The Seven Tests of Faith
May 15th, 1960 @ 7:30 PM
THE SEVEN TESTS OF FAITH
Dr. W. A. Criswell
5-15-60 7:30 p.m.
In the Book now may we turn to the Book of James? Almost toward the end of our Bible, the Book of James, chapter 1, beginning at the nineteenth verse to the end of the chapter, the Book of James, chapter 1, verse 19 to the end – if your neighbor did not bring his Bible, you share yours with him. Let us all read it together, James 1:19 to the end of the chapter. Do we all have it? Now let us all read it together, the nineteenth verse of James, first chapter:
Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath:
For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.
Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls.
But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.
For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass:
For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth
what manner of man he was.
But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be
blessed in his deed.
If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain.
Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.
In our preaching through the book this morning, we spoke in the second and the third and the fourth verses of this first chapter, The Trial of Our Faith. And the message tonight is somewhat of a continuation of this theme that James has chosen to speak of to his brethren who are scattered abroad. So the message tonight is kind of a summary of the entire epistle and is entitled The Seven Tests of Faith. "Knowing this, that the trying of your faith" [James 1:3], and James follows that theme throughout his epistle. So we are going to follow it with him, the seven tests, the seven trials of our faith.
He begins by saying that sometimes these trials come in adversity, and sometimes they come in prosperity and affluence; but whether in adversity or in affluence, they come from the Lord. "Let the brother of low degree rejoice in that he is exalted" [James 1:9]. That is a trial. Any time a man becomes prosperous and affluent, a man of prestige and place in the world, he has a temptation and a trial: it is easy for a prosperous man to forget God and to become worldly. But the affluent man, in that he’s made low, here is a man of high estate and he’s lost his place; that’s all right, says God, if a man can stand the trial of his loss, "Blessed is the man that endureth trial: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life" [James 1:12]. Then he follows through with seven of these. And the first one is found in a man’s attitude toward the Word of God. "Wherefore, my beloved brethren, be hearers of the word and doers of the word." James 1:19, "My brethren, let every man be swift to hear." Sometimes a man can hear, and hear, and hear, and hear, and then finally he hears, "Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing the word of God" [Romans 10:17]. And then, "Be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only" [James 1:22].
One time a man stood on the front steps of the church after the service was over, and a passerby asked, "Is the sermon done?" And the man replied, "It is just preached; we are going out now to do it," doers of the word. "For if a man is a hearer only, and not a doer, he is like a man beholding his natural face in a glass: he looks at it and turns aside and immediately forgets what kind of a man that he looked like" [James 1:23-24]. That’s the way he says with a man who looks in the mirror of the law of God, and he doesn’t do it. Now that doesn’t apply to women: it says here, it says here, "a man," "he is like a man looking in a mirror." No woman ever looked in a mirror in her life and immediately forgot what she looked like.
I was watching TV the other day and the funniest, craziest thing happened: the boyfriend was seated at the table with his girlfriend, and he’s telling her what he thought about her and inadvertently and unplannedly he says, "I love everything about you, even to your shiny little nose." Lo me, she immediately got up and left, went to the powder room. He had no idea what had happened, "her shiny little nose." Oh, that did it! If a man looks at himself in a glass – forgets himself immediately. "A doer of the word."
Then his second test is in this second chapter: a man’s attitude toward the people of the Lord. Don’t serve God, the Lord of glory, and have faith in Him with respect of persons [James 2:1].
If any man come into the assembly with a gold ring and apparel, and a rich man, and you have respect to him, and then there come in the poor and you do not receive them; are ye not become judges of evil thoughts? For if ye have respect of persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors.
