Summary: We have to endure trials, resist temptations and take responsibility for our own lives.
Oscar Wilde, the Irish born writer, liked to say, “I can resist anything … except temptation!” Wilde also believed: “The best way to deal with temptation is to yield to it!” All of us deal with temptation. If a person is not a Christian they just give in to temptation. But temptation is difficult even for people who are genuine in their faith. A poor country pastor was livid when he found a receipt for a $250 dress which his wife had bought. “How could you do this!” he blurted. “I don’t know,” she cried. “I was standing in the store looking at the dress. Then I found myself trying it on. It was like the devil was whispering to me, ‘Gee, you look great in that dress. You should buy it.’” “Well,” the pastor said, “You know how to deal with the devil! Just tell him, ‘Get behind me, Satan!’” “I did,” his wife exclaimed, “but then he said ‘It looks great from back here, too.’”
The American culture is in love with temptation. We have not seen a temptation we did not like. Temptation Island is a television program built around the theme of people who deliberately place themselves in situations where they will be tempted. Four couples who have a serious relationship are placed on an island where twenty-six physically attractive singles endeavor to seduce them and be unfaithful to their partners. As soon as they arrive the couples separated and sent to opposite ends of the island for two weeks. They have no communication with each other until the episode is over. The time is spent on exotic dates with the singles with whom they are now surrounded. How sick is that? Sick on the part of those who try to get the other people to be unfaithful. Sick on the part of those who put themselves in that position. And sick on the part of those who watch and are entertained by it.
But temptation is not something developed by reality TV, it is a part of the reality of life. Temptations can be of two kinds: those things that come to us from the outside and those that come from within. James covers both of these in the first chapter of his book. One he calls trials, and the other he calls temptations. We are to be glad when we face trials from without, because they strengthen our faith. But nowhere are we told to rejoice at being tempted, rather we are told to resist.
There are three major points I want to make this morning, and the first is this: Every Christian must endure trials. Trials that come to us in life can become temptations if we do not endure. We can be tempted to give up or become angry at God. But Peter tells us that we are not to be surprised by these trials. He says, “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you” (1 Peter 4:12). He goes on to say: “. . . though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith — of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire — may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed” (1 Peter 1:6-7). If you are not facing trials of some kind then you are not alive. And at times the trials will be greater than at other times.