As Christians, how can we handle temptation? We know we should take every precaution to keep from giving in to those allurements which can so easily destroy our lives. The book of James offers several biblical principles which can help us resist and overcome temptation. First, take responsibility for your own sin. Oftentimes, we want to blame someone else: our parents, our weakness, our family members, or even God. As long as you blame your temptation on God, or anyone other than yourself, you will never experience victory over temptation. Blaming it on God is nothing new. You will recall God questioning Adam and Even after they had disobeyed Him in the garden. Adam blamed his wife; Eve blamed the serpent. As long as we blame God or anyone else for our mistakes, rebellion, or habits, we will never be free.
You can be certain that God never tempts you to sin (James 1:13): God is too holy to be tempted to sin Himself and He is too loving to tempt others. But don’t the gospel writers all tell us that Jesus was tempted in the wilderness by Satan? Well, we need to understand that there is an objective and subjective aspect of temptation. When someone tries to tempt us to do wrong, he is, objectively speaking, tempting us. He is soliciting us to do evil. But at the same time, subjectively speaking, we may not actually be “tempted,” because in some areas, their efforts, as rigorous as they may be, may not awaken in us a desire to act on the particular evil they are suggesting. Jesus was tempted by Satan objectively, to do wrong. In other words, Satan was trying to get Jesus to sin. That was his goal. And he did his best. But Satan’s efforts were futile, because they didn’t arouse within Jesus any desire to sin. Being God, there was nothing in Jesus’ holy nature that could respond positively to Satan’s solicitations. God is too loving to tempt others; God does test us; but he never tempts us. What is the difference between testing and tempting? It has to do with their respective goals. The goal of temptation is to cause us to sin, whereas the goal of trials or testing is to refine and prove the genuineness of our faith. As we learned last week, the goal of trials is to help us mature and develop godly character. God may test us, but he never tempts us!
So how does the process of temptation work? It follows a consistent pattern. First, we feel desire (v. 14).We all have desires, which, in and of themselves, are good and proper. Without these desires we couldn’t function. It is when we seek to satisfy these desires in ways outside of God’s will that we get into trouble. The temptation cycle takes our normal, God-given desires, and an appeal is made to fulfill that desire in a manner which God has prohibited. Temptation always carries with it some bait which not only attracts us, but hides the fact that yielding to that temptation will eventually bring sorrow and pain. So the cycle of temptation begins with desire, moves to deception, and then to disobedience (v. 15). James goes on to tell us that the ultimate end result of the temptation cycle is death (v. 15). Through consistent disobedience, a Christian’s faith can become dead and nonproductive. We can become so calloused toward sin, so hard-hearted, that a once vital, obedient faith begins to shrivel and die. James describes such a person in chapter 2 as having a “dead faith.” For all practical purposes, their faith is useless. The Bible tells us that because God is a loving father he will discipline such a person, and if they continue in their sin, one day when they stand before God they also face the prospect of divine rebuke, and the loss of reward and responsibility in the future Kingdom of God.
When faced with temptation, consider God’s goodness and respond to God’s truth. Victory comes through dwelling on the goodness of God. One of Satan’s strategies is to convince us that God is holding out on us, that he doesn’t really love us and care for us. When Satan approached Eve, he suggested that if God really loved her, He would permit her to eat from the forbidden tree. And she bought into that lie. So you see, believing deep down in the goodness of God, is a great buffer against temptation. Since God is good, we can be certain that he would never withhold something that was good and necessary for us to have. God is the giver of good gifts (v. 16-17). When you face temptation, remind yourself that God is good. He has set boundaries, not to take away your fun, but to protect and provide for you. God has the biggest picture of all. He can see things that we simply aren’t capable of perceiving because of our finiteness. And so when God says “No”, and you don’t understand, remember that God has a vantage point which you don’t possess.
Entrust yourself to him, knowing that all He does is for your good.
Application / Challenge
- Take responsibility for your own sin.
- Recognize that temptation follows a consistent pattern: Desire (emotion) → Deception (intellect) → Disobedience (will) → Death (an impoverished spiritual life)
- When faced with temptation, consider God’s goodness and respond to God’s truth.