Good morning Summit Family!
James has been taking us on a remarkable journey, a journey where the final destination results in those who persevere through life’s trials achieving a mature/complete faith. Hopefully, his readers have come to understand that developing a mature faith is a tremendous benefit. It should be encouraging to know that no matter what we face in life, we KNOW that God will be faithful in His promises to us. His faithfulness is one of the blessings of having a mature faith.
On Friday we had the opportunity to identify another blessing that comes from persevering through life’s trials, the receiving of the crown of life, which is a promise from the Lord for those who love Him. I think the more we love God, the more we will persevere through the trials of life (like the current trial we are facing as a nation!) and the more we will put our trust and assurance in Him and the more mature our faith will become!
It may seem James has decided to “chase a rabbit” because of his next statement. For some it may seem to be a departure from the theme he introduced at the beginning of his letter. He has been talking about trials, gaining wisdom, and using the wisdom God will generously give as we face life’s various seasons. Now he turns our attention to temptation.
“When tempted, no one should say, ‘God is tempting me.’ For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters.”
If we continue to interpret James’ letter, keeping in mind the main theme (mature faith) and the focus on navigating life’s trials with wisdom, it is easier to see how this passage compliments the message he has shared thus far.
Many of the trials we face in life come to us from outward sources: spiritual warfare, trials of protection and provision, personal attacks, loss of income, health crisis, etc. James is now turning our attention to one of life’s greatest trials, the one that comes from within – our own enticement when facing temptation.
With every trial in life, we have the choice of going forward or going backward dependent upon how we respond to that trial. Our spiritual success is going to be determined by how we respond to the circumstances before us. Those circumstances can lead to patient endurance of they can lead to temptation.
Everyone over the age of 40 can probably remember Flip Wilson, a comic entertainer from the 70’s. One of his famous statements was “The devil made me do it.” As humorous as that statement is, nothing could be further from the truth. We are accountable for our response when temptation enters our life. While the “devil” may tempt us, he cannot MAKE us do anything.
James is also sharing the truth that our temptation does not come from God: “God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He tempt anyone.” While we may face temptation, we have to come face to face with the truth that we are the ones who are accountable for the way we respond. Remember, God is holy and His character never changes. So, God CANNOT be responsible for our temptations.
We know that the FORWARD path of our faithful endurance results in our receiving the crown of life. James is sharing that the BACKWARD path, allowing our evil desires to grow will result in death. We should be careful to evaluate our desires through the wisdom God will give us. Unfortunately, our NATURE and our response to the various trials of life is often determined by our own desires as opposed to the wisdom that comes from God.
It should be noted that all of us are going to continue to sin, even with a mature complete faith. Our complete faith is not in ourselves, but in God. It would be wonderful if we could remove all sin from our lives, but we cannot do that. The apostle Paul shared the same conclusion: “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” (Romans 7:15) He also said: “Brothers and sister, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13-14)
Our battle with sin will continue. The disaster is allowing it to become “full-grown.” James is sharing that when we allow sin to take over our lives, it will lead to death. Just as conception leads to gestation and gestation leads to birth, desire leads to temptation, which leads to sin, which when allowed to grow, leads to death – not just physical death (which can occur), but spiritual death.
James finishes with a strong statement: “Don’t be deceived my brothers and sisters.” In other words, don’t allow yourselves to discount the seriousness of the trials and tribulations that we bring on ourselves when we allow temptation to grow in our lives.