Thursday, April 12, 2007

What Are Trials?

We are currently addressing the topic of trials. For the last several days I have been sharing how you can have joy in the midst of trials. Today, I want to look at what James says about trials themselves. The “trials” that James has in mind here in verse 2 refers to “a testing being directed toward an end, to discover the nature or quality of the object or person tested” (Hiebert) (See verse 12).

D. Edmond Hiebert says, “The verbal form periazo denotes the action of putting something or someone to the test. Such a test may be applied with either a good or a bad intention. In a good sense, the test may be applied in order to demonstrate the strength or good quality of the object tested. But when the testing is applied with the evil aim that the object will be led to fail under testing, then the thought of temptation comes in. Since it is a melancholy fact that men often break down under the testings of life, the term peirasmos is often used with the meaning of temptation, a solicitation to evil. But under either meaning the term ‘has always the idea of probation associated with it.’ Both the noun and the verb are rare in secular Greek, but they are common in the Septuagint and the New Testament. Since the Scriptures are concerned with moral values, the concept of testing is an essential one in the Bible.

In human experience the two aspects of testing and temptation may be closely related. That which is intended as a test may in fact become a temptation for the person tested because of his inner response to the situation. Well aware of this close connection in actual experience, James deals with both aspects of peirasmoi in this opening section of his epistle. In verses 2-12 he deals with the nature and use of the external tests that come to the believer in daily life, while in verses 13-16 he deals with the experience of temptation to evil. In verses 17-18 he shows that God’s beneficent activities toward the believer establish that He cannot be associated with peirasmos in the sense of solicitation to evil. God does test the faith of His people, but He does not allure them to evil” (James, 69-70).

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