Our Text – James 1:2-4, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything”
God’s Goal – “That we may become Perfect, Complete and Lacking nothing”
Beliefs About the Test of Our Faith
(1) God tests ALL believers’ numerous times in many different ways.
Warren Weirsbe said, “A faith that cannot be tested, cannot be trusted”. 1 Peter 1:6-7 says this, “In all 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 the proven genuineness of your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.”
Principles in the Testing of Our Faith are that (a) the test is only for a little while; (b) if need be; (c) every test brings pain of some kind; (d) there are various trials; (e) God brings the trials so that we have genuineness of our faith; (f) our faith is more precious than gold; and, (g) our faith is God’s glory at the second coming.
(2) God knows EVERYTHING about our tests or trials
As believers in Jesus Christ, we will experience testing in our life here on earth, some of which will cause us to waiver in our faith and those that will cause us to stand firm and will increase our faith. However, Satan, the accuser of the brethren, and an angel of light, will be tempting us to do that which is contrary to God’s Word. When God test us, it is for our own good and will make our faith grow even stronger.
Usually when an accident or crippling disease strikes or when we encounter disappointments and trials that perplex and bother us, we often cry out, “O Lord, why do You allow these things to happen?” It’s natural for us to question God’s workings, but continually asking why; can delay the demonstration of His strength and purpose for it. Even though our present trials may be heartbreaking, the all-wise heavenly Father wants to strengthen our faith and demonstrate the sufficiency of His mercy, grace and love through our trials. That can only happen if we get beyond asking why, and say, “What do You have for me now, Lord?”
To illustrate my point, Ruth Paxson was a missionary to China during the nineteenth century. She told the story of a woman she met on a train in Finland. The first thing Miss Paxson noticed was her radiant face. Then she observed the woman had a steel hook in place of a right hand. As they talked, Miss Paxson learned that she had been a missionary in India, had contracted a serious lung disease, and was sent home. She returned to her native Finland and bought a farm. One day, while working on the threshing machine, her right hand was severed. She told Miss Paxson, “When my hand was cut off, I immediately looked up to my Lord and said, ‘Lord, what do You want me to do now that my right hand is gone? What work? I’m not asking why, but what?’” God later used her to turn her farm into a home for elderly Christians, bringing blessings to many.
(3) God is with us in EVERY test or trial – (Hebrews 11:17-18)
God was with the test of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego as recorded for us in Daniel 3:15-16; 25). Another example would be Abraham’s test after waiting a very long time for a son. This is found in the book of Hebrews, chapter 11, verses 17-18, “By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had embraced the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, even though God had said to him, ‘It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned’”.
Now let’s imagine one day God gives you something you have been waiting for – for a very long time, only to have Him challenge that promise with a test. That’s what happened to Abraham. God gave Abraham the promise he would become the father of a nation, and we know now that’s what happened. Abraham wasn’t perfect and he made a lot of mistakes (and we are no different). In this test Abraham stood his ground and set the example for us to follow today. Moreover, there are some things we can learn from Abraham in order to pass our own test of faith. They would be:
(A) God’s HEART
The heart refers to the central part of a person. The heart is the nature of a person, and to know the heart of someone is to know that person’s innermost character or feelings. Proverbs 4:23 puts it this way, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it” and Proverbs 16:1 says, “To humans belong the plans of the heart, but from the LORD comes the proper answer of the tongue.” The heart of God is the essence of who He is, what He desires, His will, and His purposes for us. We can know God’s heart by:
(1) Knowing JESUS CHRIST as SAVIOR.
Anyone who has seen Jesus has seen the Father (John 14:9). No one can truly know the heart of God without knowing and trusting in Jesus Christ for salvation. Jesus Christ revealed the Father, for “He is the image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15). Since Jesus and the Father are one, Christ visually represents the heart of God, the essence of who He is (John 10:30). In Christ we see God as the Savior of mankind who desires all to come to know Him and experience the salvation He offers (2 Peter 3:19).
Hebrews 13:5 says, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” In an evangelistic meeting in Ireland the speaker was explaining what it means to abide in Christ and to trust Him completely in every trial. Concluding his message, he repeated several times, “It means that in every circumstance you can keep on saying, ‘For this I have Jesus.’”
