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Let us continue to work for the Lord as the New Year begins. 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.
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.
James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes scattered among the nations: Greetings. Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
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.
Have you heard the story of Frankie the pet ferret? The owner would let him play in the laundry basket. He would climb into the laundry basket, roll around and have a big-time. One day the Lady of the house came in, grabbed the laundry basket, dumped it into the washing machine, poured in the washing powder and turned the machine on. You can guess what happened! All of a sudden Frankie did not know what hit him. The agitator is going back and forth, suds are bellowing forth. About the time that stopped, the emptying cycle began and Frankie was whirling around like a merry-go-round. But it was not over. The rinse cycle started and Frankie went through the same trial again. Finally, the wash was through, the laundry was put in the basket, and Frankie the pet ferret was alive, but he never played in the laundry basket again!
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.
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.
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.
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:
Others went out on the sea in ships; they were merchants on the mighty waters. They saw the works of the LORD, his wonderful deeds in the deep. For he spoke and stirred up a tempest that lifted high the waves. They mounted up to the heavens and went down to the depths; in their peril their courage melted away. They reeled and staggered like drunken men; they were at their wits’ end. Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble, and he brought them out of their distress. He stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea were hushed. They were glad when it grew calm, and he guided them to their desired haven. Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for men. Let them exalt him in the assembly of the people and praise him in the council of the elders. He turned rivers into a desert, flowing springs into thirsty ground,
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:
1 Peter 1:5-7
In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith-of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire-may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.
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:
1 Corinthians 10:12-13
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.
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 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.
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 or falter. Keep your faith strong in God who will never leave you but will help you to overcome any trial.
Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?”
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:
Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
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.
GOD OR SATAN?
When trials come our way either God or Satan will work in your 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.
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
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
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.
Let us notice another statement concerning trials from James:
Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.
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:
2 Corinthians 5:10
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.
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
For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day-and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.
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.
Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life.
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 Shelby Floyd All Rights Reserved
For most Christians, spiritual fasting is a way to draw closer to God. By focusing less on our physical selves, through prayer and fasting, we can direct our hunger toward God.
While the purpose of spiritual fasting is not to earn God’s favor, there are some benefits to self-denial. Primarily, it can produce a transformation in us—increased spiritual clarity, the ability to hear God’s voice more clearly, soul cleansing, and a greater dependence on the Lord.
The Lenten fast is a specific 40-day period of self-examination, repentance, moderation and spiritual discipline in preparation for Easter. Churches that observe the Lenten fast usually associate the practice with three biblical parallels: the 40 days and nights Moses spent with God on Mount Sinai, Israel’s 40-year desert journey, and Jesus Christ’s 40-day fast in the wilderness.
Today, fasting during Lent takes on different forms, not always characterized by a total denial of food. Some Christians abstain from certain foods only, like meat or sugar, or they limit meals to one or two small portions a day. Others choose to give up something besides food, like watching television, or some other self-indulgent pastime.
Former Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, USA penned this wonderful meditation on the Lenten fast:
Fast from criticism, and feast on praise.
Fast from self-pity, and feast on joy.
Fast from ill-temper, and feast on peace.
Fast from resentment, and feast on contentment.
Fast from jealousy, and feast on love.
Fast from pride, and feast on humility.
Fast from selfishness, and feast on service.
Fast from fear, and feast on faith.
–Arthur Carl Lichtenberger (1900-1968), The Day Is at Hand
Learn more about the different approaches to fasting and Lent:
Photo: Dougal Waters / Getty Images
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Thursday March 21, 2013
This week’s post is a member-submitted Christian poem called Teach Me Lord. The poem forms a single-minded prayer asking for help living for God.
Teach me, Lord, the ways of truth,
So I may not abuse my youth
In idle things that will not give
Instructions in the way to live.
Read more of … Teach Me Lord by Shirley Strawter Ministries.
Do you have an original Christian prayer that would encourage or benefit a fellow believer? Perhaps you’ve written a unique poem you’d like to share with others. We are looking for Christian prayers and poems to encourage our readers in their communication with God. To submit your original prayer or poem, please fill out this Submission Form.