Any tension, any trial, any stress, any transition can result in good or bad depending on how you respond. One person said it this way: “God sends the trial and Satan turns it into a temptation.” Here is the question: When adversity comes, will you allow it to drag you down or will you let the spirit of God redeem you making you into a stronger person. The way of the world/Satan is the easy way, “the devil made me do it” “everyone else is doing it”, “what does it hurt.” “it’s so much fun.” The way of God takes faith because you cannot always see what you will be. The way of God is a long term commitment with a payoff somewhere down the road.
This message is for those who are serious about the desire to resist temptation and instead walk in the way of God; those are the choices. The world does not care about overcoming temptations, they consider Christianity to be restrictive and prudish. I wear that mantle proudly, although I focus not on the negative, but rather the joy, the freedom of knowing Christ, walking towards Him, seeking to grow and mature in faith.
"Son," ordered the father, "Don't swim in that canal."
"OK, Dad," he answered. Hours later he came home with a wet bathing suit.
"Where have you been?" demanded the father.
"Swimming in the canal," answered the boy.
"Didn't I tell you not to swim there?" asked the father.
"Yes, Dad," answered the boy.
"Why did you?" he asked.
"Well, Dad," he explained, "I had my bathing suit with me and I couldn't resist the temptation."
"Why did you take your bathing suit with you?" he questioned.
"So I'd be prepared to swim, in case I was tempted," he replied.
There is nothing I can do to help the person that has no interest in following the way of God and resist the temptations that take him/her away from God. But the door is open!
Here is the way temptation works: God sends the trial ~ Satan turns it into a temptation. Sickness strikes. The sickness is often a test causing people of faith to look away from the things of earth to the things of heaven. Many good things are accomplished through sickness in the life of the believer. That does not mean the sickness or any tragedy itself is good... Through that same sickness Satan will work to tempt you to despair, anger, bitterness, depression.
If you lose your job, God may have a better job. Who knows what he is up to, but I know it is good. He wants to build spiritual character in your life. Yet, during the same job loss, Satan will tempt you to resentment and discouragement.
It also works the other way. You get a promotion and raise. Prosperity is a test from God to see how you will handle his blessings. It ought to make you more generous, more loving, more sensitive to the needs of others because you have been given more. But it is a temptation hold it tight.
The same event can be both a trial and a temptation. A trial becomes a temptation when we respond wrongly.
Let’s look at James 1:13-18 to discover helpful insights into the nature of temptation. Don’t be surprised by Temptation, Don’t be Confused and Resist.
1. Don’t Be Surprised! (READ James 1:13a) To successfully handle temptation, expect it. James says, "When tempted..." He did not say, "If tempted." Here’s a few facts about temptation that help in understanding it so you aren’t surprised. The more you understand a thing the more control you have. Norma S. had a stroke the early morning hours of Christmas Eve day, Jerry says the more he learns the more comfortable he is, the knowledge helps of what others have gone through, the common patterns according the doctors.... A few facts about temptation….
Two simple facts: Temptation is Universal. Everyone is tempted. How often people who are battling the pull of demons feel alone, like they are the only ones ever to face their situation. Everyone on occasion, for seasons of life, feels the pull of temptation ~ give up, give in, or go along with the crowd. I read a meme earlier this week: “I would rather walk alone than walk with the crowd in the wrong direction.” TRUE, BUT a lot of people do walk with the crowd at times even though it is the wrong direction. We all fight temptation as a lifelong battle.
Temptation is Universal and it is personal. We are all vulnerable in different ways. Often it is a person’s background. When I smell cigarette smoke I am not tempted, but the person who is trying to kick the habit may feel strong desire. Personality plays into it, unique likes and dislikes. I knew a person that blew a lot of money on buying clocks off of ebay, he says he could not stop himself. It is one of the things that contributed to his divorce…. Temptation is personal. Some things that do not tempt you tempt me. Your temptations will be tailor made for your weaknesses.
There is no doubt temptations will come to all of us. “When tempted” the scripture says. Temptations are common to all people, and they target your weaknesses. We need to be ready. We should never be surprised.