The meeting was then opened for testimonies. One young woman said, “Just a few minutes ago I was handed this telegram. It reads, ‘Mother is very ill; take the train home immediately.’ When I saw those words, I knew that tonight’s message was meant just for me. My heart looked up and said, ‘For this I have Jesus.’ Instantly a peace and strength flooded my soul.” Three weeks later the evangelist received a letter from this woman. It read, “Thank you again for the message you gave that day. Life has become an uninterrupted psalm of victory, for I have come to realize that no matter what life brings, for this I have Jesus.” That believer in Christ had found in her Savior, the One, who would be with her “through fire and through water,” and who would bring her “out to rich fulfillment”. If you are enduring a great trial of affliction, remember for this you have Jesus! Always remember that “if every circumstance finds us abiding in Christ, we will find Christ abiding with us in every circumstances
(2) READING and MEDITATING on God’s Word.
To know the heart of God, a person must read His Word, for that is God’s revelation of Himself and His message to all. People read autobiographies about celebrities to get an idea of who they “really are.” Historians read journals and letters from people in history to understand what their life was like and what influenced and motivated them.
In a more profound way, the God has given us His Word so that we can know Him. By reading the Bible, a person can know the heart of God because Scripture was divinely breathed out by Him (2 Timothy 3:16). From Genesis to Revelation, the entire Bible speaks of God and reveals who He is and what He is like. Reading the Bible merely to gain facts about God will not bring a person any closer to the heart of God. John 5:39-40 says, “You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.”
(3) Spending time in PRAYER.
Spending time with the Lord in prayer assists in knowing His heart. Just as a child must spend time with his father to know him personally, so we also must spend time with God in prayer to know Him more deeply. The first part of James 4:8 says, “Come near to God and he will come near to you.” Spending time alone with God in prayer will encourage a deeper relationship and create a greater intimacy between us and God, in which our desires will become more aligned with His. Seeking to know the heart of God is a serious endeavor, as knowing Him will change a person’s entire life. The more a person learns and knows about the Lord, the more he or she will long for Him and declare with the psalmist, “As the deer longs for streams of water, so I long for you, O God” (Psalm 42:1).
(4) Attending CHURCH SERVICES.
Hebrews 10:23-25 says, “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”
Nowhere in the Bible does it say we must have our names on a church membership roll to be saved. However, that doesn’t mean that joining with other believers in a local church is not vital to our spiritual growth. Gathering regularly for worship and instruction encourages love for others, good works, and mutual accountability.
I read an interesting article some time ago that compared a Christian without a church; to a student who won’t go to school, a soldier without an army, a citizen who won’t vote, a sailor without a ship, a child without a family, a drummer without a band, a ballplayer without a team, a honeybee without a hive and a scientist who does not share his findings with his colleagues.
If you have been neglecting one of God’ greatest provisions for your spiritual growth, find a church that believes and teaches God’s Word and start attending faithfully. Take time to get to know others and let them get to know you. Ask God to help you find ways to serve others and the local church.
(B) God’s PROMISE
What was God’s promise to Abraham? Was it about just having a son in Isaac? No, it wasn’t. It was about being a father of many nations. That made Abraham realize that even if he did sacrifice Isaac, God wasn’t done yet. He could raise Isaac from the dead or even stop the execution. God’s intention was not for the human sacrifice to have ever happened but to teach and test if Abraham kept his eyes on the prize. What is God’s promise for you today? So many times, when tests/trials come, we easily forget the promises of God.
Parents love to remember the developmental milestones of their children. They will record in a baby book when their little ones first roll over, then crawl, and take their first steps. Often, they will take photographs and save baby clothing to bring back the memories of those precious experiences. According to Luke 2:19, Mary, the mother of Jesus, kept a baby book of sorts, that is in her heart. She treasured the promises that had been given about her Son and “pondered them.” The Greek word for “ponder” means “placing together for comparison.”
