Lesson One – The Testing of Faith

Testing of Faith

Scripture Text:  James 1:1-12.

A.    Introduction.

James assumed the recipients knew the word of God; therefore, he was justified for beginning his letter with the joys and benefits of Christians’ faith testing.  The recipients’ faith came from hearing God’s “living and enduring” word (Rom. 10:17; Heb. 4:2).  The faith abiding in Christians’ hearts began to develop in the starting processes of God’s begetting us by His word.  Christians, as mature people, have understood we died spiritually to God during our adolescent stage of life.  By God’s grace and through repentant sinners’ faith in the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, Christians have been born again.  We were, and still are, begotten by God based on faith in the doctrine of the new birth and justification by faith (Rom. 5:1, 15-17; I Pet. 1:23; Jas. 1:18).

Christians learned about God’s new covenant. We decided to put our faith in this covenant in our repentance (Luke 5:32).  The first covenant blessing we received was the remission of all past sins in baptism (Acts 2:38; 16:30-33; Heb. 8:10-12).  The point is – the first part of our new birth processes was where faith impacted our lives (I Pet. 1:8).   From God’s word Christians heard about His kingdom and the quality of life Jesus Christ revealed and taught while on earth (Luke 4:18, 19, 43) .  Jesus has been given the rule of certain aspects of God’s kingdom to bring “many sons to glory.”  Heb. 2:10.  A member of the church is, at the same time, a citizen of Jesus’ kingdom (Phil. 3:20).    Jesus’ quality of life is the culture of His kingdom (Luke 17:20, 21; Col. 1:27).  The life Jesus lived and taught is the goal of each citizen of the kingdom for the salvation of our souls (I Pet. 1:8, 9).  Jesus’ life has revealed the law for each individual member of the church.   It is the same law that gives us liberty to grow as children of God (Jas. 1:25; 2:12; II Cor. 6:17, 18).

Our faith in our new birth and all of our additional points of faith will be tested according to James 1:2-4.  We have heard other things from God’s word and we are still hearing many truths the world does not accept by faith.  Some Christians have been classified as number two soil by Jesus Christ.  They “slipped through the cracks” at their first testing (Matt. 13:5, 6; 20, 21).  Some Corinthian Christians were encouraged to repent (II Cor. 7:8-11; Jas. 5:19, 20).

Christians know about Jesus’ coming again to bring many sons to glory.  This will satisfy our innate needs for “praise, glory and honor.”   I Pet. 1:7.  Surely, Jesus will bring back to God what He predestined before creation.  Please see Eph. 1:4-6; Rom. 8:28-30.  This is our faith that will continually be tested until we die.  Why? Because this testing produces patience and patience develops mature and integrated Christians.

B.  Lesson.

The Hebrew writer’s definition of faith is; “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”  KJV.  Heb. 11:1.  The Greek word translated substance is hupostatsis.  It is made up of two words; hupo, under; stasis, standing.  It means being confident, or giving the assurance of something.  Evidence has been translated from elegmos.   It denotes “proving, proof, test.”  Please note the word hope in this definition.  Hope is a word to which we can all relate.  We have been hoping for something before we can remember.  Hope requires the human endowment of imagination.

It works like this:  Christians read a scripture such as James 1:9; “The brother in humble circumstances ought to take pride in his high position.”  We may search other scriptures to attain a full understanding of what is this “high position” of a born again person (John 1:12, 13).  John spoke about people on earth who receive Jesus and His life as the law of our lives; “He gave them a right to become children of God.”  Now we must decide if this is true, so we check it out by more Bible study (I John 3:1-3).  For those of us who decide to accept it as truth, our God given imagination “kicks in.”  It helps us identify our “selves” with what we believe.  We can actually imagine ourselves as a child of God.  This imaginary view can then become our faith.   We know we can do this because we often imagine ourselves in a given position we hope to achieve.

We might also ask ourselves: “Do I believe God is able to make this happen for me?”  Abraham believed God was able to do for him what He had promised (Rom. 4:18-25).  Thus after reading this particular scripture with understanding, we may look for more proof in other scriptures to make sure we are reading the scriptures in the proper context with what we understand.  We may ask; “Am I included in this promise?”  Some may say; “it sounds too good to be true and even if it is; I doubt that God can, or will, do it for me.”  However, all people who are Christians have decided it is “truth” and it does include each of us (John 1:17).  We believe God “exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.”  Heb. 11:6.  Faith began for us personally at the point when we decided earnestly to seek God.  Faith that saves is our faith producing a behavior in accordance with our hope (Jas. 2:17).  Faith brings spiritual elements to our present lives in Christ (things not seen).  We become so confident of our hope we read about in scripture, we enjoy the reality of it daily.  It is real.  A Christians’ faith must be real enough to obey (Rom. 1:5).  This is our faith James said would be tested.  The test will produce patience, if the test goes well.  We can be sure the testing will come because it is a foundational part of God’s plan to have children in His eternal kingdom (I Pet. 1:7).

The prerequisite to having faith is learning from God’s word.  If we believe what we understand will satisfy, or give us a hope for the satisfaction of one or more of our God-given needs, we can place our faith in it, if we so desire.  It is our choice.  Once we commit ourselves to what we learned from God’s word, what we hoped for becomes a part of our lives (Heb. 11:1).  First we learned about this substance in our minds.  After it became faith, it is now a passion in our hearts.  The assurance of what we hoped for becomes the zeal for our activity.  Christians grow in learning; thus stronger faith develops.  Growth is limitless (Matt. 13:31, 32).  This is how the kingdom of God develops in Christians.  Our behavior produces the righteousness of God as we internalize God’s word in our hearts and minds (Rom. 6:13).  This is the aim of God’s new covenant for all mankind (Heb. 8:10-12).

