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James 1.12-18 Testing and Tempting

October 11, 2009 Series: James | Retro-Faith

Topic: New Testament Passage: James 1:12–1:18

James 1.12-18 testing and tempting

October 11, 2009

Sam Ford


The Result of Trials

For the last four weeks we’ve been reading about trials.  Some people will say that a book written 2,000 years ago has no relevance today, that the Bible is outdated, archaic, and that even its description of Christianity is passé.  When it’s not outdated, it’s BRAINWASHING. 


James is about as real as it gets for me. The first chapter of James is one of those chapters that you can read at ANY MOMENT in your life, regardless of who you are, and it will still be relevant.  WE ARE ALL IN TRIALS.  That feeling, that person, that group of people, that experience, that stress, that hardship that thing you want God to take away, or circumstance you want him to change right now—that is your trial.   Lately, it seems like every conversation I have, I hear of someone in our church family experiencing a major new trial.   Someone loses a job and feels insecure; someone feels lonely because he can’t find a bride; someone is feels irritated because of an email, a misspoken word, even an attitude; someone feels unloved or underappreciated in their marriage; someone feels scared because their child is ill; someone feels conflicted over a difficult choice—these are real trials.  Let’s not forget that James is the pastor of a church, and his writing to a community of believers. It is in trials that we truly see how much we need one another: 1Cor. 12.26 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.


The Reward for the faithful

James has spent the first part of this chapter telling us what is REALLY happening in those trials.  That a trial is more than just circumstances resulting from sin or Satan: IT IS A TEST OF OUR FAITH IN JESUS.  


Sometimes life is wonderful and sometimes life is horrible and at ALL TIMES, our faith is being tested.  God is constantly moving us forward in maturity through trials.  And James boldly declares that the PERSON OF FAITH lives differently in the midst of these trials.  He doesn’t say it isn’t difficult to live this way.  BUT, James says the person of faith SEES BEYOND the chaos that is happening around me, to the joy of a good all powerful God who is doing something to me.  The person of faith STANDS FIRM as his faith is tested even if the situation God has put us in makes absolutely NO SENSE at all.  The person of faith does not trust HIS OWN EYES he prays to God to see—and, by God’s grace, we begin see, know, and understand the way things TRULY ARE despite the way things SEEM. 


V. 12-13 The Reward for the Faithful

Now, at verse 12, James says that the Christians who stand up under the test will receive a reward.  In other words, the ones who pass the test will be blessed.  James 1.12-18 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.   


Because all of us know that, when we survey our lives past, present, and perhaps even future, we know that we have failed in trials before.  And when we hear about crowns and rewards, we get defensive and irritated because we imagine God setting up an awards podium distributing medals to all the “Super-Christians” around us.   You can recognize the “Super-Christians” as the ones who, whenever they make a sacrifice, or face a hardship whisper, “Treasures in heaven.”—as you throw up a little bit in your mouth.  


Seeing things Eternally

God is not like “Satan Claus” keeping a scorecard of those Christians who have been faithful in every test and those who have not been.  Our sinful minds automatically play the compare game with those who appear “holy” and those who don’t.  Imagining HOW BIG or SMALL your crown will be is same attitude that Jesus rebukes on the night he was arrested when his disciples argue over who the greatest would be in the kingdom.  The “crown of life” is not a literal crown of gold—it is life itself, eternal life with God.  Those who remain faithful to him over the often LONG and DIFFICULT race of life GET LIFE.  And I believe that those who do not finish the race, never started the race to begin with—because God will not give up on the work he started within me. 


AT THE SAME TIME, we don’t rest on PAST laurels because we go through one hard part of the race.  It’s not done.  We don’t are not despair when we fail one or two tests, when we trip, or fall, or have a slow lap.  FAITH BEGINS WITH LIVING LIFE WITH ETERNITY IN VIEW ALWAYS.   The minute you forget that this life is temporal, that we are sojourners here, is the minute your faith begins to fail.   Philippians 1.18-23 Yes, and I will rejoice, 19 for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, 20 as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. 21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 22 If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. 23 I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.


