Tests of a Living Faith
Faith Tested by Perseverance Through Trials (1:1-12)
By Steve Budd
The Book of James is not steeped in doctrine like many of the Pauline Epistles, but it is rich with exhortations. A quick look at the verbs used throughout the book will reveal that the passion of its writer was to confront those in the assembly of believers who possessed false, dead faith, and to exhort them to realize that a saving faith is a living, active faith.
Perseverance through trials attests to God’s approval. It gives evidence of salvation, since trials are the essential means God uses to develop Christian character.
I. We Should Face Trials with a Joyful Attitude (2)
Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials,
Consider (2233): Aorist imperative: to deem, to regard as. Conveys a sense of urgency connected to a definite action. Calls for a mental evaluation and due deliberation.
Encounter (4045): Being unexpectedly surrounded with no way of escape. Used only here, Acts 27:41 (where Paul’s ship ran aground), and Luke 10:30 (where the Good Samaritan fell among thieves).
Various (4164): Many colored. Not describing the number of trials but the diversity of them.
Trials (3986): Tests, experiments. Not used here to mean temptations to sin. Trials in the life of a Christian are unavoidable, and take on many forms and nuances. Some may be “positive”, such as a large financial inheritance, and some may be “negative”, such as the loss of a job. Some may be internal, while some may come from without. Christians are exhorted to think joyfully when trials befall us, and James will explain why in the next verse.
“Maturity of character is not the result of the number of trials encountered, but the way in which those trials are met.” D. Edmond Hiebert
II. We Should Face Trials with an Understanding Mind (3)
knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.
Knowing (1097): Full understanding. Knowledge grounded in personal experience. This participle is in grammatical agreement with the imperative “count”.
Endurance (5281): To stay or remain under. “Patience” is not the best translation. Patience is more temporary, but endurance is that permanent inner quality that bravely endures trials and pressures, and grows under them.
It is with full and conscience knowledge that we are to count our trials full joy. Unlike an emotional irrational reaction to trials, we are to engage our mind around the purposes of God in our lives, and to recall the promises He has made to us as His children (e.g. Eternal Security).
III. We Should Face Trials with a Submissive Will (4)
And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
The exhortation in this verse can be found in the Greek present imperative “let”. This is a strong command, not a passive “suggestion”, that is intent on putting the readers on guard against allowing the chain of results to be interrupted (i.e. trials produce endurance, which makes us complete, lacking in nothing).
IV. We Should Face Trials with a Believing Heart (5-8)
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. 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. For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.
The type of Greek conditional sentence found here assumes people who face trials lack wisdom. “Let him ask” is a Greek imperative, not merely a suggestion or recommendation. We will face trials, and we will need wisdom. There is a strong connection between the double-minded man here and Matthew 6:19-24, where Jesus describes two treasures (the heart), two visions (the mind), and two masters (the will).
V. We Should Face Trials with a Humble Spirit (9-11)
But the brother of humble circumstances is to glory in his high position; and the rich man is to glory in his humiliation, because like flowering grass he will pass away. 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. 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.
This description of the rich and poor men is intended to erase any superficial distinctions we might be inclined to make based on outward appearances. Rich and poor both experience trials. In Matthew 6:25-34, Jesus parallels this thought. The rich will tend to lay up treasures on earth while the poor may be inclined to worry about them. Both are deluded.
God brings trials into our lives for a multitude of reasons:
- To demonstrate to us the strength or weakness of our faith.
- To humble us.
- To wean us from our dependence on worldly things.
- To remind us to look forward to being with Him.
- To reveal what we really love.
- To teach us to value God’s blessings.
- To develop enduring strength in us for greater usefulness.
- To enable us to better help others in their trials.
This should prompt us to pay closer attention to what God may be doing in our lives. My 30-day challenge to the class and myself is this:
Recognize the unique trials God brings into your life, consider why He may be bringing them, and ask Him for wisdom to face them in a way that will build endurance and bring Him glory.
Next Lesson: James 1:13-18 Faith Tested by Blame in Temptation *********************************************************************** Till next time