Now to broaden our thinking about the foregoing focal points of the hope in our faith, let us consider how faith in the way God put us together and our other capacities impact Christians’ daily lives:

  • Inner/outer man concept.  We have been created in two distinct parts.  Gen 2:7; Eccl. 12:7; II Cor. 4:16.
  • Adam sinned; consequently, the knowledge of good and evil, in conjunction with our other capacities, became an endowment of the human capability for examining ourselves.  Gen 3:22; II Cor. 13:5; Heb. 5:14.  We are aware of what is good and what is evil in the world (Matt. 10:16; Rom. 12:9, 21).  We are also aware of our behavior.  We examine it in our minds and accuse or excuse ourselves in conjunction with our consciences (Rom. 2:15).
  • We can hear the foregoing information about all human beings in God’s word.  When we understand, believe and trust this information as an adequate description of our present situation, we will have added faith about these facts to our “selves.”  This will become our new way of working with our “selves” and others.  For instance, since I have faith I have been created in two distinct parts, I have a different attitude about aging – about life and death.
  • All mature people have the capacity to add faith to “who we are,” but it is a human choice.  A Christian’s faith combined with the word of God is the new creation of our “selves.”  II Cor. 5.17; Heb. 4:2.
  • The re-creation of our “selves” is our sanctification.  It is our spiritual growth program until we die (Eph. 4:20-24).
  • Sanctification demands the individual testing of each Christian’s faith.  This is how Abraham’s faith was “made complete.”  Jas. 2:22.  After he passed the test his faith became a foundational base for his identity – who he was and who he now is.  This is also the quality of faith in the doctrine of “justification by faith.”  Jas. 2:23.

The foregoing may help align our thoughts with James’ “train of thought” as we listen to the “mind of God” in His divine document called James.

1:2-4.             The testing of our faith produces patience.  Patience’s work produces a mature and complete person.  The Greek word hupomone has been translated patience in the KJV, perseverance in the NIV and endurance in the NASB.  It is made up from two words, hupo – under and meno – to abide.

1:5-8.             We can have God’s wisdom in this and other encounters by asking with the right motive.

1:9-11.          Christians enjoy social equality in our roles as individuals while on earth (Gal. 3:28; I Pet. 3:5-7).

1:12.              The goal of our patience is being developed and enjoyed while the exercises (temptations) are in progress.  A son of God is being developed in and of us as long as our faith is being perfected (Heb. 12:4-10).  The process will never be completed during our life on earth (Jas. 3:2).

C.    The following is an exercise to follow the style, or train of thought, of the author in this text.  Please add the numbers representing the verses matching the following statements:

1.    The identification of the writer and recipients.  ________

2.    The testing of a Christian’s faith by trials should develop patience.

                Patience’s works:

                 a.  Mature (NIV), perfect (KJV); Translated from the Greek word, teleios.  It means having reached its end.

                b.  Complete, entire; oholokleros, soundness – development of every grace.

                c.  All sufficient, wanting nothing leipo, not left behind.  ________

3.    In case we are in need of wisdom (sophia) for the foregoing exercises we are invited to ask God to supply us with His wisdom from above.    ________    See James 3:17.

4.    There should be no social stratification in the church because all Christians are in training.  “Patience’s work” in each member shows no favoritism in the church.  God’s wisdom is equally available to all members who ask God without doubting.  ________

5.    The crown of life is God’s growth process for Christians who successfully engage ourselves in the foregoing exercises.  ________

D.    Questions for Discussion

  1. The author of this document is identified as James, but which James?  See Acts 1:13; 12:2;  15:13;  21:18;  Gal. 1:19.
  2. Give evidence from within this document that suggests James addressed some Christians with a Jewish cultural background.  Please see James 1:1;  2:8-11, 20-26;  5:17, 18.
  3.  Read James 1:2-8 and answer the following questions:

        a.  What is one of God’s purposes for testing Christians’ faith?

     b. Fill in the blank and answer the following question:  What is the result God desires for Christians when their characteristic of _______________ finishes its work in them?

        c.  What is the “pure joy” in situations where Christians are faced with trials and win?

4.    Give your definition of wisdom; that is, in what context might you ask God for wisdom?  What would you get if you ask with proper faith?

a.   Why is it reasonable to think God would not find fault (upbraideth not, KJV) with a Christian who asks for wisdom without doubting?

b.  Characterize a Christian who would ask God for wisdom but doubted that he or she would get their request.

5.    Please read James 1:9-11.  What was the previous circumstance of each of the two church members noted in this scripture?  In other words, in their relationship to God and one another, how was each of their social circumstance altered after they became Christians?

6.    How does, or could, the circumstances set forth in 1:9-11 relate to asking God for wisdom?  In other words, did James change the subject between verses 8 and 9.  If not, then how do these thoughts (paragraphs) function together?

7.    If a certain Christian did not need God’s wisdom in the exercises in question number 3, then it might be possible for them to “skip over” the instructions in verses 5 -11.  In such case verse 12 would become a summary of what James is saying in our text.  Read verses 2-4 along with verse 12 and write a statement that explains the present testing of our faith.

8.    Please explain the relationship between the present testing of our faith and our reward of the crown of life now and eternally.

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