In James the first chapter we read, "My brethren, count it all joy when
ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your
faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye
may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing" (James 1:2-4; KJV). James
doesn't say IF we "fall into divers temptations", but whenever we DO we
are to "count it all joy." James teaches us that all Christians are
going to have to face "trials and temptations" in life and that it is
possible to profit from them. As Christians we are not to pretend to be
happy when we face adversities but we should have a positive attitude
since it is an opportunity for joy because of what struggles it can
produce in our lives. James is teaching us that when difficulties come
our way we can turn them into times of learning.
One of the many beneficial purposes of afflictions in this life for the
child of God is to test the genuineness of our faith. We can't really
know the depth of our character until we see how we are going to react
under "trials and temptations." Solomon said, "If you faint in the day
of adversity, Your strength is small" (Proverbs 24:10; NKJV). God knows
that tough times can teach us perseverance as well as help us to mature
and become complete. So next time instead of complaining about your
struggles, you should see them as opportunities for growth. The New
International Version reads this way, "Dear brothers and sisters,
whenever trouble comes your way, let it be an opportunity for joy. For
when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let
it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be strong
in character and ready for anything" (James 1:2-4).
WHAT IS TEMPTATION?
Webster's dictionary defines temptation as, "1. A tempting or being
tempted 2. Something that tempts; enticement" (New World Dictionary, pg.
1464). While most people associate temptation with only an enticement to
sin, the scriptures do not limit it's meaning as such. Marvin Vincent
describes how temptation is used in the bible by saying, "It is a
mistake to define this word as only solicitation to evil. It means trial
of any kind, without reference to its moral quality" (Vincent's Word
Studies Of The New Testament, Vol. 1; pg. 44). The Interpreter's
Dictionary of the Bible explains the word "tempt" as, "To test, try, put
to the proof. "Tempt" and "temptation" are used in the Bible
characteristically of the testing of man or of God" (Vol. 4, pg. 568).
We can understand then, that temptation is used in two different ways.
First it is used in a good sense of God testing man by proving his
belief in obeying God's word. The prophet Jeremiah wrote, "O LORD of
hosts, You who test the righteous, And see the mind and heart..."
(Jeremiah 20:12; NKJV). God's testing is always for the good end of
exposing loyalty and disloyalty, faith and unbelief, for what they are;
but it is never an enticement to do evil (James 1:13). Secondly, it is
Satan who tempts man to do evil through the lust of the flesh (2 Peter
1:4). Temptation then, is simply a trial which serves to show us what we
are and what is in us. It brings to light the strength or weakness of
our faith, our love to God, and our regard to His law. It was Job who
said in his trial, "But He knows the way that I take; When he has tested
me, I shall come forth as gold (Job 23:10; NKJV). As gold is heated,
impurities float to the top and can be skimmed off. Likewise our trials,
struggles, and hardships refine and strengthen our faith by teaching us
patience (Romans 5:3,4; 1 Peter 1:7) and help us grow to be the kind of
people God desires.
HOW DOES GOD TEMPT MAN?
In Genesis the twenty second chapter and verse one reads, "And it came
to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham, and said unto
him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am. And he said, Take now thy
son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land
of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the
mountains which I will tell thee of" (Genesis 22:1-2; KJV). To offer
Isaac as a burnt offering was surely the supreme test of Abraham's
faith. Abraham was given the decision to choose between his affectionate
love for his son or obeying God's word. As Abraham was about to slay his
son the Angel of the Lord called to him and said, "Do not lay your hand
on the lad, or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God
since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me" (Genesis
22:12; KJV). God's test for Abraham was matched by his faith and trust
"By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had
received the promises offered up his only begotten son" (Hebrews 11:17;
NKJV). The great lesson this story bears for the believer today is that
all trials allowed by God are for the strengthening of one's faith by
enduring the trials that come our way, by neither growing weary nor
quitting, we can prove our faith in God to be genuine.
It was God who allowed trials to into the lives of the Israelites as
they wandered in the wilderness in order to humble them, prove them, and
test their obedience. "And you shall remember that the Lord your God led
you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble and test
you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His
commandments or not" (Deuteronomy 8:2; NKJV).
It is imperative that we all understand that God created man as a free
moral agent in order to be put to the test. We can choose to serve God,
and submit to His word and live with Him in eternity, or we can choose
to serve Satan through the lust of the flesh and spend eternity in
torment. "The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately
wicked; Who can know it? I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind,
Even to give every man according to his ways, According to the fruit of
his doings" (Jeremiah 17:8-9; NKJV).
HOW DOES SATAN TEMPT MAN?
As long as you and I are in this physical body then we are going to be
tempted to do evil by old Satan. James wrote, "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. But each one is tempted when he is drawn
away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it
gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death"
(James 1:13-15; NKJV). Temptation to do evil comes from sinful desires
within us and not from God. Jesus said, "Out of the heart proceed evil
thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness,
blasphemies" (Matthew 15:19; NKJV).
Temptation to sin is a process that begins with an evil thought and
becomes sin when we dwell on the thought and allow it to become an
action. There is no sin in just being tempted; for Jesus "was in all
points tempted as we are, yet without sin" (Hebrews 4:15; NKJV).
Temptation, however, does become sin when we are drawn away by our own
desires and enticed and then yield to the enticement from within,
followed by action and finally and ultimately death. Sin does not force
itself on the unwilling, but is chosen because of its attractiveness.
"Drawn away...and enticed..." are primarily hunting and fishing words,
used metaphorically here to explain the consequences of yielding to
Satan's enticements. It was the beauty of the forbidden fruit that acted
as a lure for Eve, the bait, which resulted in her being caught upon the
hook of sin (Genesis 3:1-6). Forbidden pleasure, however great the
desire for it may be, must be firmly excluded from our lives, lest we be
caught in Satan's snare.
"Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you"
(James 4:7; NKJV). Submission to God is an attitude of the heart shown
by obedience to His Word, while resist means that you refuse to
cooperate with the devil. Let us as Christian's learn to exercise
discipline by rejecting the appealing "bait" with which Satan lures his
trap of enslavement to sin. Let us determine that we will never do or go
to any place where there is the possibility that we may be tempted to
sin. As Paul said, "Abstain from every form of evil" (1Thessalonians
Oscar Wilde once said, "I can resist anything, except temptation." No
one is immune because we all have to battle with temptation everyday of
our lives, and at times we may lose the battle. But we must keep
fighting and fighting to resist Satan. That is why we need to watch out
for Satan for he will do his best to attack us and try to destroy us (1
Peter 5:8). While it is certain that Satan will attack us, we need to
know and understand that Satan is limited in his power because God has
put certain restrictions upon Satan's efforts.
In first Corinthians the tenth chapter in verse twelve we read,
"Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. No
temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is
faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able,
but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may
be able to bear it" (1 Corinthians 10:12-13; NKJV). When faced with
temptation no one needs to feel that they have been personally singled
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