I’ve always been good at taking tests and quizzes. I think the last “test” I took was a BuzzFeed quiz titled, “Which Summer Coffee Drink Are You?” It was, obviously, a waste of time and didn’t have any real significance to my life (maybe), but it was a mindless, easy contrast to the past years of educational test-taking and the challenging, real tests of life.
Testing of Your Faith
The book of James opens by portraying the Christian life as a series of tests. James wrote to the twelve scattered tribes of Israel to challenge them in their spiritual maturity (v1). Throughout this letter, he outlines the marks of a mature Christian. The letter’s recipients were battling temptations to sin, straying toward worldliness, and verbally destroying one another. In the case of these Christian Jews, they weren’t passing these tests as well as they should, and it was due to immaturity.
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 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, lacking in nothing…Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. – James 1:2-4, 12
Jesus’ perfect work in redeeming us leads to His perfecting of us. We know this as the sanctification process – becoming more like Him. We cannot be sinless, but we can be spiritually mature, grown up, complete (v4).
As we mature, Satan will oppose us. However, we can be joyful - even in this (v2) - because trials are the very things that bring about character and eternal glory (2 Cor. 4:17). Expect trials; there’s no need to pretend everything is flawless in this messy Christian life. Endure with the perspective of God’s promised goodness to us, remembering how Jesus endured the cross for the joy set before Him (v12, Hebrews 12:2).
A+ Grade vs. Cheating
Warren Wiersbe writes, “God tests to bring forth the best; Satan tempts to bring out the worst.” When handed a test, one option is to complete it well, with a diligent mind. The other option is to pass the test through cheating. Cheating is an escape, via route of temptation. In trials, praying for deliverance from difficulty isn’t necessarily the answer…We are to ask instead for wisdom in how to use them as opportunities for growth (v5).
But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. – James 1:14-17
Because our temptations appeal to already existing, natural, and good desires, we are deceived into thinking they are gifts. Wiersbe writes, “Satan never gives any gifts, because you end up paying for them dearly.” The solution is not to then deny or suppress desires but to master them. Know that we will often have unmet desires, but, “It’s better to be hungry in the will of God than full outside the will of God” (Wiersbe).
What happens in a moment of giving in to temptation? We don’t fear God - His warnings and justice. Deception hides the possibility of consequences from our awareness. We’re not grateful - we forget His goodness and provision. We forget that His divine power and life are within us. And if we forget all these things, Satan’s way of meeting desires looks pretty attractive.
Battle in Worship
When we choose to endure a test without escaping it, we are acknowledging Jesus as King. We’re worshipping, proving that He’s far better to us than what Satan could offer. Our submission shows that the Lord is the only One worthy of our affections and allegiance.
Right now, we’re living in a battle; we have a real Lord and a real enemy. Tests and temptations teach us patience, as we are looking forward to our real home.
Refuse to turn tests into temptation! Resist the devil; he HAS to flee (James 4:7). Endure patiently, and maturely complete your tests God’s way, entrusting your desires to Him. In moments of temptation, battle in worship, and remind yourself of promises worth waiting for. I’m with you. Keep pressing on, together. We’re almost home!
Recommended Track of the Week: “House of God, Forever” by Page CXVI