Count it all joy, my brethren, when ye fall into manifold temptations; Knowing that the proving of your faith worketh patience. (James 1:2-3, ASV). The word “temptation” in the ASV is rendered “trials” in the NKJV. The Contemporary English Version (CEV) reads, “…even if you have a lot of trouble” one learns to endure by having their faith “tested.”
One’s faith being put on trial is a challenge for each of us. After the testing period we can look back and see the value of the test and the resulting outcome. Though we might look back on it and see the value of it, while enduring it we hardly see the value. If that test is really hard – we wonder if we will come through it unscathed with any ability to regroup. Knowing such potentials where there is a possibility my faith will be exposed for the weakness “I am covering up” we sometimes hide and hope the sin does not seek us out.
The Holy Spirit want us to consider it a good thing when we are put in tight spots, when we are called upon to make use of the teachings we have learned from the Lord in every-day life. It is a good thing because the trials of life bring us to maturity, the word “perfect’ in 1:4, conveys this idea as expressed in the translation by Charles Williams, “so that you may be fully developed and perfectly equipped, without any defects.”
In an academic setting, in the safety of the room in which I sit reading what James said in a comfortable chair or at a table, perhaps a desk – I understand his point. What about when I am in the midst of failing, when I am in the midst of falling so hard that I won’t be able to look up to see anyone, much less the Lord because of the great shame I brought to His name?
The only solution I know to be the best solution is that which one reads in Luke 18:9-14. Two men approach the Lord; one is highly religious, the other an outcast in society. The highly religious looked upon himself in comparison with the outcast and was pleased with his standing in society, unlike how he saw the outcast in the same community. It is obvious to each of us who read the words of Jesus this is not to be our approach at making a bad situation better. Strangely, however, more of us are guilty of this than we realize. Our approach may not be precisely the same, but there is a similar approach we employ. “I failed miserably, but my failure is not as bad as Sue’s.” “My sin is so serious that I have a hard time showing my face in public, but at least I am not the only one guilty of the same.” “Why are you so hard on me? Mike is just as guilty as I am!”
The outcast who was hardly able to look up to heaven said to the Lord, “Lord, be merciful to me, a sinner!”
Before that, however, James gives the approach we are each to take: it’s called prayer. Not prayer only, but prayer to the Lord, couple with learning from the Lord’s word, making application. James says much about prayer. “The fervent prayer of a righteous man availieth much” (5:16); in speaking of Job’s perseverance, he reminded that Job was a man of much prayer (5:11); those oppressed cry out to the Lord in prayer (5:4); adulterated (impure) prayers to the Lord results in nothing; submission to the Lord in heart and action generates much devotional praise/prayer to the Lord (4:1-10); the use of a sharp tongue to speak against a brother and in the next breath praise the Lord is a tongue of no use from a heart confused (3:8-10).
When you are in a weak spot in life, difficult as it may be to do so, get down on your knees and pray (1:2-8). Pray the Lord will help you overcome the weakness cast upon you, pray the Lord will give you strength to endure, pray the Lord for the ability to walk away and be protected from the frontal attack being thrust at you in the moment. Pray without doubting the Lord is your strength, and He is your only strength.
“My state of mind is not ready to pray when I am in that tough spot!” Perhaps not; if so, then expect to fail. On the other hand, if not you are not ready to pray, but you don’t want to fail, then change your mind and pray! RT