Nov. 16, 2020, James 1:2–18
Have you ever had that dream where you have to take a test you haven’t studied for? The anxiety rises quickly and fears of failure and inadequacy creep in. You begin to panic. Then, thankfully, you wake up.
As a former teacher, I can tell you that a test should be an affirming experience. I never wrote a test to be a gotcha moment. There should be no surprises. The work has been done prior. The student knows what he/she has understood well and what has been a struggle. And the teacher has worked with each student to help strengthen those areas of struggle. So, the day the test arrives should affirm the student in their understanding.
The same is true with God. In our reading today in James, the author explains that God allows us to be tested, not tempted, because only good comes from God. You see, God is not in the business of playing the gotcha game. God is in the business of affirming our faith. And that is what testing does for each of us.
“In this life there will be trouble,” Jesus tells us, “but take heart for I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) And the Teacher, Solomon, tells us, “History merely repeats itself. It has all been done before. Nothing under the sun is truly new.” (Ecclesiastes 1:9) The tests we face are tests that have been faced before in different contexts. And yet, the struggle is still real because it may not be a test an individual has faced before, even if others have. There are tests that we may face that are very difficult and feel like they may break us. To assume that each person’s testing is nothing and of no concern is false and not biblical. Instead, the testing points us to a deeper truth that we are to lean more on our Savior, who has overcome the world.
God has been working in and through us to prepare us for those times of testing, just like a good teacher. And when we come through the time of testing, we should find that we have been affirmed in our faith and that our faith has even been strengthened. Sometimes that realization will come in hindsight. There is nothing wrong with later realization of the growth in faith. In fact, our God wants to strengthen our faith always. And he never gives up on us in that process. As James assures us: “God blesses those who patiently endure testing…” (1:12)
Questions for reflection:
- Consider a situation where you were being tested. Where did you find God in that situation?
- What prior experiences were valuable as you were being tested?
- In what ways did your faith grow after the time of testing?