Summary: James moves from how to handle trials to how to handle temptations. Even though temptation is inevitable and giving into temptation is inexcusable, we can learn that temptation is predictable and conquerable.
A. Once there was a little boy who always went next door to play alone in the neighbor’s yard even though his mom had warned him against doing so.
1. This frustrated and worried his mom so she asked him why he was so disobedient.
2. He replied that Satan tempted him so much and he did not know what to do.
3. His mom suggested that whenever tempted he should say: “Get behind me Satan!”
4. The mother also had a fence put around the backyard to try to keep her son in their yard.
5. This solution worked for about a week, but then one sunny afternoon the little boy’s mom looked out the window and noticed her son was playing on the neighbor’s lawn and she noticed that he had somehow made a hole in the fence.
6. She yelled for her son to come home immediately and then she asked him: “Didn’t I tell you to say ‘Get behind me Satan!’ whenever he tempted you?”
7. “Yes,” the little boy replied, “I said to him, ‘Get behind me Satan!,’ but then he went behind me and pushed me through the hole in the fence.”
8 And that’s the problem for many Christians in dealing with temptation, though they remember to command Satan to get behind them, they forget to command him not to push.
B. Mark Antony was known as the silver-tongued orator of Rome.
1. He was a brilliant man, a strong leader, and a courageous soldier, but the one thing he lacked was moral strength of character.
2. On the outside he was powerful and impressive, but on the inside he was weak and vulnerable.
3. This so frustrated his advisor that on occasion he shouted at him, “O Marcus! O colossal child, able to conquer the world but unable to resist a temptation.”
C. That indictment fits not only Mark Antony, but also many of us today.
1. None of us is immune to the mesmerizing appeals of temptation’s sirens.
2. And some of us, like Mark Antony, find it nearly impossible to resist the pull of their alluring voices.
3. Countless people throughout time have wrecked their lives on the jagged reefs of sin, drawn in by temptation’s seductive song.
4. Temptation involves all types of sin and affects all kinds of people.
5. Adults of all ages, children and teens, professionals of all kinds, including preachers, we are all constantly being wooed to destruction by sin’s enticements.
D. So, how can all of us stay on course and avoid temptation’s power?
1. According to Greek mythology, the crew on Odysseus’s ship escaped the lure of the Siren’s voices by stopping up their ears with wax.
2. Dietrich Bonhoeffer described temptation’s power with these words: “In our members there is a slumbering inclination towards desire which is both sudden and fierce. With irresistible power desire seizes mastery over the flesh. All at once a secret, smoldering fire is kindled. The flesh burns and is in flames. It makes no difference whether it is sexual desire, or ambition, or vanity, or desire for revenge, or love of fame and power, or greed for money…Joy in God is in course of being extinguished in us and we seek all our joy in the creature.”
3. Resisting the kind of real-life temptation that Bonhoeffer describes will take more than ear wax.
4. Thankfully, as we turn to the book of James, James fills our ears, not with wax, but with important insights and truths about temptation.
5. With this knowledge and with God’s power, we can sail past temptation’s call.
E. As we continue our sermon series on James called “A Faith That Works,” let’s do a quick review.
1. So far, we have been learning about how to turn our trials into triumphs.
2. We have learned that although life is difficult, our toughest times can be marked by joy, why?
3. Because, endurance produces maturity, and that God supplies the wisdom we need.
4. Also, we have learned that faith is critical for developing perseverance and receiving wisdom.
5. And finally, we have learned that there are promised blessings for those who remain faithful, both the rich and the poor.
6. James 1:12, “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the victor’s crown, the life God promised to those who love him.”
F. One of the interesting things about James’ discussion here in chapter one is that he used a Greek word that has two different meanings, and he used the word in both ways in this chapter.
1. The word translated “trials” in the first 12 verses, is the same word that is translated “temptations” in verses 13-18.
2. The word can refer to external stresses that press us (trials), or it can refer to internal attractions that tempt us (temptations).