Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament epistle which was written by James the half brother of Jesus. More specifically, today’s passage is found in verses nineteen through twenty-seven of the first chapter. When you come to this particular passage you find the second part of the first chapter being presented. This far within the chapter we have found James writing unto his audience concerning temptation, trial, tests and tribulation. In fact, the epistle itself began and opened with James immediately writing concerning temptation and tests, for James Leone’s the epistle by instructing Arn encouraging his audience to consider it pure joy when they fell into divers temptations and divers trials. I happen to find the use of the word “dived” in this passage to be absolutely and incredibly intriguing, for James didn’t write saying and speaking of a singular temptation. I absolutely love that James used this word to reference and speak about temptations, for that which James was doing was preventing us with the fact that within this life we can and will experience an overwhelming amount of temptations, trials, troubles and tests. There is not one singular test or trouble that we will face and experience within this life, but rather there is a wide variety and wide array of temptation and trials we can and will face within this life. It would have been one thing for games to write unto his audience and to speak of a specific number of temptations or trials, however, that isn’t what games did when writing this epistle. When you read the words of James within this epistle you can’t help but be reminded of the words which the author of the epistle unto the Hebrews wrote in the twelfth chapter. When writing and instructing their audience to run with endurance the race which was set before then, they also spoke of laying aside every weight and the sin which so easily besets them within their lives. This, that which the author of this epistle was writing about concerned a wide variety of temptations and trials and tests which would and could be experienced by the saints of God.
When you read the words which James writes in the first chapter of this epistle you find him immediately opening up the epistle instructing and encouraging his audience to consider it pure joy when they faced and experienced dives temptations, tests and trials, for he knew and understood the purpose behind such trials, troubles and temptations. I have to admit that I absolutely love the words which James writes—particularly and especially concerning the reality that there are a wide array and a wide variety of struggles, conflicts, trials and troubles we can and will face. In fact, I would dare say that within and throughout the course of our lives it is possible that we will not face the same test and trial twice. Please note that this isn’t to say that it is beyond the realm of possibility that we do not experience the same trial and trouble, but that within and throughout the course of our lives we find ourselves walking through and experiencing a variety of different struggles and conflicts. I can’t help but be reminded of the Old Testament example of Job, for even the two tests and trials he faced and experienced weren’t the same in their nature. If you read the first chapter of this Old Testament book you will find that when Satan was given permission and authority to attack and assault Job, he first began by destroying his possessions and his family. There were a series of reports that were brought to Job concerning his possessions which were looted and carried off by marauders and invaders, as well as a finale report concerning a freak accident in which a strong wind caused the sudden collapse of the house in Nebuchadnezzar all his children were in. When the devil came and appeared before the Lord a second time he again obtained permission and authority to assault and assail Jib—this time through attacking his physical body with boils and sores.
It is clear when reading the account of this Old Testament saint that the trials and conflicts Job experiences weren’t of the same nature by and means. Whereas when Satan first came against Job he brought about the plundering and looting of his possessions, as well as the death of his children, the second time around was something completely and totally different. When Satan came against Job he didn’t come against him the same way twice, but rather came against him from a different angels. WHEN TROUBLE COMES AGAINST YOU FROM DIFFERENT ANGELS! WHEN CONFLICT COMES AGAINST YOU FROM ALL SIDES! WHEN TRIALS AND TROUBLES COME FEOM EVERY DIRECTION WITHIN YOUR LIFE. As I am sitting here this morning I am absolutely and completely gripped and captivated with and by the reality that when trouble comes against us within and throughout the course of our lives, it rarely every comes from the same direction. What I mean by this, is that we cannot and dare not get in the habit of expecting struggle and conflict in specific locations and thereby become blindsided by conflict and blindsided by struggle. It is true that the apostle Peter wrote unto his audience concerning the fiery trial(s) which they faced when he wrote the following words: “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: but rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when His glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part He is evil spoken of, but on your part He is glorified. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters. Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf” (1 Peter 4:12-16). When writing unto his audience the apostle Peter instructed them to not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which came to try them as though some strange thing happened to them. In all reality, that which the apostle Peter was writing unto his audience was a powerful encouragement and instruction to anticipate and expect conflict, struggle, trouble, trials and temptation. Please note that what I am suggesting is not that we go and look for conflict, or that we go and look for struggle, or that we even go and look for temptation and trouble, but that we learn to expect it. There are far too many among us who are surprised and caught off guard when it comes to suffering and conflict, and as a direct result of being surprised, they are unable to handle and bear up under it.
