Summary: Second in a series on James. This message gives principles for dealing with temptation.
A Study of the Book of James
Sermon # 2
“How to Handle Temptation”
Do you struggle with temptation? I heard of someone who said, "I don’t struggle with temptation, I just give in to it!" Surely that is not the answer!
But the fact is, there isn’t a day that goes by that we are not tempted in some way. Temptation comes in many forms; we are tempted not to tell the truth, to take something that does not belong to us, to take advantage of someone, to gossip, to over eat, to hold a grudge, or to withhold from the Lord that which rightfully belongs to him.
“The magazine “Discipleship Journal” asked its readers to rank the areas of greatest spiritual challenge to them. The results came back in this order: (the top 5 were)
5. (Tie) Anger/Bitterness and Sexual lust
The respondents also noted that temptations were more potent when they had neglected their time with God (81%) and when they were physically tired (57%).”
[R. J. Morgan. Nelson’s Complete Book of Stories, Illustrations, and Quotes (electronic ed.) (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2000)
The truth is that temptation is everywhere. What’s yours? How do you handle temptations? Do you struggle? If so, can anything be done to help you win that struggle? Is it even possible to successfully resist temptation? Well, in answer to your question, the Bible says yes!
Turn with me to the book of James chapter one, verses thirteen through eighteen.
In the first message in our series in James we learned that we are to count it all joy when we fall into trials. It is not difficult to see a connection between adversity and temptation. In the midst of adversity, we may be tempted to think or act in a sinful manner. Many people wrongly conclude that time of stress somehow justify ungodly responses.
Yet interpreting this passage is made difficult by the fact that the words for trials and temptations is the same word in the original language. But they are not the same experience. God tests us to bring out the good (vv. 1-12) and Satan tempts us to bring out the bad (vv. 13-18). While test and temptations are different experiences, they do have this in common – without proper preparation the believer will be victimized.
“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. (14) But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. (15) Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death. (16) Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. (17) Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. (18) Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures.”
This morning I would like to share with three-fold warning given by James with regard to temptation.
First, Don’t Be Surprised By It! (v. 13)
“Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”
The first step that we can take is a step of preparation. If we are going to successfully handle temptation, we must expect it. James says, "When tempted..." He did not say, "If tempted." We should never be surprised when we are tempted.
We need to understand several things about temptation.
First, we need to understand that temptation is universal. Everyone is tempted. If you meet someone who is never tempted by anything, there is one conclusion that you can draw about that person. He or she is dead. Only dead people aren’t tempted. The moment we entered this world, we were drafted into a lifelong battle with temptation. We need to understand at the outset that as Christian soldiers there is no sin in being tempted, no one can eradicate the these enticements. But we are responsible for our reactions to them.
Secondly, we need to understand that temptation is inevitable. If temptation comes to every person, which it does, then it is inevitable that it will come to us. If you’re not being tempted right now, just hold on because it’s coming. Temptation is not something that you get past. It has come around before and it will come around again. It is inevitable.
Third, we need to understand that temptation is personal. We all have our personal temptations. We are all vulnerable in different ways. Temptation is a personal thing. Some things that do not tempt you tempt me. And some things that do not tempt me may tempt you. And you can be sure that your temptations will be tailor made for your weaknesses.