Summary: God allows and trials and purposes in your life, not to destroy you, not to harm you, not even to hurt you, but to strengthen your faith to teach you perseverance an endurance and to help you grow up in Christ in every way.
A Kind of First Fruit
What I want us to try to do together in the time that we have this morning is unpack these verses that we have read together from James Chapter 1, the verses 16, 17 and 18. The book of James, like all Bible books is not simply a collection of isolates verses to which we turn to for inspiration. There is usually a theme, there is usually an argument, there is usually a position, a train of thought that the author tries to communicate to those who are his readers.
If I were to try to summarize this morning what it is that James has been saying to us in these first verses of this chapter, I think I would summarize it something like this: James is trying to teach us how to live by wisdom from above. That is to say he is trying to teach us to look at life from God’s point of view. And he says, when you look at life from God’s point of view, then you discover that God allows and trials and purposes in your life, not to destroy you, not to harm you, not even to hurt you, but to strengthen your faith to teach you perseverance an endurance and to help you grow up in Christ in every way.
Why is that so important? Because God has laid up for us a crown of life. He has a position of glory in store for us. We looked together at that last week—glory not only this age but especially in the age to come.
Does that make God the author of sin? James says no, indeed not. “God does not tempt us because He cannot be tempted himself by evil.” Temptation comes because the enemy finds something in our hearts that resonates with him and God’s purpose is to flush that out into the open and to teach us to stand against it for His glory. That brings us this morning to Verse 16.
And as we look at verses 16, 17, and 18, let’s notice how the argument continues to unfold, how James builds his case. Notice he begins with the observation of and warning us against deception.
Verse 16, “Don’t be deceived my dear brothers” Now to be deceived is to buy the lie. It is to believe something to be true when in fact it is false and Satan throughout Scripture is said to be the great deceiver. That is to say that one of the primary tools that he has in his arsenal to try to break us away from God is this thing called deception. Paul, in 2 Corinthians 11:3
puts it this way, “I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpents cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ.” Satan is a deceiver.
To understand and appreciate why all of a sudden James begins to talk about deception, we’ve got to ask ourselves this question: When we face difficulties, when the bottom falls out of our world, when life gets hard, what is the most likely lie that we are capable to embracing? When your world falls apart, what is the biggest temptation?
Well actually, there are two big temptations that we fall into. The first is this: That God is not good. He’s not interested in me, doesn’t care about my hurts, doesn’t care about my needs, doesn’t care about my pain. In fact He may have it in for me, I cannot and I will not trust Him. And even while I may trust Him intellectually with many areas of my life, the place where I do my real living, where I am most vulnerable and where I am most authentic, in that place I cannot believe that God will do me good. The barrier goes up, I hide myself, I try not to get too close to Him because I fear that not only will He not do me good, He will do me harm and He may even hurt me. That’s the first temptation.
The second is: if God is not good and will provide for my needs, then I need to look elsewhere to get my needs met. And in the Bible that is known as idolatry. Idolatry is looking to creation rather than to the creator. Idolatry can take many different forms. It can try to make deals with other spiritual powers in the universe. I am astonished at how many television shows there are today that are physic in nature, have you noticed that? People are hungry for the spiritual, they are hungry for a world outside of themselves. But the don’t want to come to God on God’s terms, they want to make a God they can live with and use for their own purposes. That is idolatry