Faith that Works: Faith under trial | Studies in the book of James

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This is part of a Bible study series on the book of James titled, "Faith that works." Visit to find more studies, follow along or subscribe.

Text of Faith that Works: Faith under trial | Studies in the book of James

  • Faith under Teaching Series

    Series: Faith that Works: Studies in the Book of James Part: #2

    Main Scripture: Selected ScripturesTeacher: Dr Paul Iles

    Date: 10.02.2013

    The MP3 audio of the study upon which this transcript is based and a learning guide are available from

    Inline, direct scripture quotes are italicised. Block quotes are indented.The New King James Version is used unless otherwise stated.

    This transcript has undergone minor editing to ensure readability.

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    Faith that W




    in the book of James

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    IntroductionJames is confronting us with what a true faith is. He is testing it and showing us a lot of lessons about how it behaves.

    We must test the reality of our faith by studying James because we live in a world of falsehood. Jesus warned us when He closed the Sermon on the Mount that we must be sure that we are standing on the right foundation, because there is a false foundation.

    Therefore James takes up the challenge with us, showing us that true saving faith is both living and active. Last study we saw that we have a new nature, and James points out that this new nature has to be evidenced by the way we behave.

    James examination is undertaken by looking in turn at all the situations we can face in real life as it is lived in this world. He then tells us how faith ought to respond to them. On completion of the study of James, you will be amazed at what your faith can do. You will be amazed at what God has put within you and the ability you have to deal with every situation in life.

    A list of many of those issues is covered in the previous study.

    Faith under trialsIn the first section of James, 1:1-12, James is looking at the Christian when we face trouble. When he talks about trials in this section, he is referring to the difficulties that beset absolutely everybody in life - not just the trials we face specifically because we are Christians. You might say that he has in mind the ups and downs of life.

    The contrast that emerges is the enormous difference between the way the Christian deals with these problems as opposed to the non-Christian, because the Christian uses their faith.

    Some people preach a brand of Christianity that takes away all your troubles. That is rubbish. As long as you are in the world, you will have troubles. Christianity is no escape route so long as this life continues. What Christianity does do it this: it gives us a faith whereby we know how to handle the trials. We are also told why they happen. We are also told what the correct response is to these situations. James then tells us what the ultimate outcome of our trials will be, which is quite beautiful.

    Section Overview (verses 1-12)A trial comes

    James 1 2 My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.This is an incredible statement. James is telling his readers to reckon it a joyful thing when we face all the trials and ups and downs of this life. He then tells us why we would do such a thing: because, through it all, we can know that the testing of our faith produces patience. Patience here means endurance - the ability to keep on continuing on, so to speak.

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    Patience works

    Follow the sequence given: first comes the trial. Then, through the trial, endurance is produced in you. Then see whats next:4 But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking noth-ing.In other words, let the trial do its job in producing this ability to stand and continue in endurance. But he also tells us to let endurance itself do its work: that we may be perfect and complete. Perfect in this context does not mean sinless, it refers to wholeness and completeness in our Christian character, not immature but possessing understanding and strength of faith through our experience.

    Wisdom is available5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without re-proach, and it will be given to him. Many people say that James writes in a staccato, unrelated, disconnected sort of fashion. That is not right. The Bible is always one flowing whole, and when a man writes a letter it makes no sense for him to completely lack connection. This verse is very definitely connected with the situation of the person who is going through trials.

    What happens when youre in a trial? Very often you do not know what to do. James is telling that person, when theyre in that situation, to turn to prayer and ask of God. And God is a giving and generous God; He gives liberally. Furthermore, He never chides you or tells you off for coming to ask for wisdom in a situation.

    Wisdom means to know what to do and how to do it.

    Therefore, when you feel a lack of ability to face, go through or handle a situation correctly (notice were not talking about running away from situations, but rather handling them correctly), the right thing to do is to ask God for the wisdom you need. The promise here is that the wisdom shall indeed be given.

    To those who dont waver6 But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. 7 For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord;But there are qualifications. When we are going to ask, we must ask in faith without any doubt in our minds.

    The image of a wave on the sea indicates unpredictability. The person is being controlled by their feelings and their doubts rather than by their faith. If that is your mindset when you approach God - full of doubts and other thoughts - then it wont work out. You will receive nothing.

    8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.Someone who characteristically lives like this, whose heart is not fixed on the Lord, listening and

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    trusting and obeying cannot be relied on for anything. That person is unstable.

    It exalts the lowly

    9 Let the lowly brother glory in his exaltation,Now if you didnt read this carefully, you would think that James is going off in another direction altogether. He is not.

    He is saying that, if youre a lowly person socioeconomically, and the world doesnt think much of you, then you can rejoice because the Lord is testing you, teaching you and blessing you. In effect He is going to exalt you - that is the outcome of trials.

    It humbles the rich

    But likewise, if youre a rich person with lots of things to rely on - as it says in the Proverbs, the riches of the wealthy are like a fortress that they can hide behind and trust in1 - then when you are in a situation where God is testing you, be glad because you are being brought low into the role of dependence on God rather than being in charge of all your own affairs.11 For no sooner has the sun risen with a burning heat than it withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beautiful appearance perishes. So the rich man also will fade away in his pur-suits.Remember, rich person, every material thing that you have will not last. It will fade like a flower. And God will bring you into a situation where all your usual mechanisms of coping will be broken down and you will be exposed and in need. But that is really good for you, because you will learn not to trust in your riches, but to trust in the Lord.

    Always remember that, Whom the Lord loves He chastens.2 And thereby the rich man will learn to trust in the Lord and the poor man will learn that he is something: a child of God.

    All for the crown of life

    Then he gives us the final outcome:12 Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.The person who endures temptation is the one who copes and deals with it properly and Biblically until the end. When it is over, that person will receive the crown of life.

    Section in depth (verses 1-6)This is how true faith sees and handles the trials of life. Those trials may include sickness, strife and all kinds of trouble: any situation that causes you to be challenged and potentially overwhelmed. These are those trials which are common amongst all people.

    The character and purpose of trials

    The key teaching point here is that faith is being put to the test by such a trial. When you put

    1 Proverbs 10:15.2 Hebrews 12:6.

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    something to the test, you are doing two things:

    1. Finding out whether its genuine. For example, testing money to see whether its counterfeit So trials put our claim to be born again to the test. Is your faith true?

    2. Testing its purity. For example, testing a silver coin for its real silver content. So trials will identify impurities that need to be removed.

    Therefore trials test the reality of what God has done for us and also purify our faith in order that it might be strengthened and enriched in value. That is why adversity and trouble comes to us all.

    Impurities include our misunderstandings about God and ourselves and our immaturity. Trials will teach us what we misunderstand, where we are wrong and so forth, thus leaving us with a purer faith which is much stronger.

    Peter talks about the trial of our faith, which is more precious than that of gold.3 If you try gold, you are purifying it in order to increase its value. Our faith is more valuable and precious than gold, and like gold it is both tested and purified.

    If you and I can see trials in this light when they come upon us, it will help us to adopt a right attitude to them and see life through a completely different pair of glasses.

    When trouble comes upon people who are not save