We find in scripture many references to having our faith tested. Faith is the currency of the kingdom (see Matt 9:29 | Heb 11:6) and in order to mature and become fruitful in Christ our faith must be proven to be genuine.
Let’s begin in James 1:2-3
My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.
The word temptation here (as defined by Strong's lexicon) refers to:
The trial of man’s fidelity, integrity, virtue, constancy (through the enticement to sin)
Adversity, affliction, trouble: sent by God to test or prove one’s character, faith, holiness.
*God does not tempt us with evil, but He does prove us with trouble* (James 1:13, Job 2:3)
So, temptations and trials/afflictions will develop in us godly character and proves our faith to be genuine. We see clear examples of this in the life of Jesus;
Jesus in the wilderness (facing temptation) - Luke 4:1-13
He was tempted to eat (fulfilling the lust of the flesh), jump from a high place (fulfilling the pride of life), and worship satan in exchange for counterfeit authority in the earth (fulfilling the lust of the eyes).
In temptation the enemy is saying to us,“If you are a son of God...”
We can be tempted to quit, be disobedient, try to prove ourselves, tempted to sin, to have something before the appointed time, to blame God or others, or believe a lie over the truth
Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane – the Cross (facing affliction) - Luke 22:47- 23:46 | Isaiah 53
Jesus suffered excruciating physical pain, the pain of rejection and betrayal, the pain of separation from the Father and much more.
In affliction the Lord is asking & proving; “Do you love me more than these?”
Do we love God even when we are suffering loss, rejection, betrayal, mockery, shame & humiliation?
Do we love Him more than people, their approval, our desires etc. Do we love Him more than our comfort?
Jesus overcame temptation and trial with His understanding of the scriptures, and of the Father’s Will. He knew and was secure in His identity. He knew what was promised to Him and demonstrated perfectly complete trust in God’s plan & timing.
It is in the midst of temptation and trials that we learn obedience (the proof of our love for God), and come to know God more intimately, so we should not be afraid of these seasons but rather find joy in knowing that we will develop a deeper walk with the Lord.
Can you stand the fire?
Knowing that our faith will be tried, how can we actively seek to prepare our hearts to pass the tests? How do we remain strong and endure these seasons?
James 1:14 – But every man is tempted, when He is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.
Lust can be defined as evil desires, or desire out of control. One of the keys to overcoming temptation is learning to master our desires through submission – submit to God, resist the devil. Not every desire we have is evil, but when we surrender our desires to God (both godly and fleshly desires) and let Him sift through our motives and purify them, we are better able to resist being lured, enticed and falling into the temptation.
Galatians 5:16 also reminds us that if we walk in the Spirit, we will not fulfil the lusts of the flesh. We walk in the Spirit through continual obedience. Other helpful scriptures;
Psalm 119:11 - Your word I have treasured and stored in my heart, That I may not sin against You.
1 Corinthians 10:13 - But God is faithful [to His Word and to His compassionate nature], and He [can be trusted] not to let you be tempted and tried and assayed beyond your ability and strength of resistance and power to endure, but with the temptation He will [always] also provide the way out (the means of escape to a landing place), that you may be capable and strong and powerful to bear up under it patiently.
Luke 8:11-13 – Now the meaning of the parable is this: The seed is the Word of God.
Those along the traveled road are the people who have heard; then the devil comes and carries away the message out of their hearts, that they may not believe (acknowledge Me as their Savior and devote themselves to Me) and be saved [here and hereafter].
And those upon the rock [are the people] who, when they hear [the Word], receive and welcome it with joy; but these have no root. They believe for a while, and in time of trial and temptation fall away (withdraw and stand aloof).
And as for what fell among the thorns, these are [the people] who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked and suffocated with the anxieties and cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not ripen (come to maturity and perfection).
But as for that [seed] in the good soil, these are [the people] who, hearing the Word, hold it fast in a just (noble, virtuous) and worthy heart, and steadily bring forth fruit with patience.
*Read Luke 8:4-15 for further clarity*
The Parable of the Sower shows us that the condition of our hearts affects how and if the Word will bear fruit in our lives. We see that the heart of rocky ground is unable to stand through trials and affliction because the Word of God doesn’t take root. When you have no word in you, you have nothing to hold onto during difficult seasons. Rocks hinder seeds from being deeply rooted, and rocky ground lacks moisture. We need to tend to our hearts as a garden, cultivating the ground so it is good soil as in verse 15. We do this through our continual fellowship with the Holy Ghost, the Word, Christ and the Father. Walking in obedience and keeping our hearts free from that which would harden it (sin, pride, unbelief etc).
Romans 10:17 tells us that faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God. So it is essentially the Word that we must hold fast to, allowing it to take root in our hearts through prayer, meditation, study and confession so that our faith can continue to grow stronger. When we hold onto the word/promises and keep them in front of us, we can endure each season because we trust that God is faithful and working everything for our good.
Other helpful scriptures;
James 1:21 So get rid of all uncleanness and the rampant outgrowth of wickedness, and in a humble (gentle, modest) spirit receive and welcome the Word which implanted and rooted [in your hearts] contains the power to save your souls. (emphasis added)
1 Peter 4:12-13 Beloved, do not be amazed and bewildered at the fiery ordeal which is taking place to test your quality, as though something strange (unusual and alien to you and your position) were befalling you.But insofar as you are sharing Christ’s sufferings, rejoice, so that when His glory [full of radiance and splendor] is revealed, you may also rejoice with triumph [exultantly].
1 Peter 1:7-8 [You should] be exceedingly glad on this account, though now for a little while you may be distressed by trials and suffer temptations,7 So that [the genuineness] of your faith may be tested, [your faith] which is infinitely more precious than the perishable gold which is tested and purified by fire. [This proving of your faith is intended] to redound to [your] praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One) is revealed.
James 1:12 Blessed (happy, [c]to be envied) is the man who is patient under trial and stands up under temptation, for when he has stood the test and been approved, he will receive [the victor’s] crown of life which God has promised to those who love Him.
KJV & AMPC versions used.