By Benjamin H. Liles
"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 first fruits of His creatures. So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God" (James 1:16-19, New King James).
I want to look at this today at how we are to act towards one another when trials and tribulations come in the life of a believer. To do this properly though I have to back up a couple more verses. In talking to his audience of believers around two thousand years ago James said, "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" (James 1:12-15).
Blessing in Tests and Troubles
The very first thing he says is that the man who endures temptation is blessed. This man is sure of who he is in God. He sees the greatness of God and is so full of gracious wonder and in worship of the Creator that he can stand firm when things go wrong; and more often than not, things go wrong. The next thing James says about this man, within verse 12 is that once this man has been "tried" or "tested," "he...[receives] the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him" (italics for emphasis). Notice that this man who has withstood temptation and has been approved by God is known by the Lord God and Jesus Christ as a man who loves Him.
Also, as James continues his thoughts about those who love God and withstand the pressures and persuasions is that a man can only be drawn away by his own desires and thus enticed -- this is why some fall into the trap of temptation. Let me put this differently to understand. I have always been the kind of guy who when he's been hurt by others has engaged in affairs not so pure in the sight of God. For example, I admit I committed adultery by looking at women who weren't my wife, and part of that was even before I was married. That's hardly godly character, even for someone as myself who wants to chase hard after God.
What changed within me to put off doing those things? As I have studied the Bible, God's word, and have done my best to live my life as I believe He desires of me I saw I was doing those things that weren't good for me. It's a lot like the Prodigal Son mentioned in Luke 15 who has squandered what his father has given him and now lives and eats with the pigs. Don't think for a moment I'm trying to preach at you. No, rather I want you to see sin as it is: disgusting, vile, laden with mud, muck and plain abhorrent.
When I saw my life through God's lens--His word--and saw I needed His help, His love and grace, there was nothing I could do to earn His favor. I could do nothing to impress Him. But you see, God did something totally amazing and within His own character: He gave the life of His Son, Jesus Christ, to atone for our sins. We no longer are "left without hope." Because of Jesus Christ going to the cross on our behalf we have this amazing gift God extended to us. I'm sorry for going a bit off target there, but that truly needed to be said. However, it is the truth and needs to be said once more. God loves you so much, it doesn't matter if you can clean yourself up. God wants to do the work if you will simply allow Him. He has given you the way to "come clean" from being in the mud and the muck. Jesus Christ, by His own shed blood, is now our covering in God's eyes.
Temptation comes from the Heart of Man
James goes on to say after having said "[man] is tempted when he [allows himself to be led away into sin]." Then in verse fifteen he says, "[Once this] desire has conceived it gives birth to sin; and sin, full-grown, brings forth death." Paul wrote, "Therefore, just as sin entered the world through [Adam, see Genesis 3], and death through sin, so also death was passed on to all men, because all sinned" (Romans 5:12, Berean Study). I believe verse sixteen of James 1 should be right next to verse fifteen: "Do not be deceived, me beloved brethren."
So, all that having been said it''s as if James is telling us we can live this life down here with sin, death and temptation but not seriously being touched by it by recognizing God redeems us through Jesus Christ's atoning and shed blood on the cross. I mean, if we look at what James is telling us about the ability to be tempted, to sin, and to live a victorious life in Jesus Christ he's saying this:
"Brothers and sisters, let me tell you this amazing thing! You can withstand trials and tribulations by submitting yourself to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Blessed is this man who sees temptation, he doesn't stick around or engage in it. He completely passes it by! And this man is able to do so because he loves God. He gives no thought to doing evil because he desires to do God's will in his life. And this is God's will--love, God, love others--having come through trials and tribulations, listen with urgency, speak slowly, and be slow to give evil. For man's evil doesn't produce God's righteousness."
Don't get me wrong, I still fail, horrendously in my life these days. But after the past couple of years of teaching God's word n my website, talking to my wife, and with friends who know me well I see God's activity in my life. I don't just want Him to be seen within me, I also want Him to be seen outside of myself too. I want others, just like you, to see what can be gained by looking at God with curiosity, wondering, "If he can have this life with God, speaking boldly and courageously about God, and talking about how much he loves God, can I have that as well?"
Oh my word, my friend, you have no idea what you are seriously missing! God desires you to put off sin in your loves. But He's not standing there like some stern parent, or an unforgiving spouse ready to paddle you into submission. The God who loves you is the same one who opened His arms wide on the cross. Think about that a moment. Jesus said this, "Leave the children alone, and don't try to keep them from coming to Me, because the kingdom of heaven is made up of people like this" (Matthew 19:14, Holman Christian Standard, italics for emphasis). And still Jesus also said this about children, "Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 18:3-4, Berean Study).
I want to apologize for the length of this article, but I was wondering what it was that needed to be said today. Some of you are hurting and wondering where God is during this time of testing and trouble in your life. Do not be afraid. Be like a child looking for cover from a storm, or even a chick wanting its momma hen--run to the security and protection of Almighty God and allow yourself to be covered by Him and His presence (see Psalm 91:4). Above all allow His word to be your shield of faith. And if you are going through, at this present moment, any kind of trouble or season of testing you can be assured God won't allow you to be destroyed or cut off. I pray for your safety and your security in the name and graciousness of Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior. Amen.