What happens when we fail

Verse 12 is the hinge between the first 11 verses and the next 6.  That truth of the matter is that people FAIL tests, people don’t always stand up, they sometimes give in.  With every trial comes a temptation to turn toward sin and away from God. Instead of faith being built as we grow a deeper sense of our love and need for God, we begin to turn ON God like a child who doesn’t get what they want. 


.  These verses offer some challenges as the words “trial”, “test”, and “temptation,” come from the same word in the original Greek.  The context determines what the author has in mind, either a test to prove faith or a temptation to destroy it.  We often never know the difference until it is too late.   Every temptation is a trial.  Every trial is a temptation.


v. 13-15 It’s not my fault!

James 1.13-15  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 one WHO FAILS the test refuses to admit that he lacks faith in God, rather, he will blame someone for something as a REASON WHY he couldn’t possibly trust God’s Word here.  That is exactly what Adam did back in the garden.  Instead of accepting responsibility, he pointed the finger at everyone he could find.  Genesis 3.9.b-13… “Where are you?” 10 And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” 11 He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” 12 The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” 13 Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” 


We always have someone or SOMETHING OUTSIDE OF OURSELVES TO blame when we fail a test of faith.  And then, when we’re caught we often fail another test—will you confess?  Will you repent?  No, we justify and blame just like Adam and Eve…WE PLAY THE “IF” GAME… 1) IF that person HAD HAD NOT  2)  IF that situation   3) IF the devil. OR worst of all, 4) IF God.


Can’t Blame God

The beginning of our failures in trials is when we lose our ETERNAL perspective.  This isn’t just seeing “the crown of life” but it is seeing creation and the Creator rightly.  Theologian Karl Barth wrote:  Thinking of ourselves what can be thought only of God, we are unable to think of Him more highly than we think of ourselves. Being to ourselves what God ought to be to us, He is no more to us than we are to ourselves.


James denounces anyone that says, “God tempted me.” In other words, that God singled me out for an impossible test that I was bound to fail.  James says, God cannot be tempted and does not tempt.  GOD IS PERFECTLY GOOD.  God’s character does not include evil.  He is beyond evil and therefore cannot be tempted to DO EVIL to harm us.   There is no ulterior motive in his testing.  When he tests us, it is so that we may pass the test and obtain blessing NOW and ETERNITY.  1Cor. 10.13 13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.


WE MAKE OUR OWN CHOICES (we know we’re making) then ASK GOD to save us from them.  We pray for our food.  James tells us we cannot blame anyone but ourselves for our sin.  Desires to eat, drink, or enjoy sex are not wrong in the right context.  It is easy and tempting to blame Guinness for a drinking problem, the way a person dresses for a lust problem, the internet for a pornography addiction, or the ice cream man for driving in front of my house for a struggle with weight.  


It came from within

James tells us that we fail the test because of our sinful natures, a concept not accepted in our world today.  We have become a culture of therapy, a culture that replaces God’s word with man-made psychological labels.  A sinful nature becomes a myth, and sin becomes a temporary condition fixed with pills, programs, and counseling.  Gluttony becomes a food addiction that can be controlled with better eating habits.  Anger is an impulse disorder that needs management training, and laziness (sloth) is just another illness, and lust an unhealthy compulsion for sex usually fixed by a healthy relationship with the right person.   We are not depraved, we’re not spiritually dead, we’re just sort of sick and bruised. “EVERYONE NEEDS THERAPY.”  I don’t disagree but the Bible says why. The Bible says that IF when a test becomes a temptation that I FAIL, it is the sin within us that makes it so.   Jeremiah 17.9  9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?


