TRIALS, TEMPTATIONS AND THE GOODNESS OF GOD

James 1:12-18

 

James write this epistle to Christians who are under the gun.  He writes to those who are being persecuted for their faith, both by their own people, the Jews, as well as by the Gentiles.

 

·        In verses 1-4 he tells these believers to consider their trials to have an end result of joy because endurance is being produced in their lives.

·        In verse 5 they are told to ask God for wisdom so that they can see and understand the benefits of those trials.

·        Verses 6-8 place a condition upon the reception of God’s wisdom, It is that the believer be single-minded in his desire to know God.

·        Verses 9-11 give a practical application of dealing with trials.  It is the area of finances.

 

As we come to verse 12, James concludes this initial section on handling trials.  He now approaches a new question.  It is the question of WHY should the believer try to endure in the face of trials.  James has the answer.  It is because of future reward.  The reason we can face hard times today is because of the promise of good times tomorrow.

 

 

A PROMISE FOR PERSEVERANCE

 

            Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life, which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. (James 1:12).

 

This is given in the form of a Beatitude.  Do you remember the Beatitudes?    They were given by Jesus on the Sermon on the Mount.

 

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

 

Here is still another Beatitude.  It begins with a blessing:   Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial.  Like the Beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount, the verb (“is”) is not expressed in the Greek text.  This is not a wish.  It is not a hopeful benediction.  It is not a command.  It is a simple statement of fact.  The man who endures under trial is blessed -- literally, he is “happy.”

 

Why?  Because there is a reward at the end of the struggle.  Because once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life.  This brings us to a question.  What is it that obtains for you the crown of life?  Perseverance?  Good hard work?  No.  It is true that you do not get it apart from perseverance.  But the next clause of the verse tells you the source of this crown and it isn’t based in how good you are or in what you are able to earn or deserve.

 

It is a crown that the Lord has promised to those who love Him.  It is a gift.  It is given to those who trust in the Lord and who love Him.

 

God is the source of that gift.  God has allowed the trials through which that gift came to you.  But God is not the source of temptations.

 

 

THE SOURCE OF TEMPTATION

 

            Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone.

            But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. 15 Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death. (James 1:13-15).

 

Notice that the subject has shifted from TRIALS to TEMPTATIONS.  But there is not really that much of a shift.  The Greek word for “trial” in verse 12 and the Greek word for “tempt” here in verse 13 come from the same root.  Trials often involve a corresponding temptation.

 

What is the difference then between a trial versus a temptation?

 

Trials

Temptations

A trial comes from the outside in

A temptation comes from the inside out

Trials bring life

Temptations bring death

Trials lead to maturity

Temptations lead to a maturing of sin

God brings into you life the outward trials.

He does not bring the inner temptations.  Those come from within you.

 

This is why we can say that Jesus was tempted by the devil while at the same time He is God and God cannot be tempted.  His temptation was from the outside in.  But there was no sin within him to correspond to that temptation.  That isn’t the case with us.  Our temptations come from within.

 

There is a game that people often play.  It is known as “Blame-Shifting.”  It is an old game, going back all the way to the Garden of Eden.

 

You recall the story.  Adam was in the Garden with his wife.  They were still in the midst of their honeymoon.  They had everything that they could possibly desire: Fellowship with God, a marriage made in heaven, and no in-laws.

 

Then Eve had a conversation with a smooth-talking serpent.  She was swayed by his seductive speech and she ate of the forbidden fruit.  She took it to Adam and offered it to him.  I don’t know whether or not Adam heard Satan’s line and I doubt that Eve had the serpents subtlety.  As a result, Adam knew what he was doing.  He knew that this was forbidden fruit and he ate it anyway.

 

Next there is a familiar sound in the Garden.  It is the Lord.  No longer is the presence of God a thing to be desired.  In their panic, Adam and Eve try to hide from the presence of the Lord.

 

            And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden.

            Then the LORD God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?”

            And he said, “I heard the sound of Thee in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself.”