[James 2:2-4, 9]
In any true assembly of God, you will have in it poor people. I have said many, many times, if we didn’t have poor people in this church, first thing we ought to do is go out and get some of them and bring them into the house of the Lord. It does us good to have our Good Shepherd department. It does us good to have our ministry in these missions. And it does us good to have in our church the poorer among our people. Whenever you see a congregation that is made up of just the select rich, stuck out here somewhere in a holier than thou and a better than thou fraternization, you don’t have a church: you have a country club. For any time you have the people of the Lord gathered together, you’ll always have in it some of the poor. It was the Bible that says, "And the common people heard Jesus gladly" [Mark 12:37]. And Paul said, "Look among you, brethren, not many high, not many mighty in this world are called, because God hath chosen the weak and feeble things of this earth to confound the wise and the high and the mighty" [1 Corinthians 1:26-27]. When people come in to the house of the Lord, we’re to receive them as souls for whom Christ died. "And if you have respect of persons, you commit sin" [James 2:9].
You know that’s one of the strangest things about the world and so different from the way that God would have His people be. It’s out there in this world that a man could eat peas with his knife, and they’d be horrified; yet that same sot can belong to the club and go along with the finest of the group, and he can swear like a trooper and get drunk like a sailor, and they think nothing about it at all. He’s accepted because he has wealth, or he has political influence, or he has place, and however his life may be dark and damned and destroyed by the world and by sin, that’s nothing at all: they receive the man on account of what he has and what his place may be. Not so, James says, in the house of the Lord, not so. We’re received because all of us are poor lost sinners for whom Christ died [1 Corinthians 15:3; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 10:5-14]. Our attitude toward them is to be always one of welcome, one of love, one of intercession and prayer.
The third test is our attitude toward the work of God. In the second chapter of James and the fourteenth verse, "What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? Can that faith save him?" [James 2:14]. It’s fictitious; it’s sentence; it’s syllable; there’s no reality in a man’s faith just by word and just by saying. There has to be with it a great disposition of life and a commitment of heart and a devotion of spirit. One time Sam Jones was going down the streets, and a fellow pointed to a guy in the gutter and said, "Sam, that’s one of your converts." And Sam Jones says, "That’s right, it looks like one of my converts; God never had anything to do with that." So it is with our dispositions when we are saved: if a man says, "I have faith," and there’s no supplement, there’s no corollary, there’s no afterlife, there’s no love and no dedication, "Can that faith save him?" says this pastor of the church there in Jerusalem. What it is to be saved is to have a disposition; it’s to have a new heart, a new spirit, a new love, a new dedication. That man who had his eyes blind, born that way, had his eyes healed and he could see when he obeyed the Lord Jesus and washed in the pool of Siloam [John 9:7]; those ten lepers were healed on the way as they obeyed our Lord and appeared to the priest [Luke 17:14]; and Naaman was cleansed the seventh time that he bathed in the muddy waters of the Jordan River [2 Kings 5:14].
In a revival meeting one time that I was holding in my own church, there came down the village grocery man, the mercantile store man. And he gave me his hand and he said, "Preacher, at long last I’m giving my heart to Jesus." They’d prayed for that man all his life. "I’m taking Jesus as my Savior." And I was so glad. And when I turned his hand loose, he began to turn to go back to his seat.
I seized him by the arm, and I said, "What are you doing?"
He said, "I’m going back to my seat."
I said, "You’re going back to your seat? I thought you told me you had come here to give your heart to Jesus? You gave me your hand, taking Jesus as your Savior."
"That’s right," he said, "I have given my heart to Jesus, but I’m going back to my seat."
Well, I said, "You’ve got to stand down here and confess the Lord as your Savior, ‘If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus [Romans 10:9] . . . if thou shalt confess Me before men [Matthew 10:32-33], said the Lord Jesus.’"
Well, he said, "Preacher, I’ve said all my life I would never sit down there on that front pew!" Now isn’t that funny how little quirks, and little turns, and little idiosyncrasies, and little oaths, and little avowals will creep into a man’s life about God and about religion?
Well, I said, "What’s the matter with that front pew?"
He said, "I just said I’d never sit on it!"
Well, I said, "Sir, if you don’t ever sit on that pew, you’ll die and be lost, and you’ll never be saved!"
