Summary: Knowing where temptation comes from helps us overcome it.
A man had just started a diet and was having a difficult time staying away from tempting treats. He had to go downtown (or uptown as they say here) and remembered that his route would take him past the bakery. And so he prayed, “Lord, if you want me to stop for a doughnut, let there be a parking place in front of the place.” Sure enough, he found a place to park right in front…on his seventh time around the block!
Someone once said: “I wouldn’t be tempted if temptation wasn’t so tempting.” Oscar Wilde remarked, “I can resist anything but temptation.” Temptation can be defined as “The act of enticement to do wrong by the promise of pleasure or gain…” I want to say this today: You will not make it as a Christian if you don’t learn to deal with temptation. Knowing where temptation comes from helps one overcome it. To put it another way: Once we know the truth about temptations they won’t be so tempting.
Pastor Jeff spoke about persevering through trials from the opening verses in James 1 last week and emphasized that “God wants to grow you up in your faith. He wants to strengthen your faith and produce in you a steadfastness of character. And James tells us one of His main tools is trials.”
There’s a link between suffering with trials and succumbing to temptation. Trials on the outside can become temptations on the inside. Douglas Moo writes: “Every trial, every external difficulty, carries with it a temptation, an inner enticement to sin.” How we handle trials and temptations will determine the depth of our discipleship because either one can derail us. Someone has said that the greatest threat is not the wrong being done to me but the wrong that may be done by me. Trials are to be endured; temptations are to be avoided.
I hope you’ve jumped into the Book of James yourself this week and if you haven’t, will you read a chapter every day so that it gets into you? Two of our Connection Groups are studying James and our students in Equip are learning it as well. This book is extremely practical and also very concise. It’s filled with metaphors and illustrations that make it easy to remember. It’s similar to the Book of Proverbs in the Old Testament.
Let’s read James 1:13-18: “When tempted, no one should say, ‘God is tempting me.’ For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.”
“Moms in Prayer,” formerly known as “Moms in Touch” has designated today as Bless our Schools Sunday. I know of a group that meets to pray for the high school, there are a couple people praying for PCS and another group praying for college students. Hundreds of churches are taking the time in their services to pray for students, schools and staff. How appropriate today with our topic of temptation to intercede on their behalf. Let’s pray.
The Source of Temptation
When it comes to temptation, we tend to blame everyone but ourselves. The blame game has its roots in the Garden of Eden.
• Blaming others. When God asked Adam if he had eaten from the forbidden fruit, his first response was to blame Eve in the last half of Genesis 3:12: “She gave me some fruit from the tree and I ate it.” We do the same thing, don’t we? It’s very common to blame others for our sins, whether that’s a parent or a spouse or a child or a boss or our social environment or being a Bears fan.
• Blaming God. Look at the first part of verse 12: “The woman YOU put here with me – she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.” Adam is trying to blame God for the shame he now feels. After all, Eve was God’s idea, not his.
• Blaming the devil. In verse 13 God turns to Eve and asks her what she has done. Eve is quick to say, “The devil made me do it.” Check it out: “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” Satan certainly is an active agent in our temptation but is often given more credit (or blame) than he deserves.