How to Respond to Difficulty

What hardship are you going through currently? Or, perhaps a better question for some: What hardship have you just come through recently?

The year is 2022, and 2020 is unfortunately still not out of our rearview mirrors yet. Things are difficult. Prices are rising. People are aggravating. Politics are frustrating.

As a result, tempers are flaring. Bridges are burning. Christians are deconverting.

However, a few of the earliest words of the New Testament are critically important in this time. And we must hear them:

τὸ δοκίμιον ὑμῶν τῆς πίστεως κατεργάζεται ὑπομονήν
to dokimion humōn tēs pisteōs katergazetai hupomonēn
“This means of testing your faith produces perseverance.”

This is a portion of James 1:3. So, what means of testing is he referring to?

James is referring to the word in verse 2, usually translated as “trials.” However, the word’s semantic range is a lot wider than simply “trial.”

πειρασμοῖς
peirasmois
“trial, temptation, test”

It is the same word that occurs in Matthew 6:13 and Luke 11:4, where Jesus teaches us to pray, “Do not bring us into temptation.”

In Matthew and Luke, the emphasis is on situations that could cause us to sin. In James, the emphasis is likely on the trials, but i’d like to posit that there isn’t a huge difference between the two. This is especially proven through the use of the verbal form in James 1:13 (the italicized words are the word under consideration). “No one undergoing a trial should say, ‘I am being tempted by God.’ For God is not tempted by evil, and He Himself doesn’t tempt anyone.” It would be more faithful to the text to translate this consistently as the same word. Because 1:2 uses “trial” in most common translations, it would make this verse read, “No one undergoing a trial should say, ‘I am being tried by God.’ For God is not tried by evil, and He Himself doesn’t try anyone.” Another perfectly valid translation would be to interpret this verse as, “No one undergoing a temptation should say, ‘I am being tempted by God.’ For God is not tempted by evil, and He Himself doesn’t tempt anyone.”

So which should it be?

Your guess is as good as mine.

Theologically, we know that God tested Abraham (cf. Genesis 22). Theologically, we know that God allowed Satan to test Job (cf. Job 1-2). And even when we look at James 1:13-14, it doesn’t really clear up the situation: “No one undergoing a trial should say, ‘I am being tempted by God.’ For God is not tempted by evil, and He Himself doesn’t tempt anyone. But each person is tempted (or tried) when he is drawn away and enticed by his own evil desires.”

There is an intrinsic relationship between temptation and testing. I’d put it this way: Every temptation is a test; not every test is a temptation. This is why God might be behind a test (cf. Genesis 22), but He never tempts anyone.

But back to our phrase originally under consideration:

τὸ δοκίμιον ὑμῶν τῆς πίστεως κατεργάζεται ὑπομονήν
to dokimion humōn tēs pisteōs katergazetai hupomonēn
“This means of testing your faith produces perseverance.”

Both tests and temptations are for the good of our faith. They help us to persevere.

But there’s something even more critical to notice in this phrase. Three little Greek words:

ὑμῶν τῆς πίστεως
humōn tēs pisteōs
“your faith”

You miss it in English, but the phrase “your faith,” actually means, “y’all’s faith.”

In other words: your faith, my faith, and three to twenty of our fellow Christians’ faith is in view here. But the emphasis is that, even though many of us are being included in the word “your,” the word “faith” is still singular. There is only one faith that all Christians share. And in times of trouble, James expects us to lean on one another as we all point each other to Christ as the source of our hope. This is how we learn to persevere. We can’t do it alone!

James can’t imagine a Christian living life on his/her own. That’s actually an oxymoron to him.

This teaching is even present in the Lord’s Prayer, as referenced above in Matthew 6:13 and Luke 11:4, where Jesus teaches us to pray, “Do not bring us into temptation.” We are in this together. We go through trials and temptations together.

And if we find ourselves in one, it is ultimately because the end goal is perseverance. Even if we don’t respond as well to the trial/temptation this time, the goal is to learn and grow from the experience, and enter the next trial/temptation with a new perspective–doing better in it than we did previously.

So I ask again: What hardship are you going through currently? What hardship have you just come through recently?

Are you part of a church? If not, you’re not going to ultimately benefit from this trial. So join a local church.

If you are part of a church, don’t avoid your fellow church members. They need you and you need them. Without each other, y’all’s faith can’t mature, and you will fail to persevere, not to mention you will be hindering them too. Don’t let your current trial cause you to give in to the temptation to defect. Every Christian who defects (deconverts) does unknowable damage to the body of Christ. We can’t do this thing without you.

Trust Christ, and prove you trust Him by trusting His people. They can’t prove their trustworthiness if you never give them a chance.

In this with you.

Soli Deo Gloria
Solus Christus
Sola Fide
Pro Ecclesia

Thanks for reading.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s