“Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures.”
James 1:12-18 NKJV
There is much pleasure to be had in this world. One need only turn on the television, consume social media, or even walk down a busy city street, to have an idea of what is available. Temptations are everywhere, gaudily displayed, seeking the attention of the viewer or the passerby.
Life itself can bring other kinds of temptations, as trials enter life, making one weary. One may feel as if God has become distant, unaware of the suffering so far down below. In that suffering there is great temptation to turn away from God, and toward other means to alleviate the suffering. All too often there are those who come alongside the sufferer, offering godless advice.
“And he took for himself a potsherd with which to scrape himself while he sat in the midst of the ashes. Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast to your integrity? Curse God and die!” But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips.”
Job 2:8-10 NKJV
I started James this morning, focusing on the passage dealing with loving God through trials. God has seen fit to make me an expert on this topic, as life has turned upside down, and back again more than a few times. But, I have learned that God is faithful, always present in the time of trouble.
Trials come into he life of the just and the unjust, and with those trials there is the inevitable questioning. I like the way Job answered his wife, as God brings the good to us, and we should also accept the bad.
I think back to many of the trials I have had. I remember laying bed bound at Mayo Clinic, a tumor on my spine and wondering if I would ever walk again. I could have stared at the ceiling, cried out, and yelled curses at God. I am sure there were many who would have thought that just fine. I could have asked “why me?” Instead, I lay there thinking “why not me,” and surrendered the situation to the Lord. Then the Lord took me on the most amazing journey of spiritual growth and discovery, made possible only through trial.
I had great advantage over Job, as God is with me, each day, as the presence of the Holy Spirit guides me and reaffirms His love for me. Each day I spent in Mayo the Lord prepared me for the day they told me I had cancer. By that time I was more than ready to receive the news.
When we are tempted to doubt God, we cannot say that it is what God has done that brings the temptation. It is the product of our selves, our own conception. For the follower of Christ, there is great gain in resisting the ongoing onslaught, as there is assurance and peace, having walked the path of faith with no turn to the right or the left.
When it comes to the temptation toward the pleasures of sin, we are often drawn to the baser things, those things that seem so wonderful , that they must be approved by God. We also look a the opportunity itself, thinking, “if God didn’t want me to have this….. He wouldn’t have allowed it in my life.“
We deceive ourselves. As it says in James, God does not tempt anyone. We are drawn away by our own desires, and when we give in sin happens and then death. That death can be real, such as giving into the temptation of a life robbing addiction, or it can be the death of a marriage as one partner gives into the temptation to seek sexual pleasure from another.
Do not confuse what you choose to satisfy your appetites illicitly as a gift from God. As it says in James, do not be deceived.
“Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures.”
James 1:16-18 NKJV
God’s gifts are truly good and truly perfect.
Brothers and sisters, as we endure temptation, let us remember that God is for us, with us and in us. He is always faithful. As we fill ourselves with His word, and approach Him in prayer, we know that we have an advocate in the trial. We know that Jesus, the One who purchased our salvation on the cross by His shed blood, is presently pleading our case before the Father.
We can bear any temptation through the One who has gone before us and endured every temptation we may face and come way victorious.
“Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.”
I Corinthians 10:12-13 NKJV