Thursday, February 9, 2017
When Faced With Temptation
James 1:12 Blessed is anyone who endures temptation. Such a one has stood the test and will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him. 13 No one, when tempted, should say, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil and he himself tempts no one. 14 But one is tempted by one’s own desire, being lured and enticed by it; 15 then, when that desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and that sin, when it is fully grown, gives birth to death. 16 Do not be deceived, my beloved.
It seems odd that this section would begin like a beatitude. The one who endures the temptation or trial is the one who is blessed. The word used here is the same for “test,” “trial,” and “tempt.” It is the same language of the Israelites in the wilderness when they succumbed to the temptation and worshipped the golden calf. The test came from within themselves for they continually longed for the way of life that they had experienced in Egypt. God does not tempt us, but it is our internal longings and desires that can potentially draw us away from God. There is no reason to blame God. Responsibility for our own actions and responses lies squarely on our own shoulders.
Be aware that we have weaknesses in our human flesh, but they are not to win the day. Therefore, if we are able, through spiritual discipline refrain from following our “fleshly” desires, we will be blessed. The blessing is “the crown of life” — both now and for all of eternity which is found through our Lord.
It’s so easy to blame our behaviors on the fact that we are “simply human.” It seems to be an excuse for us to be able to engage in questionable activity. There isn’t supposed to be an excuse for that questionable activity, but there is blessing for enduring the temptation.
Every morning I am tempted to stay in bed a little longer and not get up and walk on that treadmill! I will confess — there are days that I give in to that temptation. At the same time, if I want to remain healthy and fit, I need to overcome that temptation. God is not the one tempting me to stay in bed a little longer. To bit fit physically requires physical discipline. To be fit spiritually requires spiritual discipline.
We are to practice discipline in our lives and this can cover a whole variety of topics. The weakness of one may not be the weakness of another. We may be tempted in the area of sexual purity. Just because the world and everyone around you seems to be saying that premarital sex is okay — doesn’t mean that it’s okay. Neither is extramarital sex. Neither is pornography. Yes, we may be tempted but the response to that temptation lies squarely with us. Will we place ourselves in circumstances where it will make it more difficult to withstand the temptation? Listen to the words of James who says that we are tempted, lured and then enticed. In other words, we don’t start out right in the middle of the sin. No one really goes out and plans to have an extramarital affair. It generally begins with a simple friendship and “innocent” flirtations. However, if it is given opportunity, it can grow far beyond this, and that is the problem. Discipline is the answer and the one who endures and does not succumb is the one who is blessed.
We may also be tempted in our attitudes. It’s easy to be critical and blame others' success for our status in life. Start going down that trail and it’s easy to become a very miserable person. The discipline of overcoming temptation is life-giving in the here and now, and for all of eternity. Giving in to the temptations we face will only serve to make us miserable. Sadly, we are not the only ones who will be miserable, but we just may destroy the lives of others along the way.
Temptations will raise their ugly head but how we respond is up to us. Empowered by our relationship with Jesus Christ and the working of the Holy Spirit we can overcome and be blessed.
Lord, when faced with temptation, please help me turn my face toward you and live in your power and strength. Amen.