He said, "Do you mean to tell me that unless I sit there on that pew at the front, I won’t be saved?"
I said, "That’s right, you won’t be saved." Well, that’s a funny kind of a gospel, isn’t it? Got to sit on the front pew to be saved; but it is that way. No man is ever saved by just saying it in word and in syllable; it means something to the life, to the soul, to the destiny. It’s a commitment!
And he struggled. He had a civil war going on in his heart. I didn’t know whether I’d lose it or win it, but I was willing to risk everything on the appeal. And thank God, he turned back and said, "If that’s what it takes, if that’s what it takes, I’ll sit down on the front pew," and he sat himself down.
And when I introduced the converts, there he stood by my side, and he became one of the finest Christian leaders in all of that country community. It’s not just saying it, it’s doing it. It’s not just being sentenced and syllabled and worded; but it is being a-doing it. It’s just not saying a word, but it is standing up; it’s being counted; it’s a public committal; it’s a devotion; it’s a commitment.
"Can that kind of faith save him?" No, not just that in syllable and sentence. And he uses Abraham for an example [James 2:21-24]. And he uses Rahab as an example [James 2:25-26]. This is the way the woman was saved: she put that scarlet line in her window and got behind it, trusting God [Joshua 2:18-21]. And this was the mark of the commitment of Abraham to God, that when God asked him to offer up his only son, Abraham did it [Genesis 22:1-12; James 2:21-23]. It was a sign of the commitment of his life, "By faith Abraham . . ." [Hebrews 11:17].
Then his fourth test of faith is in the manner of our speaking. How does a man talk when he’s saved? What kind of language does he use? Then he talks about this tongue of ours; talks about it, little thing, little organ, but oh what a fire it kindles. "Therewith some men bless God, and therewith some men curse and damn," he says. And that’s not right, that’s not right. "Out of the same fountain cannot come sweet water and bitter" [James 3:5-11]. Whenever you hear a man talking and talking, and in his language and in his words, he uses God’s name in vain, and he blasphemes in the terrible language that he uses, James says that’s not the language nor the conversation of a man of God. "Therewith some men bless God, and there some curse men" [James 3:9-10].
I read the other day about a deacon that was called on to pray, and it made him furious, made him furious. In a country community, made him furious. And the pastor went to him to apologize, and said, "I meant no harm by asking you. I thought being a deacon you ought to be able to ask God for us and in our behalf; but I meant no harm. Why should you be furious? And why should you be angry because I asked you to pray, and you refused to pray?" And the deacon said, "Well, preacher, I’ll be honest with you, I’ll tell you why. When I’m out here with this stock, I curse and I swear as I beat my stock." And he says, "I don’t want my son to hear me down there at the house of God calling on the name of the Lord, then the next day out here cursing and swearing as I beat my stock." Well, I have this good thing to say about that deacon, whoever he was: he was honest about it; he was talking to the preacher honest like. "I don’t want my boy to hear me call on the name of God, and then the next day curse and damn as I beat my horses."
Now why isn’t the pastor right, the James right? Why isn’t he right when he said that a man ought to talk like a Christian when he’s saved; his language ought to be right? I’ve gone down the highway, and I have seen chimneys that were propped up. I would say the very fact that it’s propped up is a sign that the chimney is weak and about to fall. I think the same thing about a man’s conversation and about a man’s words. The best advertisement in this world that a man is poverty stricken in his mind and in his language is that he has to bolster everything up with a "Damn this," and a "Damn that," and a cuss here and a cuss there. This pastor says over here, "My brethren, above all things, swear not; neither by heaven, neither by the earth, neither by any other thing: but let your conversation be yea, yea; and nay, nay" [James 5;12]. You don’t need to bolster it up. When you need to say something, it’s said. And you don’t need to swear in order that men be persuaded to believe you. You are so apparently honest, and so apparently and transparently correct and right in all of your attitudes in life, that you don’t need to swear it, and you don’t need to oath it. You just say it, and people believe it. And you’ll find – actually you will – you’ll find your conversation will be far more effective if you will leave off those words of cursing and blasphemy.
