Summary: In James 1:13-18 James gives you four facts about temptation that you must understand if you are going to overcome temptation.
The death of Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal this week has reminded us of the heroes of the Holocaust. Therefore, I was disappointed to read a postwar account of Oskar Schindler, whose exploits during World War II were made famous in the movie titled Schindler’s List. Oskar Schindler was the daring German hustler and hero who risked his life daily employing his wealth and wiles to save the lives of twelve hundred Polish Jews.
After the war, however, this courageous man abandoned his wife, became a womanizer and a drunkard, and fell into destitution and dependence on others. For some schnapps he even pawned the commemorative gold ring that had been fashioned for him from the false teeth of those he had rescued.
In his book Holiness by Grace Bryan Chapell asks how one so noble could fall so far. His answer is sobering: “Because there is no temptation out there in the world that does not find common chords of resonance in every human heart.”
The fact is that you and I struggle with temptation on a daily basis. No one is immune to temptation.
That is why today’s text is so helpful. James teaches us how to overcome temptation God’s way. So, with that in mind, let’s read James 1:13-18:
"13 When tempted, no one should say, ’God is tempting me.’ For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14 but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.
"16 Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers. 17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. 18 He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created." (James 1:13-18)
His name was Mark Antony. He was without question the most eloquent of all the Roman Emperors. In his day Mark Antony was known as the “silver-throated orator of Rome.” He was not only a gifted speaker, but also a philosopher, scholar, student of nature, statesman, and soldier.
Mark Antony joined the Roman Cavalry. He demonstrated his talents as a Cavalry Commander and distinguished himself with bravery and courage. He went on to win many battles.
Although he was outwardly very strong, inwardly Mark Antony had a very serious moral weakness. It was detected early in his life. He continually fell into one moral failure after another.
His personal tutor became so exasperated with his ongoing moral failures and their devastating results that one day, in desperation, he shouted into Antony’s face, “Oh Marcus, colossal child! Able to conquer the world, but unable to resist temptation!”
That indictment is timeless. For it applies not only to Mark Antony but, in one way or another, to each one of us today. We regularly face temptation. The problem, however, is that many of us do not know how to overcome temptation.
Temptation is not only alive and well in the area of the sensual or sexual. You can be tempted by certain possessions just like you can be tempted by certain people. You can be tempted by big things as big as a home or by small things as small as a ring. You can be tempted by something brand new like a new car or by something hundreds of years old like an antique desk. You can be tempted to gossip, steal, lie, slander, anger, bear a grudge, etc.
You can be tempted by a position or by pride as much as you can be tempted to perform some immoral act. You can be tempted to want the title of “Doctor” or “President” or “CEO.” You can be tempted by things commonly considered respectable, but your driving desire for these things can become as lewd as your drive for some illicit sexual conquest.
Temptation is a very real and serious problem. I realize that as I preach this message today, I am probably talking to someone right now who is engaged in a compromising situation. You may be single or you may be married, and you are flirting with a sinful relationship. You may be in a position of authority, and you have the opportunity to steal from your employer. You may spend lots of time alone, and you feel powerfully drawn to internet pornography. You’re told that you have a temper, and you want to use that as an excuse for all kinds of destructive behavior.
Today I want you to consider James’ counsel on temptation. In James 1:13-18, James gives you four facts about temptation that you must understand if you are going to overcome temptation.