Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 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. (James 1:2-4)
When you think of your faith being tested, what comes to mind?
Faith that God will heal a loved one?
Faith that God will open a door so you can get a job?
Faith that God will (insert supernatural outcome) to (bad situation I want out of)?
I think there is a problem in always thinking of the “testing of our faith” in this way. Yes, God is still in the business of doing truly supernatural things, but that’s not how life is day to day. It’s also important to realize that many times we put our faith in some good outcome we want, but not something that God has actually promised. If we put our faith in a supernatural outcome that God hasn’t promised to us (that new job, a healed loved one), what happens when the job doesn’t come, or when the loved one dies? Even in the great faith chapter in Hebrews, it speaks of people being tortured, dying, and even “not receiving what was promised.”
So what is the testing of the faith that James speaks of? He says we will meet “trials of various kinds”– like we would run into tests of faith all the time. What kind of tests to our faith would that be?
May I suggest that it the testing that all of God’s people face every day, the test of choosing the narrow gate:
Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. (Matthew 7:13-14)
Every day we must make choices that test our faith. Do we make the easy choice of passing by the person in need, or do we take the narrow gate of helping the person who can never repay us? Do we make the easy choice of looking at that inappropriate internet site knowing that “it’s harmless”— or do we take the narrow gate of having the faith that a life of integrity will be blessed by God? Do we run that stop sign or be late for that meeting? Do we speak with love toward the person that hurt us? Do we put down the right numbers on that income tax form, knowing there would be more money in our pocket if we don’t? Do we stay in that marriage that we are miserable in, knowing that getting out would make us happier?
All these are tests of faith: tests for us to answer that entering the narrow gate, following the path of a disciple, will be best, even if our fallen reasoning & desires urge us otherwise. Only by passing these tests day by day will steadfastness be produced in our hearts. Only by choosing the narrow gate, day after day, will we one day be perfect & complete.