I guess it’s because I have been in the circle of the church for so long, but whenever I am out there in the world, around men who curse, I just cringe on the inside; I feel it physically in my anatomy and in my body. A chaste conversationalist, speaking words of honesty and purity, how fine and how noble, says this pastor, James, and it’s a sign of the Christian.
Then he turns here for his fifth, for his test of faith: our friendship with the world. "Know ye not that the friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God" [James 4:4]. Isn’t that a straight, unmasked, unadulterated, plain, simple statement? If you love this world, and if you pant after this world, and if your heart is in this world, you can’t be the friend of God. And he says it stronger than that: "Nay, you are the enemy of God." [James 4:4]. You love this world, and you love the glitter of this world and the pleasures of this world and the lusts of this world, and all of the tinsel and tinfoil and cheapness, shininess of this world. You love it, and you won’t have the presence of God with you; the two don’t go together.
Then his next lies – his sixth one – in our attitude toward our secular business life. Some people say, "I’m going to do this, and I’m going to do that." The child of God never says it that way. The child of God says, "If the Lord will, if the Lord will, we shall do this, and we shall do that" [James 4:15]. He takes God into his partnership. O God, this is the business I’m in; hallow and sanctify my work. And if you’re not in a legitimate work, get in one that you can pray about! If I were the driver of a beer truck, I’d starve before I deliver that slop to people that hurts and harms and defiles. And if I had a liquor store, I’d rather starve to death than to sell a product that breaks wedding bands and orphans children and destroys homes and lives! Get in a business you can pray about; life insurance is a good one. Tell you, I hit the jack – no, man a’livin’! I don’t want to say that. I started to say, "I hit the jackpot" then about the life insurance business. This church is nine-tenths made up of life insurance people. I don’t blame them. I don’t blame them; it’s a great business; selling a man something to protect his family and his children; and then selling him something to save his soul. If you’ve got a legitimate business, that’s great. Take God in as a partner. Here is so and so and so partners, and there’s a silent partner, there’s an unseen partner; I talk to Him about my business when the doors shut. And I take these decisions on my knees to God. That’s what James says.
His seventh one is our attitude toward prayer, and he mentions two. One, praying for the sick [James 5:14]; and the other, praying for the lost [James 5:19-20], that a sinner might be converted and that a sick man might be well. Now I want to make a feeble remark about the first one, about praying for the sick. "Is any sick among you? let him call for the preachers; let them pray over him" [James 5:14]. What do you think about that, preacher? I’ve often put it in a little sentence: I believe in divine healing; I don’t believe in divine healers, not a one of them, not a one of them. I never saw one I believed in.
You will go to Tulsa, Oklahoma now, in the tourist guides of that city, they have on the agenda now, Oral Roberts’ Tower of Healing, and so-called "light and mercy" and all the rest. There’s only one reason that fellow continues, and that is this: because of the bigness of America. He flaunts his so-called virtues here, and then that dries up. Then he takes it here until that dries up. Then he takes it yonder till that dries up. But he could never be supported long by one community and one place. You listen to me: I could advertise here in this church and in the newspapers, and over this radio and in our bulletins, I could advertise, "I am a divine healer, bring all your sick to me." I’ll put a handkerchief on them, or I’ll put my hands on them, or I’ll pray over them, I’ll anoint them with oil, and they will get well. I could do that. And did you know eighty-five out of every hundred that came to me would get well? Man, that’s a good batting average! That’s a pretty good percentage. If a man went up to the plate to sock that baseball and had an average of .850, he’d make a million dollars a season, and there’d be eighteen clubs trying to get him. Isn’t that right? Isn’t that right? It is right! Any man that had a batting average of even .400 could command any salary that he wanted to command. These doctors all say that eighty-five percent of the people who are sick get well anyway, whether they have any doctor or not, John. Might be a little hard on them sometimes, but they’ll make it, they’ll make it.