If you read and study the Old Testament book of the Psalms you will find a number of Psalms written by David who was king over the nation of Israel. When you study the life of David as it is presented in the Old Testament you will find that David was no stranger to conflict, nor was he a strange to struggle, trouble, trial and tribulation. Another such individual who was no stranger to conflict and struggle was the apostle Paul, and I can’t help but be reminded of the words which the apostle Paul writes in the latter half of the eleventh chapter of his second epistle unto the Corinthian congregation, as well as the twelfth chapter of the same epistle. If you read both of these chapters you begin to encounter a powerful picture of the apostle Paul regularly and routinely experiencing trouble, conflict and struggle on all sides. In fact, I would encourage you to consider the words which are contained within these two chapters beginning with the twenty-third chapter of the eleventh chapter. Beginning with this particular verse in the eleventh chapter we find the following words:
“Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep in journeying often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness, and painfulness, in watching often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is offended, and I burn not? If I must needs glory, I will glory of the things which concern mine infirmities” (2 Corinthians 11:23-30).
“It is not expedient for me doubtless to glory. I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord. I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell ; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knowth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven. And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) how that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter. Of such an one will I glory: yet of myself I will not glory, but in mine infirmities. For though I would desire to glory, I shall not be a fool; for I will say the truth: but now I forbear, lest any man should think of me above that which he seeth me to be, or that he heareth of me. And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And He said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in mine infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong” (2 Corinthians 12:1-10).
It is quite clear and quite obvious when reading the words which the apostle Paul wrote in these two chapters that he was absolutely no stranger to conflict and struggle within his life and ministry. If you read the entire New Testament book of Acts, and when you read the various epistles which were written by the apostle you will quickly discover that the apostle Pau continually and almost regularly experiencing conflict and struggle within his life and ministry. Within and throughout the life and ministry of the apostle Paul he continued to face conflict and struggles on a regular and consistent basis, and if there was one person who was most certainly not surprised by conflict and struggle, it was the apostle Paul. You cannot read and study the life and ministry of the apostle Paul for any length of time and consider the fact that he was never surprised by conflict and struggle within his life. In fact, I would dare say that the apostle Paul was never taken back by, nor was he ever surprised by any conflict, any trial, any suffering, any struggle he faced within his life. There is not a doubt in my mind that the apostle anticipated and even expected to experience and endure conflict and struggle, and this reality was presented by Jesus Christ Himself before the apostle Paul even engaged himself in public ministry. If you read the words which the Lord Himself spoke unto Ananias while Saul was still blind within the city of Damascus, you will find Saul not only being destined for apostolic ministry, but also destined for conflict, struggle, strife, trials, trouble and tribulation on all sides. Consider if you will the encounter which was had between Ananias and the Lord Jesus Christ while Saul was still blind in a house in the city of Damascus and praying unto the Lord:
“And there was a certain disciple at Damascus, named Ananias; and to him said the Lord ina. Vision, Ananias. And he said, Behold, I am here, Lord. And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the street which is called Straigh, and inquire in the house of Judas for one called Saul, of Tarsus: for, behold, he prayeth, and hath seen in a vision a man named Ananias coming in, and putting his hand on him, that he might receive his sight. Then Ananias answered, Lord, I have heard by many of this man, how much evil he hath done to thy saints at Jerusalem: and here he hath authority from the chief priests to bind all that call on thy name. But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel: FOR I WILL SHEW HIM HOW GREAT THINGS HE MUST SUFFER FOR MY NAME’S SAKE. And Ananias went his way, and entered into the house; and putting his hands on him said, Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou comest, hath sent me, that you mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost. And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales: and he received sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized. And when he had redefined meat, he was strengthened. Then was Saul certain days with the disciples which were at Damascus. And straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues, that He is the Son of God” (Acts 9:10-20).
