James 1:12-22: “12 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. 13 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. 14 But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. 15 Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death. 16 Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. 17 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. 18 Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures. 19 So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; 20 for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God. 21 Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. 22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.”
I had to stop myself…I really could have included the entire book of James on this subject! He instructs so forthrightly on how to live an overcoming life in Christ–a lot of salty with a little sweet thrown in now and then. I wanted to challenge you today, dear Reader, to do something I had to learn many, many years ago. As a teenager I very much embodied the typical firstborn tendency to desire perfection and aspire after it. While strong-willed, I also desired to please others. I didn’t want to stand out. I genuinely was content a few chairs from the front seat. But there was such a strong belief system ingrained in my heart that I could not “go with the flow” when it came to stepping over my convictions.
Then came the guilt when I would find myself tempted to do something I should not do, act on anger, hate someone, or speak against someone else. I don’t recall feeling the temptation to take a drink of alcohol, succumb to drugs or indulge in immoral sexual activity. But there were a few times here and there I could see a spirit of pride creeping up. Bitterness or self-righteousness haunted me from time to time.
Something all believers need to take notice of in this text is that the apostle James said “when he is tempted”. James did NOT say “if he is tempted”. Regardless of who you are or how long you’ve been serving God, temptation will come! But I remind you today that the most simplistic means of resisting temptation is answering the question…before it is asked. Many a temptation in my life has gone beyond my awareness of it being there because I had already settled that question. Even as a young woman I was never asked one time to have sex before marriage. I was never invited to the parties where illicit activity would take place. Not one sip of alcohol was ever passed my way. Why? I had already answered that question with my life.
What tempts you? Find a way to engage the Word of God in such a way that you answer that question before it’s asked. Learn from James’ instruction above where he challenges us to:
- be swift to hear
- be slow to speak
- be slow to wrath
- lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness
- receive with meekness the implanted word
- be doers of the word, and not hearers only
- don’t deceive yourselves!
Apply that Word of God in your life! As Rick Renner interprets verse 22 of James 1, “Don’t be like those who attend meetings and listen to sermons for the sole purpose of being with the crowd or of gathering information that makes them look smart in other people’s eyes.”♦ But do the Word; activate its power in your life and resist temptation.
Yours for Souls,
♦Sparkling Gems from the Greek, Rick Renner, ©2003, Teach All Nations