Monday, January 5, 2009

Your Faith will be Tested!

I had the privilege of beginning a preaching series through the book of James yesterday with our church. I began by preaching James 1:1-4 and it was perhaps the most excitement I'd had preaching a sermon. It was one of those times when I felt it was exactly the right text for our church. However, it had nothing to do with me. In fact, in preparing for the sermon I realized how I had not obeyed the command of verse 2 in my life, "Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds." That seems like an absurd command if you don't read the next two verses. Even after you do read them, it sounds better, but it's still just about impossible I think. The next two verses say, "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."

I believe the trials talked about here are both great and small. They range from the smallest testing of our faith to the persecution that many believers face all over the world. So my question for our church was, "how do we do this?" The connection, I think, is found in verse 3 and verse 5 (which I preached last night). In verse three it says that they "know" a fact about the testing of their faith. In verse 5 it talks about asking God for wisdom (living out that knowledge). So the connection is that since you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness and that leads to perfection and completion in the trial, we should ask God for wisdom to live through the trial in such a way that we can count it as joy.
Having just gone through one of the most difficult trials of my life, I realized how unbelievably unprepared I was for it. So my challenge to all of us is that we prepare now for the trials that WILL come. No one is exempt from this. Trials are coming. The only way to count them as joy is to know that God is working through the trial to accomplish a great work in us. The only way to persevere is to know that God is completing something in the believer through the trial.
One more final thought about this (and there are many more that could be said), this is not something that can happen isolated away from the church. I do not know of anyone who can meet trial after trial and ALWAYS count them all as joy. We need each other. We need to be lifted up in prayer by our brothers and sisters. We need to be encouraged to remember that God is working through that test of faith to strengthen us and conform us to the image of Christ. This is one of the many tasks that can only happen well when the church sees the importance of it.
By the way, thank you to those few friends in my life who pointed me in the right direction during the trial. I was blind to my sinful reactions. I confess them before God and thank you for holding me to a higher standard.

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