Today we begin a new series of studies through the book of James. As many of you know, James is one of the most straightforward and practical books in all the Bible. As some might say – “James tells it like it is.”
The first topic James tackles is – ‘How God can use our problems to purify our faith.’
James 1:2 Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. 3 For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. 4 So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing. NLT
No one that I know of jumps for joy whenever they experience a problem. Instead, many of us try to get out of our problems as quickly as possible. Yet James tells us that God often has a divine purpose for our problems.
James tells us that God sometimes uses problems to prove the genuineness of our faith. Note again vs. 3 – [For you know that when your faith is tested…] Peter echoes this thought in his first epistle. [In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 1:6-7 ESV] Like gold that is placed in the fire for refinement, so God sometimes places us in the furnace of affliction in order to purify our faith. (Note Isaiah 48:10) It is only through these trials that the validity of our faith can be known. Someone has said that a faith that can’t be tested, can’t be trusted. The truth is, we really don’t know for sure how strong our faith is until it is put to the test.
A perfect illustration of this is found in the story of Job. Satan told God that if Job’s faith was put to a severe test, Job would turn against God and quit. God replied to Satan – “Test him and let’s see what happens.” (see Job 1:1-2:10) At one point during his trial Job said – [But he knows the way that I take; when he has tried me, I shall come out as gold. Job 23:10 ESV] Though Job did not understand why he had to suffer the way he did, he held strongly to his faith in God and he refused to quit. Whenever I read this I wonder if God looked over at Satan and said, “I told you so!”