It is smack dab in the middle of my favorite verses of Scripture in the New Testament. I have read it, taught it, shared it, believed it and have even called it my life verse - but I've only just begun to understand it.
I was focused on words like "perseverance", "steadfastness", "strength", "maturity" and "complete." Take a look at James 1:1-8 and see the foundation of my hope. I married these verses back in 1999 (<--- by the way, not the party I was expecting. RIP Prince).
Have you ever had a word jump off a page and smack you in the face? I've had plenty, but in this case
guess which word didn't jump? "Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. " So, let's see ..... the testing of your faith.... went right over my head. Oh, I saw those words, but I interpreted them to comfortably fit. To me, testing of my faith meant "when life gets aggravating", not "let's see if you can walk a straight line while dodging worldly bullets." To me, the testing of my faith meant, "will you still believe in Jesus during the hard times?" to which I could honestly say, I will never doubt. And I haven't.
I've believed in Christ as Savior and Redeemer. I've believed steadfastly in Him as macro-manager but maybe not so much as micro-manager. I've been overwhelmed by His attention to detail in my life when He has gloriously taken me by surprise ... (gosh, Jesus is so sweet!) but there are evidently some details still on the horizon that I have been tempted to iron out on my own.
I know from Scripture that His ways are not our own. I believe in His peace that surpasses understanding. I do! But I've received those promises in the context of things being out of my control. I hadn't considered that He would allow some things to be within my control - and then relinquish control to him anyway. Ugh - so hard.
I know now that "the testing of your faith" will mean that your timeline will involve crossroads, challenges and toils that might offer multiple paths to resolution. Each option may be moral, legal, ethical and fair ... but periodically the Holy Spirit is going to point you to the best path according to His will for you and it will be your least favorite option. Left up to your own mind-making, you'd take it off the table.
He may ask you to stay when you'd rather go, or go when you'd rather stay. He may point to a path that engages in pain and loss when you'd rather play it safe. At some point, I promise you, the Holy Spirit will direct you toward your fears and ask you to face them. He will navigate you toward a spotlight when you would prefer to hide. He might even ask you to keep cover when you'd rather be known. These are the tests .... and the question is ... are we going to be courageous enough to choose the path of greatest resistance because of our faith that Jesus will keep His promises even when we face the loss of everything else?
I know! So easy, right? And so reasonable, no? Ha! That we would be tested in our walk, not just in our belief. And... that is where I was confused. I haven't been worried that my faith (belief) would weaken, but I also haven't expected to need to make major life decisions that would require me to go against my deepest desires, especially when those desires are within reach. So much of my flesh had fallen away, or so I'd thought. Many of my desires have aligned with Jesus (because He has already worked some miracles in me) but I've recently discovered that I had been hanging on to some earthly ideals, idols that could damage my fellowship and communion with His Spirit within me.
Without realizing the gravity of it, I've just emerged from a solid year of having my faith tested. Again, not my belief, but my decisions. 1 Peter 1:6 - 7 talks about this testing of faith. After Peter encourages his readers to rejoice in their salvation, living hope, heavenly inheritance....etc., he moves into verse 6 saying ...
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 thought it is tested by fire - may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
The genuineness of our faith will be tested. Faith is more valuable than everything else of value. The fruits of our faith (doing what He says verses what we want) will bring Him praise, glory and honor. Otherwise, we bring Him nothing.
This is the same as obedience - which the Bible talks a lot about. Have you wedged a difference in your mind between faith and obedience? Have you believed in Him but not followed His instruction? I have. Have you stayed back when you should have moved forward? Or done something your way (because it is moral, legal and ethical) even when you've sensed His strong suggestion not to? I have. I believe now that walking in obedience to what He is showing you through His Holy Spirit within you - is the very essence of living what you believe. Not the narrowest belief that Jesus is real - but the broadest declaration that He is alive on your insides, that He will lead you deeper into His righteousness and that He wouldn't steer you away from something good. He will never steer you away from something good. Never. So if He is steering you away, it couldn't possible have been good - not the good that He desires for you.
Jesus steered me away from money. He steered me away from earthly justice. He steered me away from being right and from being doled out what would have been fair. He steered me away from good things. From fair, legal and ethical rights. He steered me away from victory. From good.
...but that wasn't it at all. I was blind but now I see.
He didn't steer me away from good. He steered me away from greed.