            And He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?”

            And the man said, “The woman whom Thou gavest to be with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate.” (Genesis 3:8-12).

 

Do you see what Adam is doing?  He is trying to shift the blame.  He was not directly tempted by Satan, so he can’t say, “The devil made me do it.”  Instead he does the next best thing.  He blames his wife.

 

But that is not all.  He says, “The woman whom THOU gavest to be with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate.”  He is also blaming God.  He is saying, “Lord, if You hadn’t messed up creation by giving me that woman, then I would still be back in the Garden eating strawberries.”

 

Adam tried to blame God, but the Bible makes it very clear that God is not in the tempting business.

 

1.         God does not Tempt:   Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God” (1:13).

 

God does not tempt people to sin.  What He does do is to provide a way of escape from temptations.

 

            No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, that you may be able to endure it. (1 Corinthians 10:13).

 

God does not tempt people to sin.  What He DOES do is to prevent you from being tempted beyond what you can endure.  He provides a way of escape.

 

2.         God and Temptation do not Mix:  For God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. (1:13).

 

Have you ever tried to mix oil and water?  They don’t mix.  You can take a beaker full of water and drop some oil into it and the oil will float on top of the water.  We say that oil is not MISCIBLE with water.  What is true of oil and water is also true of God and temptation.  God is not miscible with temptation.  Temptation and God do not mix.

 

·        God does not tempt others to evil.

·        God cannot be tempted by evil.

 

The Greek phrases used by James literally says, “God is non-temptable by evil.”  Why is it that God cannot be tempted by evil?  It is because there is nothing within Him that responds in a positive manner toward evil.  Not so with us.  With fallen man, temptation comes from within.

 

3.         Temptation Comes from Within:  But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust (James 1:14).

 

Your actions are nothing more than belated statements of what you have been thinking.  That is why your thought life is so important.  Sin always starts on the inside and works its way out.

 

James does not blame Satan for your sins.  Why not?  Because Satan cannot succeed on the outside unless there is something that corresponds to that temptation on the inside.  The corresponding principle is called LUST.

Lust involves a strong desire.  It can be a good desire or a bad desire -- this same Greek word is used by Jesus to describe how He earnestly desired to eat the Passover with His disciples (Luke 22:15).  Paul uses this same word in Philippians 1:23 of his own desire to depart and to be with Christ.  It is not necessarily the desire that is sinful.  But it can give birth to sin.

 

4.         Temptation from Birth to Death:  Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death. (1:15).

 

Lust is personified in terms of a prostitute with which a man has relations.  He does not intend for these relations to bear fruit, but they do.  There is a movement traced here from the desire in the heart to the outward manifestation of sin and its resulting death.

 

Begins with a Need (can be a false need)

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Desire in the heart

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Outward act of Sin

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Results in death

 

It is when we move from a desire in the heart to the outward act of sin that a conception takes place.  It gives birth to sin.  This is not a happy birth.  It is not a birth leading to life, but rather a birth leading to death.

 

At the point of desire, sin can still be thwarted.  The conception can still be prevented.  How?  Through faith.  Through trusting in the goodness of God and in that which God has provided to meet our needs.

 

Begins with a Need (can be a false need)

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Desire in the heart

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FAITH

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Results in life

 

The result of faith in the provision that God has provided is LIFE.  This is what grace is all about.  Grace comes in where there was death and grace brings life.  We see this in the next three verses.

 

 

GOD’S SALVATION GIFT

 

            Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. 17  Every good thing bestowed and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation, or shifting shadow.  18  In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth, so that we might be, as it were, the first fruits among His creatures. (James 1:16-18).

 

Somewhere along the line we got the idea that the message of James was antithetical to the grace of God.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  James is going to have quite a lot to say about works, but the basis of those works is on what God has first done for us.  We see that here in these verses.

 

1.         There is a Danger of Deception:   Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren (1:16).

 

This command is given in the present imperative.  When a negative command is given in the present imperative, it can be translated, “Stop doing that!”

