These are my notes from a sermon series I did through the book of James. It has not been proofed for spelling or grammatical errors. I present it to you as-is.
We begin a new series today called “Hooked.” We are going to focus on James 1:12-15 where God’s Word helps us to understand what temptation is and how it operates. In this series we are going to try to answer questions like: Why are we tempted? Where does sin come from? How does temptation work? How to resist temptation? What do we do after we have given into temptation? Why are you tempted by one thing and not another? Why is it important that we understand what God teaches us about our temptation? In this series we are going to try to answer those questions and more.
James 1:12-15 says, God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. 13 And remember, when you are being tempted, do not say, “God is tempting me.” God is never tempted to do wrong, and he never tempts anyone else. 14 Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away. 15 These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death (NLT).
So, let’s get started. Six times in four verses we see the words “temptation,” “tempted,” “tempting,” and “tempts.” God is serious about helping you understand what temptation is and is not. One of the reasons we struggle with temptation so much is because we don’t understand it. So, let’s try to understand it and let’s get a Biblical perspective on it. Here are some basic things that God wants you to know about temptation.
Temptations are invitations
First, temptations are invitations. Look closely at verse 12, “God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation” (NLT). A “testing” and “temptation” can occur regarding the same thing. The same Greek word (peirasmos) is translated “temptation” and “testing.” It’s like this, your coach tells you that it’s time to do ten 100 yard sprints. The purpose of this is to test you physically and to train you and build endurance for what is ahead. During one of these sprints you start thinking about quitting. This testing has now become a temptation to quit. The temptation is an invitation to abandon the coach’s plan of preparing you for what lies ahead.
One of the tests we all face is remaining sexually pure until marriage. That’s the 100 yard sprints. But someone comes along and you have an opportunity to quit God’s plan, now it’s a temptation. Temptations are an invitation to abandon God’s will.
Our faithfulness and commitment to God (our coach) is tested every day, but it may deal with greed, envy, anger, pride, lust or whether to trust God, be kind, be forgiving, or be gentle. Every time you feel the pressure of a test in life, you will be tempted to abandon God’s plan during that test.. and there’s the temptation. Temptations are invitations to abandon God’s will, plan, and best for your life.
Temptations are relentless
Number two, temptations are relentless. Verse 12 says, “God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation” (NLT). To “patiently endure” something is to persevere. The reason you have to patiently endure and persevere with temptations is because they are relentless, persistent, and obstinate.
The idea of “patiently enduring” something as a believer refers to you not relinquishing your confidence and trust in God through the temptation or the test. There are some trials in life that you will simply need to tough it out through, endure, and withstand. Most of the trials you will encounter are not sprints, but marathons. You will find yourself facing this battle over and over, sometimes throughout your entire life. Temptations are relentless.
The idea of “patiently enduring” trials is similar to what Paul said in 1 Timothy 6:12 when he told Timothy to “fight the good fight.” Or when Paul said, “I have finished the race,” referring to his life nearing the end but he has remained faithful and committed to Christ (2 Tim. 4:7). To “fight the good fight” does not mean you never got hit, it does not mean you never were knocked down or had the wind knock out of you. To “fight the good fight” means you got knocked down, but you got back up. You may have become tired, but you did not quit. Proverbs 24:16 says, “Though a righteous man falls seven times, he will get up” (CSB). Temptations may trip you up and you may fall, but because you are a child of God and you have the Holy Spirit living in you, you will get back up and re-determine yourself to keep on fighting, to keep on running, and to keep living the life that God has called you to live. But this will take patient endurance because trials are relentless. Temptations are relentless, but so are you.
Temptations are an opportunity
Number three, temptations are an opportunity. Verse 12 begins with a word of encouragement and promise when it says, “God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation” (NLT). The word “blesses” (makarios) means much more than the mere happiness of a carefree life that has little conflict or trouble. It rather carries the idea of profound inner joy and satisfaction, a joy that only the Lord Himself is able to give to those who, for His sake and in His power, faithfully and patiently endure and conquer trials. Peter put it this way when he said, “There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you have to endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold – though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, ti will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world” (1 Peter 1:6-7, NLT). Joy! Blessed! God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation.
You have an opportunity to be blessed. There are some blessings that can only come from going through the battle, enduring the storm, and walking through the valley. God has prepared some blessings that are on the other side of your trial.
You may not understand why you are having to endure this trial. You may wish that things had turned out different or wish that you would have made a different decision and this trial you are in is wearing you out, its draining you, and it is difficult. You are wanting to do what’s right, you are wanting to honor God, and honor others. That motivation from the Holy Spirit is inside of you. Even when you fall, you are learning to fall forward. You get back up and keep walking and enduring, but you fall again… but you fall forward. Before long you may have fallen several times, but you fell toward God. Before long you find yourself on the other side of the valley, the other side of your trail, and you have flipped that page of your life and find yourself in a new chapter with a new beginning.
Throughout your trials you will be tempted to abandon God’s plan, God’s will, and God’s way but if you remain faithful and keep getting back up and moving forward you will encounter God’s blessings that can only come on the other side of your testing and temptations. Temptations are an opportunity to encounter God’s blessings.
Temptations are unavoidable
Number four, temptations are unavoidable. Verse 13 says, “When you are being tempted…” (NLT). James does not say, “IF you are being tempted,” but “when you are being tempted.” It is going to happen. It is happening. There is no escape from being tempted. It’s unavoidable. It’s going to happen. No matter where you are you are, you going to face the temptation to be greedy, unkind, impatient, rude, unloving, selfish, judgemental, lustful, jealous, envious, or vengeful. You will find temptation at home, at work, at church, with others, alone, in a crowded room or in a monastery up in the mountains. Temptations are unavoidable.