Mary had heard of great things concerning her Son from angels and shepherds. As His life unfolded, she would compare those promises with how her Son acted to fulfill them. Our faith will be strengthened and we will be encouraged when we meditate on what the Scriptures say about God and compare it with the way He works in our own lives (John 14:21). He is a God who answers prayer (1 John 5:14-15), comforts us in our suffering (2 Corinthians 1:3-4), and provides for our needs (Philippians 4:19). Remember that God gives by promise that we may take by faith.
(C) God’s UNLIMITED Power
To know Gods power can be found in Joshua 10:13 when the sun stood still, and the moon stopped, till the nation avenged itself on its enemies, as it is written … the sun stopped in the middle of the sky and delayed going down about a full day. Psalm 114 refers to the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and the parting of the Red Sea (Exodus 14:13-31) describes God’s great power.
There is nothing like the awesomeness of God’s power displayed in His creation. His power is displayed in the pounding waves of the sea and oceans. From ages past, the continents have been separated by the mighty oceans. Man has learned to travel over them, to descend to the bottom of them, and to travel through them, but their immensity and the unyielding force of their waves remain untamable. Rocks are crushed, shorelines are changed, and even experienced sailors can be driven aground or sent to the bottom of the sea. The combined genius of man and the most powerful equipment can do very little to conquer the seas and oceans.
However, they are no problem for God, the One who created them, because He does with them as He wishes. To further illustrate God’s powers; in Joshua 10:13, The psalmist wrote, “The sea saw it and fled” (Psalm 114:3). Then he asked, “What ails you, O sea, that you fled?” (v. 5). The answer is implied, “The seas were obeying the command of God.” When the turbulent seas of adversity are threatening, we need to remember the awesome power of God. As the seas fled before Him and as the sun stood still, so too can the obstacles that seem so overwhelming to us. They have no more resistance to God’s power than water in a teacup!
Whatever storm you are facing today, God is bigger and more powerful than the storm you’re going through and He can rebuke it if He so desires. However, He allows that storm to brew around you because He wants you to learn how to focus on His power, and not the power of the storm we are facing. Thus, to know God’s presence is to know God’s power and nothing is impossible for God!
Some Ways God Tests Our Faith and Character
God’s goal for our lives is for us to grow in our spiritual maturity. So, how does God grow us? He does it through tests. It’s like when you work out in a gym, where you test your muscles by lifting weights. The more you test your muscles, the more your muscles grow. God builds your character in a similar way. But the tests that God gives you examines many areas in your life, such as your character, patience and humility to name only a few.
James describes it like this: “When troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing” (James 1:2-4). The Bible tells us that when our faith is tested, our character will grow. Throughout Scripture, we see God test and grow the faith of some of the greatest biblical heroes. Some of the test of faith that God uses to strengthen our faith are:
(1) A New Task that is Challenging – You’ll face this test many times in your life and in your ministry. God will tell you to do something that seems impossible. It’s like when God called Noah to build the ark when no one on earth had even seen rain. God may not ask you to build an ark, but he will ask you to reach for an impossible dream or complete an impossible task. Faith is facing the future without knowing “what” that task may be.
(2) A Major Change – This is the “where” test. It’s a test that happens when a major change comes into your life and you don’t know where God is taking you. God tells us to go—and changes everything in our lives in the process—but he doesn’t tell us where. God told Abraham to go from Ur to somewhere new without telling him where. And Abraham obeyed. Maybe God wants you to serve in a different area than where you’re currently serving. Or maybe he is telling you to sell your house, and you’re wondering, “But where am I going?” Faith is following God’s leading without knowing “where.”
(3) A Delayed Promise – This time you’re asking, “When?” God, when will you answer my prayer? When will our church grow? When will my marriage change? You’re not the first to ask the question, “When?” The Bible tells us Abraham had a similar experience: “Even when he reached the land God promised him, he lived there by faith—for he was like a foreigner, living in tents. And so did Isaac and Jacob, who inherited the same promise. Abraham was confidently looking forward to a city with eternal foundations, a city designed and built by God” (Hebrews 11:9-10). Abraham based his life on God’s promises—not explanations. And his faith grew because of it. Faith is waiting for God’s timing without knowing “when.”