 

James is not speaking of a theoretical danger.  He is speaking of a real life situation that was actually happening.  He is saying, “You are being deceived and I want to stop it right now!”

 

About what were they being deceived?  They were being deceived about the goodness of God.

 

Man looks at all of the bad things in the world and wants to blame God.  James tells us to look at all of the good things in the world and thank God.

 

This is how Satan deceived Eve in the Garden.  He pointed to the forbidden fruit and how good it was and how it was to be desired and then he implied that God was doing a bad thing by keeping it from her.  Instead of focusing upon the one tree that was forbidden, Eve should have been looking at all of the other trees that God had freely provided.

 

2.         God Gives Good Gifts:  Every good thing bestowed and every perfect gift is from above (1:17).

 

God gives good gifts.  Not only does God give good gifts, but all good gifts that are given are from God.  This means that you cannot get a gift that is a good gift without it being from God.

 

3.         God Continues to Give Good Gifts:  Every good thing bestowed and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation, or shifting shadow (1:17).

 

God continues to give good gifts.  These gifts are described as continually coming down from the Father of lights.  God didn’t give and then stop giving.  He doesn’t say, “I already gave at the office.”  He gives every day.  He is the giving God.

 

God does not change.  There is no variation in God.  He does not change.  He never gets up on the wrong side of the bed.  He is never in a bad mood.

 

He gave in the past and He continues to give in the present and, because He is unchanging, you can be assured that He will always be the giving God.

 

4.         God Gave the Best Gift at the Cross:   In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth (1:18).

 

In verse 15 we pointed out that sin brings forth death.  It was the image of a pregnancy producing a child.  The offspring was death.  Now we read that God also has brought forth something.  He brought forth US.

 

Sin

God

Verse 15

Verse 18

What we are able to accomplish

What God is able to accomplish

Brought forth sin

Brought US forth by the Word of truth

The result is DEATH

The result is LIFE

 

Notice that James does not say that God brought us forth by the exercise of OUR will.  The foundational cause of my salvation was not me.  It was the exercise of HIS will that caused us to be born again.

 

Do you see the sovereignty of God and the grace of God pictured in this verse?  They are joined together in the very strongest sense.  It was through God’s gracious will that He brought us forth.  We were saved...

            According to God’s plan.

            By God’s power.

            For God’s purpose.

 

5.         God Saved us to be His Firstfruits:   In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth, so that we might be, as it were, the first fruits among His creatures (1:18).

 

When James speaks of the firstfruits, he is using a phrase that is distinctly Jewish.  You will remember that he has addressed his epistle to the twelve tribes that are scattered abroad.  In the first month of the Jewish year, the Jews observed three Jewish Feasts.

 

a.         Passover.

 

This took place on the 14th day of the month.  It was designed to be a reminder of how God had delivered the Israelites from the plague of the firstborn and had brought them out of their slavery in Egypt.

 

b.         Unleavened Bread.

 

Beginning the day after Passover, this Feast was a week-long observance during which the Jews removed all of the leaven from the bread that they ate.  This was a remembrance of their separation from the culture of Egypt.  God had taken them and made them a people who were to be set apart from the rest of the world.

 

c.         Firstfruits.

 

The Feast of Firstfruits took place on the first day of the week following the Passover.  On this day, each Israelite was to bring the first sheaf of grain that he had harvested.  The first harvest in Palestine took place during the spring season.  Bringing the sheaf of grain before the Lord, he was to have the priest wave it before the door of the Tabernacle.  By doing so, he would be pledging the entire harvest that was soon to follow.  Just as the people were God’s people, so they were demonstrating that the harvest was God’s harvest.

 

Here is the significance.  God has moved through Christ to save the world.  He has started with US.  We are the first part of God’s creation to be brought back from the bondage of sin.  There is coming a day when the rest of creation will follow suit -- when every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess that Jesus is Lord.

 

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