Sorry, I hope that “pop quiz” didn’t generate any anxious thoughts. I know well what it was like hearing those words from a teacher or professor. The anxiety was real—all too real.
Truth is, I didn’t like pop quizzes. Not because they were a surprise, but because I immediately began to question whether or not I had learned the material. A quiz or test that you know about ahead of time allows for preparation and study. Pop quizzes don’t offer that luxury. You either know it or you don’t.
When examining James 1:2 carefully, it would not be out of order to translate the first few words like this: My brothers and sisters, whenever you face a pop quiz of any kind, consider it nothing but joy…” Why? Because James knew that a pop quiz would measure the depth of a person’s faith. It would correctly assess the ability of a person to endure knowing that the full effect of endurance meant they were “complete, lacking in nothing.” Think about that for a minute.
In most evangelical circles when James 1:2 is discussed it is not often framed in those terms. But the word James uses for “trials” is a word used only 3 times in the NT. Here in 1:2, Luke 10:30—where the traveler “fell into the hands of robbers…”, and Acts 27:41. The word’s primary meaning according to The Dictionary of the New Testament is “to come upon something by chance; to be innocently involved in something. The noun form of the word is used for “mishap” or “accident.”
If you’re following my train of thought you’ll realize where I’m going with this. I believe it’s where James was going; what really “tests” us is that which catches us off guard. Something we are innocently involved in that was totally out of our control.
How you define that in your life, either present or past, is up to you but I’m fairly certain you may be a bit like me and had an “aha” moment when reading that last paragraph.
Without getting too personal, I’ll share this particular experience. When my wife and I moved from Texas to North Carolina we were certain there were going to be challenges. We prepared ourselves to make adjustments and deal with things as they came. What caught us off guard was living with two mortgages for over a year because we could not sell our house in Texas. That was pushing us both to limits we’d not yet experienced. I was frustrated, often angry, and continually asking why this was happening. God didn’t seem to be inclined to answer our prayers or those of countless others who joined us in praying for a buyer. The whole process was indeed testing the level of my faith. I’ll confess going through that process did not bring me to any form of maturity. I was far from complete and lacking on many counts.
I often reflect back on that experience. Seeing how my wife responded to that time and how I responded to that time told me I had a good deal of work to do. If something similar happens again, I toss around in my mind whether or not I’d respond differently. Would I realize that what happened then has equipped me for now?
This is where “wisdom” comes in and we’ll make some observations about that in the next post.