James, having the same idea in mind, penned, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing” (James 1:1-4 NKJV).
The “testing” James was talking about is comparable to the testing of a metal to determine its purity (Zech 13:9). James went on to tell us the reason for our tests. Successfully facing the faith tests in our lives produces patience. Yet, James did not mean patience as we think of the word. The Greek word he used, “hypomone,” means to resolutely remain under a heavy load without trying to escape. It is an active endurance; not the quality that enables you to wait in a long line, but the quality that helps you finish a marathon.
Speaking to believers, James did not say if, but when, we fall into trials or face tests.
“I’ve just left 150,000 people who have no problems at all,” said a man.
“That’s great. Take me to them,” replied his friend.
“They’re in the cemetery.”
God, however, is not a cruel schoolmaster whose only goal is to make us miserable! God is a loving Father whose heart’s desire is to see His children strong, fruit bearing, and flowing with spiritual power. He wants us to grow from babes to being “perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”
What are the purposes of God’s tests?
To reveal the relevant lesson.
To reveal what we may already understand. For the most part, we are fully aware of where our own struggle lies. For some, it may be with our tongue or with wrong thoughts, while our ability to trust God in difficulties may be strong. Taking these tests helps us to focus on the weak areas and reinforces our strengths.
To reveal what I do not understand (Matt 12:35 – The tests are not necessary for God to know what is in our hearts, but rather for US to know. Circumstances reveal hidden weaknesses.
Something hindering our movement exposes impatience.
Being forced to do something menial or serving others exposes pride.
Doing something that we do not want to do exposes stubbornness.
Being required to sacrifice something that is important to us exposes idolatry.
Being faced with not getting our own way exposes immaturity.
Being required to step aside from our own plans reveals wilfulness.
“Tests of faith are various trials and hardships that invite you to surrender something of greater value to God, even when you have the right not to.” Bruce Wilkerson, Secrets of the Vine
Testing reveals the truth regarding our faith. It reveals whether our faith is real or fake. It sure is easy to say we believe in God while the sun is shining and all our prayers have answers, but what happens when the rain comes and the darkness falls?
If we refuse to take a test, deeming it “too difficult,” we will never reach the next level in our spiritual growth. Each new test will push us past what we proved on a previous test, and it will be designed to strengthen our commitment to obey. (II Cor 2:9).
Things to remember when facing a test:
Though a test may stretch us, it never separates us from God (Romans 8:38-39).
Though a test may cause us to feel weary and tired, we should never feel judged or condemned (Romans 8:1).
Not every trial you face is necessarily a test from God. Sometimes, our wrong choices and bad judgement get us into difficult places. Sometimes, the wrong choices of others may affect us and put us into “stretching” states. A trial may not have originated with God, but He has allowed it to affect you for a reason – to test you and to help you become more like Christ.
Testing is not the same as facing temptation. Temptation NEVER comes from God. (James 1:13). Testing and trails come from outside. Temptations come from within.
Every test is different. Some are short and to the point. Some are long and drawn out. No matter their duration or degree of difficulty, ALL tests will end (ICor 10:13).
Tests come from God and are designed for the individual. Your test will not be the same as your neighbour’s. It may have similar circumstances, but your test is designed for you…to help you develop and grow where you need to. Every test is major to the person who is in the midst of it. We must be careful to keep our eyes up and on the One who is giving us the test, instead of allowing our eyes to be focused on the tests of others.
Every test teaches a lesson. If I do not understand what God is trying to teach me, then James tells me to ask!
The test itself is not as important as your response to the test (James1:2-3)! This does not mean that we have to rejoice over the illness we are battling, but that we can find joy in the battle. It means we choose to base our happiness on Jesus; not on the circumstances we find ourselves facing.
Join with me over the next few weeks as we look at several tests each believer will face.
By sitting at the feet of our Master Teacher, Who has taken and passed each one – Jesus! He modelled for us the way to successfully take each test, achieving a passing grade…the first time!