various kinds of trials.” Our faith will definitely be tested.
When my son-in-law was a little boy, had two older brothers who told him one day that the clothes dryer was like a space ship. They persuaded him to climb in and they turned it on. You can imagine what that was like! Has your life ever been like that? Life is like that. Things can be going great, the sun is shining, the birds are whistling and you are singing. Then all of a sudden, dark clouds appear, and a storm breaks out in your life that will test your faith, your resolve, strength, endurance, and determination.
The Bible teaches that God’s people will definitely be tried and tested: “They preached the good news in that city and won a large number of disciples. Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,” they said” (Acts 14:21-22). Paul and Silas strengthened and encouraged the disciples in the new congregations to remain true to the faith, “for we must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.”
In the Old Testament the best example of faith being tested is Job. Job was one of the best people who lived in that time. None of us would want to go through the trials of Job. The greater our faith the greater the hardship will probably be, in order to test if that faith is genuine: “But he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold” (Job 23:10}.
To refine the pure gold it must go through the fiery furnace. It must be tested to see if it is what it is claimed to be. In like manner our faith must be tried. False faith will not stand the fiery furnace of trial. James refers to Job’s faith and how it proved to be genuine: “Brothers, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. As you know, we consider blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy” (James 5:10-11).
The greater our faith the greater will be our trials. I believe that. This is because great faith must be tested by great trials to prove it is really great faith!
Big ships may venture ore,
But little ships must stay close to shore.
If our faith is little we better stay close to the shore, if our faith is strong, like a mighty ship we can go out on the open raging waves of the sea. Perhaps David had this in mind in one of his psalms:
23 Those who go down to the sea in ships,
Who do business on great waters,
24 They see the works of the Lord,
And His wonders in the deep.
25 For He commands and raises the stormy wind,
Which lifts up the waves of the sea.
26 They mount up to the heavens,
They go down again to the depths;
Their soul melts because of trouble.
27 They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man,
And [a]are at their wits’ end.
28 Then they cry out to the Lord in their trouble,
And He brings them out of their distresses.
29 He calms the storm,
So that its waves are still.
30 Then they are glad because they are quiet;
So He guides them to their desired haven.
31 Oh, that men would give thanks to the Lord for His goodness,
And for His wonderful works to the children of men!
32 Let them exalt Him also in the assembly of the people,
And praise Him in the company of the elders.
When you are out in the mighty deep and the storms of life are about to overwhelm you, do you cry out to the Lord for help, or do you run to the devil for his consolation? Actually in the church we often see that happen. When trials come, some people are drawn closer to the Lord and cry out for his help, while others leave the Lord and seek consolation and comfort in the arms of Satan.
When our faith has been successfully tested, the end result will be patience, perseverance and endurance! I have never sought out trials and tribulations, but when they come my way I do not run from them—I run to them, because God has allowed them to test my faith. So do not run away from your trials, run to them and deal with them. Deal with your problems, don’t try to run away and hide from them or sweep them under the rug. Both James and Peter tell us to rejoice that we have an opportunity to prove that our faith is genuine:
1 Peter 1:6-7
6 In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
When we observe a fellow Christian falling away during trial we must conclude that their faith was either weak or not genuine. Weak and false faith will not stand the test. But when our faith endures the test then the Christian can say: “Now I know that my faith is genuine and that I am stronger from this experience.” Perseverance develops strength. People who have gone through many sicknesses and surgeries are usually stronger physically, mentally, and emotionally than those who have never been sick. The same thing is true in trials and tribulations that come our way in the Christian life. Someone may say, “But my trials and tribulations are so heavy that no one could endure what I have had to go through.” Scripture says we can prevail over all of our trials: “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it” (1 Corinthians 10:12-13 NIV). Therefore, God will not allow anyone to be tempted above what they are able to bear. To prevail one will bring their faith into play.
There are two kinds of trials or temptations that are mentioned in James the first chapter. In this lesson we are looking at external trials, things beyond one’s control, things that just happen. There is no moral blame that can be attached to one who goes through some trial not of their doing.
In James 1:13-16 there is the inward temptation or solicitation to sin brought about by Satan in conjunction with man’s desire to do things forbidden by the Almighty. When we give into this temptation we sin and moral blame attaches. Faith is being tested in this kind of trial also! If we live long enough we will all be tested by trials, tribulations and temptations?
WHAT IS THE RIGHT ATTITUDE TOWARD TRIALS?
We ask, “What should our attitude be toward the trials that come our way?” James says, “consider it pure joy my brothers when you face trials of many kinds.” Does this statement mean that when we are faced with trials we are to go out and say, “I am so happy today, because my life is falling apart?” You do not usually feel that way when your life is falling apart and you are surrounded by all kinds of trials, tribulations, troubles and problems? When we are surrounded by trouble are we to circle the wagons, smile and sing? No one rejoices because of trials and tribulations as such. However, we can rejoice in trials and troubles when one considers what the result can be of having endured such trials.
The people of this world are watching Christian people at all times to see if your faith is genuine. Our neighbors watch and notice that you have the habit of worshiping God each Lord’s day. And they will watch the Christian more than any other time when your life is falling apart. This is a test for you and they want to know what you are made of and if your faith is genuine.