God’s Word tells us in Genesis 4:7, “Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master.” The only way that is going to happen is through the power of Jesus. He is the only one who was the master over sin and now that Jesus power is inside you. Sin is unavoidable. Sin is crouching at the door. It’s waiting for you. Sin is like the thief who hides in the dark behind the door and when you walk into that room he jumps you to control you.
Temptation is going to find you, you are going to encounter it so you must prepare your heart and mind for this warfare. That’s what this series of lessons are about and that’s why God talks a lot about it in His Word. He wants you to experience victory over temptation and no condemnation when you give into it. But you need to know that’s it’s unavoidable, so you must prepare yourself for it.
When I say temptation is unavoidable, I also mean the lure of it is everywhere. Temptation is like fishing. The devil, he will place before you something that is alluring to you. It may be money or a person or a feeling or object, but he will place it in front of you, but if you give into the temptation associated with it you will find there is a hook in the middle of it. When you bite, Satan is able to pull you out of God’s will and plan for that area of your life.
I don’t normally find temptation like a fishing pole with one lure. Now there are times where Satan places this one thing in front of me and my focus seems to be on it. But in reality temptation looks more like this to me (Pick up umbrella that has various objects hanging from it that surrounds me). I’m surrounded by it. No matter where I go, or where I turn temptation is unavoidable.
Temptations are universal
Number five, temptations are universal. Again, look closely at verse 13 which says, “When you are being tempted….” That “you” is plural. That means you, me, and every other believer on the planet faces temptations of some kind. It does not matter how holy, righteous, pure, and clean you are. It doesn’t matter how much you pray or much you memorize the scripture. It doesn’t matter if you are a new believer or a mature believer. It doesn’t matter if you are Billy Graham or Billy the Kid, everyone is tempted.
Paul put it this way, “The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience” (1 Cor. 10:13, NLT). You are not alone in your temptations. You struggle with lust, so do a bunch of other believers. You struggle with greed, so do others. You wrestle with jealousy, so do others. Temptations are universal. This is why you find the same kind of sins around the world and throughout time. Your struggle with sin may feel new or unique to you, but it is not new nor unique to God. He has seen His people struggle with sin throughout the generations and that is why He sent Jesus to die on a cross so that ultimately we would end up in a place where there is no sin, no temptation. Whatever temptation or sin you struggle with, you are not the only one who struggles with it.
This is why we need each other. This is why you need to be a part of a group of believers that you can pray with, talk to, and open up with. There is encouragement and hope and strength and love when believers learn to pick each other up and heal the wounds caused by our own sins.
Temptations are amoral
Number six, temptation are amoral. Amoral means neither moral nor immoral. It’s neither right or wrong, good or bad. Just because the chocolate cake is on the table and you are thinking about eating the whole thing is only a temptation, not a sin. When you see some money sitting on a table and you know its not yours, but you are debating whether or not to steal it is not a sin, it’s a temptation. It’s neither good nor bad. When temptation is occurring you are not sinning, but you are thinking about whether to sin or not. It’s amoral.
Temptations are personal
Number seven, temptations are personal. You will be tempted by one thing, while your friend is tempted by something else. It will be unique to you. It will be personal. We are told in verse 14, “Temptation comes from our own desires.” This is why you are tempted by one thing and your spouse is tempted by something else. It doesn’t mean you are worse than them or better than them. Your desire and their desire is different. When you take desires and mix it with the sinful nature, you end up with problems. We will take a deeper look at this in a later lesson, but you there is a reason why you struggle with one temptation and not another. Temptations are very personal.
Temptations are defeatable
Number eight, temptations are defeatable. God knows you are not perfect, but He wants to put you into a position to win over temptation. Satan wants you to be confused and mislead about temptation. This is why James says in verse 16, “So don’t be mislead…” (NLT). Don’t be misinformed, don’t be deceived, and don’t let your mind become deluded when it comes to temptation and your victory over it.
God has said very clearly in 1 Corinthians 10:13, “The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure” (NLT). God’s Word mentions several things that God uses to create “a way out” when you are being tempted. Today, I am going to give these to you and in a later lesson we will look at each on in detail. Here they are.
- Your conscience: God uses your conscience to tell that is wrong and you need to walk away.
- Scripture: God uses His truth to guide your dialy life and choices. It becomes a light to your path and keeps you from going where you shouldn’t be going and doing what you shouldn’t be doing.
- Prayer: God uses prayer to strengthen you, provide answers, insights, and strength to fight temptation.
- Flight: Sometimes God wants you to run away, get out of the house, leave the relationship, or to physically get away from whatever is tempting you.
- Planning: God uses spiritual preparation to protect you from some temptations. You preplan and prepare yourself to do certain things, to not do certain things, etc.
- Others: God uses other believers in your life to help you navigate the many temptations you face through life. These believers provide wisdom, advice, counsel, correction, and encouragement.
The good news is that God sent His Son Jesus and we are told that “he will save his people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21, NLT).
- It’s because of Jesus we can be forgiven for our sins and have our sins removed from us – that’s called sanctification.
- It’s because of Jesus that we can stand before God as though we have never sinned – that’s called justification.
- And some day we will be able to stand in the presence of Jesus without sin – that’s called glorification.
It may feel like sin is winning in your life, but I’m here to tell you that your sin has already been defeated and it’s just a matter of time before you experience that complete victory. Stay faithful. Trust in God’s grace, mercy, and forgiveness. When you fall, get back up determined to keep walking with God. Don’t give up. Be persistent.