The power of sin

Beginning in verse 14, James takes a moment to describe WHAT HAPPENS when someone fails in a trial:


1)      14 But each person is tempted : The first thing that happens is a trial comes.  We lose a job, we get sick, or someone hurts us. What will you do? Will you trust God or take control?  Will you trust God or run?  Will you trust God or fight? That is temptation coming in the midst of a trial.  It is not sinful to be tested OR tempted.   The occasion for the trial is not wrong.


2)      lured and enticed by his own desire:  God gives us desires—to eat, to have sex, to work hard.  These desires are not evil in themselves, but sin makes them evil.  That is the power of sin, it is an INTERNAL PROBLEM that effects everything.  It takes a creation that God deemed good and perverts it.  Tim Keller says it like this, Desire is not wanting bad things.  It’s wanting good things too badly.  James uses a sex and a sport illustration here – LURED and ENTICED.  Like a prostitute swinging her purse, showing some leg, and calling to us AND/OR like a fish that is magnetized by the bait. WHAT AM I ENTICED TO? à  To believe the lie about God that comes with every temptation: ‘You need this to be happy not him.’”


3)      15 Then desire when it has conceived and gives birth:  If we don’t ACTIVELY resist here it will produce offspring. If these desires are not restrained, if we believe the lie, we actively indulge, and we become SPIRITUALLY PREGNANT.  Rebellion against God has lasting consequences—even if not immediately seen.  Sin will be born. And we’ll have a family of kids:  LUST, GOSSIP, ANGER, PRIDE, that for a while we will be able to control and hide.  You cannot handle it.


4)     and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death:  Eventually, sin becomes an adult and it controls you.  And sin, when fully grown brings forth death.  Sin kills the individual, it kills the family, it destroys relationships, especially the relationship with God.  And you are not powerful enough to give yourself life.


James is not talking about AN EVENT, or A TEST, or A TEMPTATION, he is talking about a life that is faithful or rebellious.  And he warns his beloved brothers, THOSE GENUINE CHRISTIANS…16 Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. GOD IS NOT TO BLAMEThe enemy is not only in the camp or within the heart, the enemy is the heart itself”.


CONCLUSION - v. 17-18 How can we possibly succeed?

How can we ever love God when our hearts are BREEDING FACTORIES FOR SIN?  James reminds us BIG and GOOD God is. EVERY GOOD we need is in and from him. 17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. 18 Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.  


God is Good & God does not change

EVERY GOOD we need is in and from him. God is good and God does not change. Even if we fail to love God, he does not fail to love us. He is the Father who does not give up on HIS children.  The cross proves that He has an ABIDING desire to be with his children.  And as God is the greatest and most wonderful of all we might imagine, he has an abiding desire for the joy of his children.




  • He brought us forth by His own will: He gives us new life.  We did not “birth” ourselves—we see the only thing our desires give birth to is SIN and DEATH.  We did not choose God, he chooses us and saves us from death.  We are creation he is the Creator who gives us new Life through his Son.  And even though we struggle in trials, we cannot LOSE what HE brought forth for us.  Sin cannot be fixed without REBIRTH.  You have an identity.


  • He brought us forth by the word of truth: That REBIRTH, that faith, is birthed in us through HIS WORD—just as it was in creation.  1Peter 1.23b you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God.  Our sin is not conquered by pills, programs, and phds.  Our sin is conquered by the Word of God.  Nothing in this world can transform a heart.  You never ever ever ever ever ever outgrow the need to hear the GOSPEL. You have a power.


  • He brought us forth that we should be firth fruits:  We are his handiwork, saved for the good works he planned for us.  In the Old Testament, the first fruits belonged to GOD. The firstborn man, cattle, produce, sales, etc. were given to GodOur faith is built, we triumph over trials, when we see and believe that we are HOLY, set apart for God’s use until we see him again. We are not the leftovers so best we don’t act like them.  You have a mission.    

More in James | Retro-Faith

January 17, 2010

James 5.19-20: Wandering and Finding

January 10, 2010

James 5.13-18 Praying and Healing

January 3, 2010

James 5.12 Oaths and Vows