James 1:12-18 (NIV)
12 Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.
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.
I want us to look at what God has to say about man’s oldest problem, temptation. It goes all the way back to Adam. We all eventually face it. Sometimes even when you know what’s right to do it’s difficult to say “No”. It is difficult. Oscar Wilde once said, “I can withstand anything except temptation.”
The Bible talks about two different kinds of testing. One is called trials. The other is called temptation. Both of them use the same word in Greek — “peirasmos”. Sometimes it’s translated “trials”, sometimes “temptations”. But to distinguish them in your mind — trials are situations designed by God in order to help us grow. Temptations are designed by the devil in order to cause us to sin.
v. 12 “Blessed is the man who endures temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord has promised to them that love him.” There is a prize, a reward, for not giving into temptation. First, it says you are “blessed” — this means happy. Happiness comes from having your life under control, so that there is no destructive habit that is devastating you. No destructive habit that disables you or debilitates you.
When you know how to say “no” to temptation it produces happiness in your life. It also says there is a “crown of life” that awaits you. In the Greek this literally means “life itself”. James says, when you understand temptation, when you overcome it, when you learn to say “no” then you begin to really live. It is a crown which is life — abundant life — itself.
For the next few days, I want to look at how we can defeat temptation. How to say no to temptation. James, being the practical apostle that he is, gives us five principles to defeating temptation.
Principle #1: Be Realistic
Face the fact: You will be tempted. Christians are tempted. All of us are tempted. James says, “When tempted … ” not “if tempted…” Just like trials are inevitable, so are temptations inevitable. Everybody’s tempted. The more you grow toward the Lord, the more you’re going to be tempted. It’s a fact of life. Reality is all of us are tempted.
I Corinthians 10:13 says, “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. Notice the phrase “common to man” — that means we’re all in the same boat. We all have the same temptations, the same problems. Don’t be surprised, shocked. Don’t try to hide it. Some of you are caught in a compromising situation right now, but it is liberating to know that other people feel the same way you do. We all have the same struggles and problems.
Know this – it is not a sin to be tempted. It is a sin to give in to temptation. Hebrew 4:15 says, “Jesus was tempted in all points like as we are yet he sinned not.” He was perfect. He was tempted but He never gave in. It’s not a sin to be tempted. It’s a sin to give into temptation. I meet a lot of Christians who are intimidated by temptation. They think “How could I have such a thought?” The devil put it in your mind; it’s not your fault. You are human. Temptation proves you’re human, not that you’re evil. It’s not a sin to be tempted, it’s a sin to give in to temptation. The more committed you are to Jesus Christ, the more you’re going to be tempted. Be realistic about temptation.