Don’t Be Confused By Temptations! (READ James 1:13-15)
Temptations come from Satan. Some would argue God is the source of temptation. The shifting of blame began in the Garden of Eden. Adam excused himself for his disobedience to God by saying, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree and I ate.” And the woman, said,“ The serpent deceived me and I ate.” (Gen. 3:12-13)
Today we carry on the tradition of blaming others. We say “I behave the way I do because that is how God made me.” He created me with a certain temperament and so I can’t help doing what I do. That was Adam’s logic. When confronted by God for his sin, first Adam blamed Eve “The woman” but indirectly he blamed God “The woman whom you gave me.”
James quickly refutes the idea that evil comes from God. James 1:13 READ. To believe God is the source is wrong. The temptation is from Satan. When confronted with a trial, will you go towards God and mature, or go towards Satan towards a dead end life? What pathway will you choose?
Don’t be confused by temptation, not only is Satan the source of temptation, but the most destructive temptation is not a one time event, but rather it is a pathway towards death. READ James 1:14-15. Don’t think of temptation as a one time decision, but it is a process, a way of life, a pathway. Many temptations seems harmless at first, because that is the nature of temptation, but soon the harmless experiment becomes an addiction. Once you call in sick to work the first time in order to do something fun, it is easier to call the second time.
Let’s follow the pathway of death. It begins with desire. READ James 1:14. The desire to sin is within. If it weren’t, sin would not be attractive. Sin is personal. I guarantee you’ll not tempt my brother with a plate of Kale, now Sally on the other hand….One person said it this way: “At first you might think sin is some sort of a magnet. But that is not true. The magnet is within you. It is your desire.” Advertisers have figured this out. Have you ever studied the psychology of ads? It used to be that companies advertised products. Not any more. Now they figure out what it is people want to overcome, perhaps loneliness, so beer ads most commonly take place in a fun loving environment where that desire is met… Desires are powerful. Not all are wrong. We are talking about the temptations that take you away from God.
Temptation leads to deception. James tells us in 1:14 that because of our desire we are “dragged away and enticed.” The word “enticed” is a fishing term that means "to lure by bait." And the purpose of bait is deception. If you bait your hook with a nice juicy worm, you have two things in mind.
- The first is to lure the fish. In order to pull that fish out from its comfortable hiding place, I need to find a bait the fish can’t resist.
- The second is to hide the hook. We are enticed by sin, in part, because we do not see the consequences. The fish does not see the hook. And neither do we. The hook is there. We are deceived into believing it is not.
The pathway of Temptation towards death results in disobedience. It begins with desire, leads to deception, and leads to disobedience. Sin is disobedience to God. James tells us, READ James 1:15.
The pathway of Temptation ends in death. READ James 1:15b. Even though sin often brings temporary pleasure, it always leads to death. James is not referring to immediate physical death, for then none of us would be alive. He is referring, I believe, to dying to the things of God. We will die inside. That means that as long as there is breath, you can turn around and walk the other way. It’s a process, a way of life.
Don’t be confused by temptation. It is from Satan and it is a pathway to death: desire, deception, disobedience, death.
Finally, Resist Temptation: READ James 1:16-18. With these words James is taking us back to what is good and positive. You resist temptation not by digging in your heels and trying hard, you resist by instead fleeing towards God. Remember, the same crisis can cause you to grow stronger in faith, in character, or you can go the way which Satan desires and compromise…walk the pathway towards God.
James 1:16 says, "Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers." In other words, don’t fall for the temptation, reject it. Once you see it for what it is, once you are no longer confused by it, get away from it. Temptation is not good no matter how it appears. Satan does not give good gifts. God alone gives good gifts. READ James 1:17. The pathway of temptation is towards death, the pathway of God leads to life. The temptations we face are all about a choice set before us. God is waiting. If you have made choices that are destructive in your life, you can always change course. There is always hope.
Those who are born of God can resist temptation. The good news is that you can win over temptation. Temptation doesn’t have to defeat you. You have been set free by the power of the life of Christ within you. You no longer have to be a slave to sin. You now have the power to resist and reject sinful practices. READ James 1:18. The new birth, the pathway of Christ, provides the power for living that we need. Everything we need is given to us through the life of Christ within us. It is that life that makes the difference. Resisting temptation is far more than digging in your heels and being strong, it is about heading down the pathway of life in Christ. Amen.