“The testing of your faith produces …”
All faith has to be tested to prove that it is real faith. This is the opening theme of James’ wonderful letter that we started reading today – and in our continued reading of Job we see him as an extreme example of testing from God – or that God allowed. Paul wrote, “God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).
When we come to James 5, we will read, “Behold, we consider those blessed who remain steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful” (verse 11). Being ‘steadfast’ is a stronger word than ‘patience’ – which the old KJV uses, but even the KJV uses ‘enduring’ for the same Greek word in 2 Corinthians 1:6.
James is generally believed to be the half-brother of our Lord, Like Paul, James turned from the rejection of Christ (John 7:5) to acceptance and to play an important role at the Jerusalem conference (Acts 15:13; note also 21:18). Looking further at James’ epistle: what does he tell us that the testing of our faith produces? The most challenging point he makes is that they (and we) should “count it all joy … when you meet trials of various kinds” (verse 2). James had become convinced of what some have called the power of positive thinking!
His next words are, “for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete …”. The twenty-first century is producing many challenges to our faith, both as to what we believe and also as to whether there is a God at all! How well is our faith surviving in an utterly godless environment?
Jesus told his disciples, “Behold I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16). Do we understand what he meant? We know well what the first serpent said and how that sowed seeds of doubt in the minds of the first humans.
Believers have to reverse this – and be “wise” in how to produce doubt in the minds of those who believe there is no God, or trust in idols, or in whatever they trust. But, becoming worldly wise is dangerous, for then they (and we) cease to be “lambs”.
Spiritual wisdom is the most precious possession we can develop. James says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God who gives generously … but let him ask in faith, with no doubting …” (verses 5,6). How do you ask God? Prayer of course – and search his Holy word for wisdom; how wise to do so every day.