(4) An Impossible Problem – This is the “how” test. You have a problem and do not know how to solve it. Remember when God told Abraham that he would be a father? At 99 years old, it was physically impossible for him and his wife to have a child. But God did the impossible—through the faith of Sarah (and Abraham). The Bible tells us, “It was by faith that even Sarah was able to have a child, though she was barren and was too old. She believed that God would keep his promise” (Hebrews 11:11). Faith is expecting a miracle without knowing “how.” You might be experiencing a problem in your family or your church that seems unsolvable. But as you trust God, even with the unsolvable, your faith will grow.
(5) A Senseless Loss – Sometimes we face a loss in life that makes no sense. Often, we look for an explanation even when there is none. You can spend your whole life looking to explain the unexplainable. Our response to this senseless loss is usually, “Why?” Why did the person I love die? Why did my dream end? Why did I lose my job? Imagine putting yourself in Abraham’s shoes. God asked him to sacrifice his son—his only son upon which all of his dreams of fathering a nation rested. Abraham couldn’t explain why God asked him to do this, but in faith, he obeyed. And then God provided another way. Faith is trusting God’s purpose without knowing “why.”
(6) A Long-lasting Pain – This is the “how long” test. It’s about the chronic pain in your life. Whether it’s relational, spiritual, or physical, it is suffering that won’t go away. You simply must live with it. In Hebrews 11:24-26, the Bible tells us that Moses endured all kinds of suffering—including conflict, criticism, and pain—to pursue what God wanted to do through his life. At times, he must have asked God, “How long, Lord?” Moses didn’t choose what felt right. God’s Word tells us this about Moses: “He thought it was better to suffer for the sake of Christ than to own the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking ahead to his great reward” (Hebrews 11:26).
This test will help you develop a faithful determination. You don’t always feel like turning the other cheek when you face criticism. You don’t always feel like staying in a troubled marriage. But like Moses, we keep going. That’s faith. Faith is persisting through pain without knowing “how long.” If you’re not facing one of these tests right now, it’s coming—and likely soon. God gives you these tests because he loves you and wants you to grow. Will you respond in faith the next time you face one?
Some background information on Roy S. Nicholson, the person I’m going to tell you about. He served The Wesleyan Methodist Church in every general elective office except as publisher and secretary of world missions. His influence and contribution even to those ministries were extraordinarily strong and effective. He was the dominant figure in the latter period of the history of The Wesleyan Methodist Church (1935-1968).
Roy did not remember when he was first taken to church because he always went. There were daily prayers at home and his mother always prayed with her children, but there came a time when he felt that he must go to the altar and ask God to save him. One winter, when Roy was 14, a revival was held. God spoke to him very clearly. He knew he must decide whether he would follow his own plans or let God have his life. He chose God’s way. After Roy was saved, he knew that God wanted him to become a preacher. Often while sitting on his mother’s lap as she read from the Bible, he would interrupt to tell her, “I am going to preach on that someday!”
Genesis 22:8, Abraham said, “My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb.”
Pastor Roy S. Nicholson told of a time when he had no money to buy food. Determined to trust God by faith for his needs and not telling anyone, he and his wife presented their case to the Lord in prayer. The next morning, he set the table for breakfast, confident that the Lord would provide something to eat. Just then a boy from their Sunday school came to the house with a sack of flour and some milk. Tears welled up in the pastor’s eyes. No sooner had he left than “Granny” Turner appeared at the door carrying a large serving tray loaded with Virginia ham, eggs, grits and gravy, hot biscuits, butter, jelly, and coffee. Nicholson was filled with praise to God.
In our study, Abraham faced an even more serious test of faith than Pastor Nicholson. God had told him he would become the father of a great nation, but then God asked him to sacrifice his only promised son, Isaac, on the altar. How could Abraham do such a thing! Yet, many years of trusting God for his long-awaited son had taught him that his confidence in God would be fully rewarded. “God will provide for Himself the lamb,” he told Isaac. Faith like that is not born in a day, a week or month. It’s the result of years of seeing God’s faithfulness to His promises, and our faith grows as we daily choose to trust in what He says and abide in His precious Word.
Lord, forgive us for not trusting You more. When we face times of testing, may we follow Abraham’s example and believe You will provide exactly what we need.
The God who delivered us yesterday is worthy of our obedience today