And that’s why the divine healer flourishes. He says, "You bring them to me, and I’ll touch them, and I’ve got the power of God in me." And he advertises himself, and he makes money on it, and he gets rich on it, and he can build buildings with it and towers with it. I don’t believe in any of them! I went out there to see Aimee Semple McPherson and I talked to her and visited with her, and saw her at one of her divine healing services. I never saw a thing in life that impressed me more to be of the spirit, and the kind, and the caliber of a charlatan in my life, than I did as I looked at that thing out there!
I believe in divine healing. Is somebody sick? Pray. Is somebody sick, and you’ve got a burden on your heart? Call for one of us, and we’ll do our best to kneel by your side and offer unto God our sincerest supplications in behalf of somebody you love who’s sick. But for somebody to strut up and down this earth and say, "I have that special gift of divine healing," and he makes money with it, and he advertises it, he’s just taking advantage of the credulity and the heartaches of mankind, just like this famous cancer center that we used to have here in Dallas, until the government by right and by law put it out of business. Trafficking upon the heartaches and the despair of the people, the most damnable thing that I could imagine! I believe in divine healing; I don’t believe in divine healers.
Then he says, our attitude toward the lost and the sinner: "Let him know, that he that converts the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins" [James 5:20]. The best way in this earth to get men to God is to pray with them. Read God’s Book to them, yes. Explain God’s way of salvation to them, yes. But the best way is down on your face, asking God. If you can get that lost sinner, hard as he may be, down on his knees looking up to God, God does something in prayer.
I had a dear woman in the church, precious, blessed helper, and her husband was drunk, and he was indifferent, and he was vile, and he was lost, just like a depraved sinner. And on a Sunday night, he stumbled into the back of the church for some unknown reason. And for another unknown reason, he tarried until all the people were gone, and I was there by myself. And I talked to him in amazement, just one of those providences of God. And I got him down on his knees between the pews there in the church, and I poured out my soul in prayer for him. And while I was praying, while I was talking to God, he put his hand on my knee, and he said, "Wait a minute, preacher, wait a minute. Wait a minute." He said, "Something’s, something’s happened. Something happened to me. Something happened to me." He said, "Something happened to my heart." He said, "I’ve been saved; I’ve been saved." And I said, "Then let’s just tell God about it." So we told God about it and thanked God for forgiving his sins and saving his soul. And the next Lord’s Day, he came down the aisle and confessed Christ at the morning hour, to the amazement of the people. And that night, I baptized him into the fellowship of the church. "Is not My word like as a fire? saith the Lord; and like as a hammer that breaketh a rock in pieces?" [Jeremiah 23:29]. And the corollary, in the Book of James, "The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much" [James 5:16]; it gets a hold of heaven, it shakes the foundations of the earth, it changes a man’s life. And that is the glorious prerogative of the Christian: pray, knock at the door, ask of God anything, and see the wonder and the power of the Lord upon His children, upon you.
Now, while we sing this hymn of appeal, somebody you tonight, to give his heart in trust to Jesus, would you come and stand by me? In this balcony round, somebody you, "Tonight, I give my heart in faith and in trust to Jesus." Would you come? On this lower floor, somebody you, into that aisle and down here to the front, "Preacher, tonight I give my heart in trust and in faith to Jesus; and here I am, and here I come." And a family to put your life with us in the fellowship of this blessed church, or just one somebody you, as God shall open the door, as the Holy Spirit shall say the word and lead the way, would you make it now? Would you make it tonight? Decide for Jesus now. And when we stand to sing, on the first note of that first stanza, into the aisle and down here to the front, "Here I come, preacher, and here I am." Or, "Here we are, pastor, the whole family, coming to God, coming to the church." Would you? On the first note of the first stanza, decide for Him now. And then, "Here I come, preacher, here I am." Make it tonight, while we stand and while we sing.