James says, “count it all joy when you fall into diverse temptations…” The word “fall” in the original language means when you are surrounded by troubles. Like the Old West when we are surrounded by trials we must circle the wagons to protect us from the onslaught and fiery darts of Satan. Satan seeks to injure us and destroy our faith. James says, “Count it all joy.” The word count means to consider, deem, reckon—so when you are surrounded by trials just consider that God is allowing your faith to be tested, and having come out of the trials successfully, then the end product of perseverance, endurance, and patience is a good thing. This is the basis of our joy. You will be a stronger person and therefore you can rejoice because you have had an opportunity to prove your faith to yourself and your God.
As an example, let us notice the process of giving birth to a child. My mom used to say, “If men had to deliver a baby there never would have been but one!” Almost all mothers will say that there is a certain amount of pain, sorrow and suffering in childbirth. But even in the ordeal of childbirth most mothers have a joy in their heart because they know when it is finished there will be a beautiful boy or girl that will bring love and joy to them and the family. Mothers overcome the pain, anguish and sorrow of childbirth because they know that they will hold in their arms a little human being that will bring joy to their heart and family. Christ verifies this statement in the book of John: “A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world” (John 16:21).
And I say to you Christian people that the same thing is true of your trials. When trials come your way, let your attitude be that while you do not like it, you’re not going run from them, you will run to the problem and deal with it. You will prevail and overcome and be a stronger person as a result of testing your faith. Never give up, never fail, flag or falter. Keep your faith strong in God who will never leave you but will help you to overcome any trial: 5 Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” 6 So we may boldly say: “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?”(Hebrews 13:5-6 NKJV)
WHY DOES GOD ALLOW US TO BE TESTED?
Why does God allow us to be tested with trials of many kinds? The answer is that God has a purpose in testing our faith. Solomon said for everything there is a purpose. Our purpose is to serve and glorify God. Our trials have the purpose to produce patience, perseverance, and endurance. The only way we are going to learn patience and trust the Lord, and yield to his will, is to learn to yield our stubborn will to his. This is often best accomplished when we are weak and we trust the Lord as a result of the trials in our life:
“But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing” (James 1:4).
Perseverance must finish its work so we may be complete, mature and not lacking anything. By the word “perfect” we usually mean sinless. Generally the word “perfect” in the Bible means complete and mature. So when patience is complete and mature, it will make our faith complete and mature. In the original language the word for complete is a word from which we derive the word holograph. A circle that is a complete 360 degrees can illustrate a holograph. Therefore your faith will not be a complete circle of 360 degrees until you have persevered through the trials and tribulations of life.
WILL GOD OR SATAN WORK IN OUR LIFE?
When trials come our way either God or Satan will work in our life! Let us be like Job who in the midst of severe trial never gave up on God. We can give in and allow Satan to work in our life or we can allow God to do his work in our life. Either God or Satan is going to do a work in us when trials beset us. Which will it be?
Often we see Christians fall by the wayside and we know that Satan is doing his work in them because either their faith was weak or false and would not stand up under trial. However, others go through the same test and survive even becoming stronger because they allow God to do his work in and through them.
When Paul wrote the church at Philippi he commended them for allowing God to do his work in them: “being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:5-6).Let us all be confident that the good work God has begun in us will go on unto completion until the day of Jesus Christ. God has begun a good work in you! Are you going to allow him to continue that work on to completion or will you give place to Satan to do his work in you? It is up to us to decide who will win.
The faithful Christian whose faith is mature and complete understands that nothing can separate us from the love of God but ourselves (Romans 8:28, 35-39).If we therefore become separated from God we can only blame ourselves. We cannot blame God, the church, our family or anyone else. No, blame can only attach to us, because we can choose whether God or Satan does a work in us.
We have established that our faith will be tested. Our attitude toward all trials should be one of joy because of the result of enduring trials—patience and endurance. Our faith will be stronger and more enduring. Also we have concluded that for the Christian, God has a purpose in all trials—to make us mature, complete and lacking nothing. James teaches us that when we endure our trials successfully, we will receive the crown of life from the Lord: “Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him” (James 1:12). The idea presented is that rewards and punishments are to be given at the last day. Life is short—we are like a vapor that appears for a while and then we vanish away from the earth. But we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ for our reward—good or bad! (2 Corinthians 5:10).
The joy we are to show while undergoing trials is not a temporal joy—it is an eternal joy throughout all ages. We will be forever blessed when we receive the crown of life! The crown of life is for all who love the Lord and his appearing (2 Timothy 4:6-8). Do you want that crown of life? It is yours if you will allow the Lord to begin a good work in you and make you complete and whole even in the face of trials.
All who are out of Christ are now encouraged to repent, make the good confession and be baptized into Christ for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38). Those who have failed the trials of life are also encouraged to repent and pray to the Lord for forgiveness and strength to overcome (Acts 8:22). *
*Shelby G. Floyd delivered this sermon January 6, 2002, at the Heartland Church of Christ, 2455 Fairview Place, Greenwood, Indiana 46142. Copyright © 2002, 2008, 2019 Shelby G. Floyd, All Rights Reserved
Shelby G. Floyd
Heartland Church of Christ
1693 West Main Street
Greenwood, Indiana 46142