James 1:12 Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. ESV
Recently I talked with a friend who is currently facing a severe trial. My fear was that this difficulty might somehow be discouraging them and causing them to doubt God’s love. However, what I discovered was that their trial was not pushing them away from God, but instead drawing them closer to Him. Rather than becoming discouraged and thinking about quitting, they are now more than ever determined to serve Him. They are remaining steadfast under their trial, even as James tells us.
Yet trials do not always affect everyone in the same way. Consider how the nation of Israel reacted as they faced certain trials while wandering in the wilderness. Scripture says that rather than humbling themselves before God and praying, they grumbled and complained. “We would have rather died in Egypt where we had food, than starve to death in this wilderness.” (Exodus 16:3 author’s translation) No doubt the Israelites would have tried to have justified themselves by saying that God was forcing them to complain. In other words, ‘God was putting on them more than any human can possibly bear.’ Adam did this after his sin in the garden. Perhaps you will remember that he tried to justify himself by saying – “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” (Gen 3:12) In other words – “It’s Your fault God. If You hadn’t given me this woman, I wouldn’t have been tempted to sin.”
James warns us against such foolish thinking. – James 1:13 “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God,’ for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. 14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.” The temptation to sin does not come from God, but rather from the surplus of evil found in the human heart. Jesus said, “For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.” (Mark 7:21-23 ESV) The trials we encounter do not produce the sin. They only reveal the sin that was already there.
It has been my experience that the best thing I can do whenever I feel the temptation to sin is turn to God and seek His help. We read from the book of Hebrews – “Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:14-16 ESV) Having been a man, Jesus fully understands the power of temptation. Yet being God, He also understands how to help.
Looking ahead in our study of James we read – James 4:7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.” ESV