Even before Saul’s name would be changed to Paul, and even before he would begin preaching the name and identity of Jesus Christ as the Son of the living God, it was already predetermined that he would experience much suffering and would experience much conflict and struggle within his life. When speaking unto Ananias the Lord Jesus Christ revealed unto him that Saul would be shown just how much he would suffer for His name’s sake within and throughout the course of his life and ministry. Oh, we dare not miss or lose sight of this reality, for I am convinced that to do so would be to sorely and severely miss the point of what is being made. Is it possible that the greater the calling, the greater the suffering we might very well find ourselves experiencing? In other words, is it possible that the degree and measure of suffering we experience can be directly proportionate to the calling which is upon our lives? I can’t help but be reminded of the words which the apostle Paul spoke unto the Ephesian elders when he was bidding them farewell and informing them they would never see his face again. In the twentieth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts we find the following words which were spoken by the apostle Paul unto these elders:
“Ye know, from the first day that I came into Asia, after what manner I have been with you at all seasons, serving the Lord with all humility of mind, and with many tears, and temptations, w high befell me by the lying in wait of the Jews: and how I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have shewed you, and have taught you publicly, and from house to house, testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ. And now, behold, I go bound in the spirit unto Jerusalem, not knowing the things that shall befall me there: save that the Holy Ghost witnesseth in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions abide me. But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God. And now, behold I know that ye all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, shall see my face no more. Wherefore I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men. For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God. Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which He hath purchased with His own blood. For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears. And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified. I have covered no man’s silver, or gold, or apparel. Yea, ye yourselves know, that these hands have ministered unto my necessities, and to them that were with me. I have shewed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember. The words of the Lord Jesus, how He said, It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:18-35).
When speaking unto the Ephesian elders the apostle Paul emphatically declared unto them them that he was going bound in the spirit unto Jerusalem, not knowing the things which would befall and overtake him there. The only thing the apostle knew by revelation of the Spirit of the living God was that in every city bonds and afflictions abided within him. The apostle Paul would go on to declare that none of these things moved him, nor did he count his life dear unto himself, in order that he might finish his course with joy, and the ministry, which he received of the Lord Jesus. It is absolutely necessary and imperative that we recognize and pay close attention to the words which the apostle Paul spoke unto the Ephesian elders, for that which he spoke echoed that which the Lord Jesus Christ spoke unto Ananias several years earlier when Paul was still Saul, and when he was still blind in the house of Judas in the city of Damascus. That which the Holy Spirit revealed and spoke unto the apostle Paul was the same message which the Lord Jesus Christ spoke unto Ananias when he was sent to lay his hands on Saul and pray for him that he might receive his sight, be baptized, and begin the ministry unto which he was called. The apostle Paul knew, recognized and understood that he would be continually surrounded by conflict and struggle, and he knew that within and throughout the course of his ministry he would face and experience trouble, tribulation and trials. The apostle Paul knew that regardless of where he went he would experience conflict, strife and opposition—a reality which was evidenced in the fact that he experienced conflict within Ephesus, within Corinth, within Thessalonica, within Berea, and within various other cities. In all reality, there was absolutely nothing the apostle Paul could do to avoid conflict and struggle within his life, for it was already predetermined by the Lord Jesus Christ that he would experience much suffering within and throughout his life. The apostle Paul was one who was not surprised, nor was he shocked and stunned by conflict, struggle and strife within his life, for the Lord Jesus Christ revealed at the very outset of his new life and Christ that he would suffer many things at the behest of his own brethren, at the behest of Gentiles, and at the behest of rulers and leaders within the world at that time. In fact, even as early as his time within the city of Damascus the apostle Paul experienced conflict, strife and opposition, and so much so that he had to be delivered from the city of Damascus, and from those who would seek to overwhelm and destroy him. From the very outset of his new life in Christ and the ministry entrusted unto him the apostle Paul would regularly and routinely experience conflict, strife, suffering, trials and tribulation, and most certainly would not have considered it a strange thing happening unto him, or taking place within his life.
When James wrote the epistle which we find in the New Testament, he began that epistle by writing unto his audience and instructing them to count it all joy when they fell into divers temptations. Why? How? How could those to whom he was writing count it all joy when they fell into divers temptations? How could they—instead of complaining, instead of murmuring, instead of grumbling—count it all joy, and perhaps even rejoice in the midst of their trials, rejoice in the midst of their temptations, and rejoice in the midst of their troubles? How can we as the saints of God rejoice in the face of our own conflicts and struggles? James goes on to answer this question by declaring that the trying of our faith works patience within our hearts and spirits. It is possible to count it all joy when we fall into divers temptations because we know that such temptations and such trials and tests work patience. A similar message was echoed by the apostle Peter in the first chapter of the first epistle which he wrote unto the diaspora which was scattered abroad within and throughout the earth. Consider if you will the words which are found and recorded in the first chapter of the first epistle beginning with the third verse:
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to His abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible, and undefined, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: that the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ: whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye seem him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory: receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls. Of which salvation the prophets have inquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you: searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow. Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into” (1 Peter 1:3-12).
