2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials [temptations] of many kinds, 3 because you know the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4 Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. — NIV
2 My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; 3 Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. 4 But let patience have her perfect work that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing. — KJV
2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. — ESV
Greek Transliteration of James 1:3 with [Strong #] and brief definitions:
ginosko  know, be certain, feel, perceive hoti  that, which… (conjunction) ho  the (article or indefinite pronoun) dokimion  determination of trustworthiness through: testing, try, trial humon  you, your, yourselves ho  the (article or indefinite pronoun) pistis  belief, assurance, faith, fidelity, moral conviction, system of religious truth katergazomai  accomplish, finish, perform, work out hupomone  endurance, constancy, perseverance, patience while waiting
1.3.0 Introduction to James 1:3
This verse continues the flow of thought from the previous verse by adding a purpose to the perplexing problems of life. While studying this verse we shall explore the concepts of faith, testing, and perseverance.
1.3.1 Why are we subjected to testing?
Zech 13:9 And I will put this third into the fire, and refine them as one refines silver, and test them as gold is tested. They will call upon my name, and I will answer them. I will say, ‘They are my people’; and they will say, ‘The Lord is my God.’” Surely if it’s the work of God, it is for the best possible purpose. That’s a good reason to find joy in your struggles.
Actually, James 1:3 answers the question quite nicely without the help of Zechariah, although it illustrates with poetic beauty of what perseverance, patience, or steadfastness is really all about.
1.3.2 How can we determine if something is a temptation toward evil or test to develop Godliness?
First, let’s understand the word translated as “testing” in NIV/ESV or “trying” in KJV. This particular word in the Greek is transliterated dokimion. It appears only twice in NT scripture: here and 1 Pe 1:7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. NIV translates dokimion as “prove”. The word appears to have the same basic meaning when read in context, regardless of the version.
To paraphrase Webster’s, a “test” essentially is a critical observation, examination, evaluation, or procedure to prove or disprove something supposed. A trial may also be defined similar to test, which is to say a trial proves or disproves something.
Ro 5:4-5 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. Romans 5:1-5 needs to be read to see the entire context, but verses 4-5 are critical to supporting and expounding on James 1:3. God’s tests prove us to be his, and cleanse us along the way, making us better (more Godly) people, and strengthens our relationship with our Lord and thus our hope in the prize which we strive for.
1 Thess 5:21 but test everything; hold fast what is good. I’m kind of turning the question around here, but I think it’s also a valid approach. If we want to know the source of a test, then we must test the test, so to speak. If it is good, or rather if the results are good, then we are proving God’s work. Again I would refer you to Zech 13:9, or you can look up “refine” in your concordance. See also Gal 5:22-23, the “fruit of the spirit” passage.
If something results in our falling into sin, it was probably a temptation and we were probably suckered. If the test was of God and we still failed, its because Satan was offering us the wrong answer – which probably looked easier and better and right to our minds – when our minds aren’t focused as they should be on God. I don’t think God sets us up for failure. God promises not put more on us than we can handle. But still, Satan will take advantage of our weakness for harm just as God will use our weakness to Glorify himself.
1.3.3 What about when we flunk a test?
Heb 12:5b-6 (quoting Prov 3:11-12) “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” This is a loaded question. To be fair, I don’t think we “flunk” tests. If God knows all, then He knows the outcome of the test before it happens. He still allows it because it fits in with His divine purpose. Whether or not we choose what is right in a situation, we grow from the experience.
Pr 12:1 Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid. We already know why God tests us. It isn’t a matter of pass or fail. It always comes back to the condition of our heart. In Luke 10:27 Jesus speaks very clearly when he says, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”
1.3.4 May we test God?
Lk 4:12 And Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” Here is speaking directly to Satan during the wilderness temptation. This verse seems to say No.
1 Thess 5:21 but test everything; hold fast what is good. This verse seems to say yes.
1 Jo 4:1-2 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, This verse helps put the other two in perspective.
There’s a big context difference between the verses I quoted from Luke and 1 Thessalonians. In Luke Jesus is speaking directly to Satan. Satan already knows who Jesus is. Satan wasn’t trying to determine whether Jesus was good or evil. To think so would be absurd. The reference from Paul is an instruction to determine the source of things. It isn’t saying put God on trial, its saying find out if something is from God. Its only after you know something’s from God that you tread thin ice by testing further. The reference from 1 John is a practical aide in making such judgments and even goes so far as to explain why its important to do so.
Test things to determine (prove) whether they are from God. More than a good idea, this is an explicit instruction. See also 1 Cor 12:9.
Do not put God on trial or tempt him, so to speak. See also Ps 77:13, Dt 32:4, Isa 55:8, Job 23:10. The Lord proclaims his way is right. Who are we to judge? The real issue is doubt versus faith. Once you determine something is from God, you display a lack of faith if you test God further and outright sin if you disobey.
1.3.5 Is it fair that God tests us and we’re not supposed to test him?
Zech 13:9 And I will put this third into the fire, and refine them as one refines silver, and test them as gold is tested. They will call upon my name, and I will answer them. I will say, ‘They are my people’; and they will say, ‘The Lord is my God.’” We’re tested to be refined. God needs no refinement. He tests us because of His love for us. God proves Himself in His faithfulness to us all the time.
Ro 9:20-21 But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honored use and another for dishonorable use? We are merely the clay and must never forget this. It is an essential understanding, not just to grasp the concept of testing, but the very concept of salvation itself. If we seek to place God on trial, we do as Satan suggested Eve do. Satan told Eve she would be like God. She bought the lie. If we buy the lie, then we forget we are the molded clay. The first step toward salvation is the realization we are imperfect created beings, not sovereign unto ourselves, and in need of the perfect sacrificial salvation courtesy of God’s grace – the unearned free gift of our loving creator.