THE TRIAL OF YOUR FAITH! THE TRYING OF YOUR FAITH! In the first epistle which the apostle Peter wrote, he referenced “the trial of our faith,” while in the epistle which was written by James we find him writing concerning “the trying of our faith.” TEMPTATIONS AND THE TRIAL OF YOUR FAITH! WHEN FAITH IS PUT ON TRIAL! Although I have only delved into the first chapter of the epistle which was written by James, I can’t help ;but be convinced that this particular epistle can be summarized as “THE TRIAL OF FAITH: WHEN OUR FAITH IS PUT ON TRIAL!” In all reality, I am convinced that within and throughout the course of our lives our faith is in fact put on trial, and is put on trial on two different fronts. We learn of the first trial of our faith in the first chapter of the epistle, for James not only instructs his audience to “count it all joy when we fall into divers temptations,” but in the twelfth verse of the chapter James writes “Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love Him.” Twice within the first chapter of this epistle James writes concerning the testing and the trying of our faith, and he references it in terms of the various temptations, trials, troubles, conflict, struggles, and suffering we face and experience. James recognized and understood that our faith is put on trial through manifold temptations and divers temptations. The apostle Peter wrote of manifold temptations, and James wrote of divers temptations, and both of these are used by the Lord to bring about the testing and the trying of our faith. I am utterly and completely convinced that our faith is put on trial through the various trials, the various temptations, the various troubles we face within and throughout the course of our lives, and we dare not, we cannot, and must not attempt to seek solace from such a trial. What’s more, is that the trial of our faith can come at any point in time, and more often than not comes into our lives unannounced and without warning or advanced notice. More often than not conflict, struggle, strife, trouble and trials enter into our lives—almost as if they are invaders and thieves who are seeking access and entrance into our lives. I am absolutely and utterly convinced that on the one hand our faith is put on trial through the manifold and divers temptations we face and experience within and throughout the course of our lives, and one the other hand our faith is put on trial through the absence and/or presence of works which are the direct manifestation of such faith. Consider if you will the words which James writes in the second chapter of this epistle beginning with the fourteenth verse:
“What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, and one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye armed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. Likewise, also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way? For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead” (James 2:14-26).
The more I read and the more I study the New Testament epistle which was written by James, the more I am completely and totally convinced that it is possible for our faith to be put on trail—not only through the divers and manifold temptations we face and experience, but also through the presence of works within our lives. James emphatically and without hesitation and reservation declared that just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead. James emphatically wrote that we demonstrate and manifest our faith in the earth by and through the works we engage ourselves in. James wrote concerning one showing their faith without works, but of another who shows and demonstrates their faith by and through works. I am convinced that our faith is put on trial when our works—or lack thereof—is carefully examined within and throughout the course of our lives. Our faith is put on trial through the various trials, troubles and temptations we face, experience and endure within and throughout the course of our lives, and there are so many of us who would seek to postpone such a trial within our lives. There are so many men and women among us within the house of the Lord who would seek to somehow postpone, delay, or even eliminate the trial of their faith—all the while not recognizing and realizing that such a trial is absolutely vital and critical for the work which is to take place within their hearts and lives. There are so many of us who try and avoid our faith being put on trial through manifold temptations, and even through the manifestation of works within our lives, and yet such an attempt is more often than not futile. There are multiple times within our lives when the Lord Himself will put our faith on trial—much like He did with and through the life of His servant Job in the Old Testament. Satan came from walking to and fro within and throughout the earth, and from going up and down in it, and it was the Lord who presented the case for Job to experience and undergo a serious trial of his faith. What’s more, is that not only did Job face and experience a single trial of his faith, but that trial had two distinct phases and parts to it. Within the first two chapters of the Old Testament book of Job you will find that the trial of his faith underwent the first phase of his possessions and children being stripped, stolen and robbed from him, while the second phase of the trial was the assault and attack on his physical body. In all reality, the trial of Job’s faith was one that was incited and initiated by the Lord Himself, for it was the Lord who seemingly offered Job up on a silver platter before Satan in order that he might come against him with such great force. If there is one thing I would encourage you who are reading the words of this writing, it is that you neither seek to postpone, nor to eliminate the trial of your faith, for in and by doing so, you might very well be doing irreparable damage to your faith in the process. It is absolutely necessary and imperative that we allow our faith to be put on trial by the Lord Jesus Christ—much like Jesus stood on trial before Pontius Pilate, much like the apostles stood trial before the Sanhedrin, and much like the apostle Paul stood trial before the rulers and leaders of that day. I am convinced that the more we seek to postpone, and the more we seek to eliminate the trial(s) of our faith, the more we are assaulting and attacking the work of Christ within our lives—a work which seeks to bring about that which is refined within our lives.