This is post #2 in a Saturday series that I am calling Vs.
Trials vs. Temptation
I want to explore the idea of trials vs. temptations. This contrast is set-up in James 1.
2 Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. 3 For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. 4 So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.
5 If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. 6 But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind. 7 Such people should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. 8 Their loyalty is divided between God and the world, and they are unstable in everything they do.
9 Believers who are poor have something to boast about, for God has honored them. 10 And those who are rich should boast that God has humbled them. They will fade away like a little flower in the field. 11 The hot sun rises and the grass withers; the little flower droops and falls, and its beauty fades away. In the same way, the rich will fade away with all of their achievements.
12 God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. 13 And remember, when you are being tempted, do not say, “God is tempting me.” God is never tempted to do wrong,[c] and he never tempts anyone else. 14 Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away. 15 These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death.
James tells us that we should consider troubles (or trials) an opportunity for joy. I know this is not how our minds usually think. In Job, his friends insisted that Job had done something wrong – not that Satan was testing Job. Job insisted and insisted that he had done nothing wrong, and he hadn’t. Why should we consider troubles or trials an opportunity for joy? James gives us a hint. When our faith is tested, our endurance has a chance to grow and went it has grown to completion it will be fully developed. Another way to say it is that trials help us grow in the faith – they help us mature. James goes on to say that our maturity will be complete and perfect – not needing anything.
I know the word “perfect” is a tough concept for us to grasp and yet we are told at least once in the Old Testament and once again in the New Testament that we should be perfect as God is perfect. Another translation for perfect is holy. We should be holy as God is holy. The life of holiness is one of perfection as John Wesley described it. I guess the best way to describe it is as perfection not in execution but in motive. We all know times in our lives when we had the right motive for doing something, but it turned out very bad. Another term we could use is perfect love – love for God and love for fellow humans. Trials help us become the people that God has called us to be. Check out what Paul writes to the church in Rome.
3 We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. 4 And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. 5 And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.
Trials come to help us develop endurance – endurance produces strength of character, and character strengthens our hope of salvation. Trials come from God to strengthen our faith. Most of you have probably heard someone say, “What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger.” If you’re reading this, you are still living – the things that you have gone through have or should have strengthened you. That is the purpose of trials and troubles.
Let’s jump to the others side, the second part of the James passage. If trials come from God, temptations do not. James says that those who patiently endure testing and temptation will be blessed by God – and afterward those that love God will receive the promised crown of life. James is very careful to state however that temptations do not come from God for God is never tempted to do wrong. Some manuscripts say, God should not be put to test by evil people. God is not involved in temptation. Temptation we are told comes from our own desires. Here is one of the major differences between trials and temptations. Trials are from without, while temptations are from within. Both can cause us distress and we can learn from both.
Temptation, however, is born from the desires within our heart. These temptations drag us away from our relationship with Christ for one because they are tempting and they are enticing. Isn’t that the way it always is with sin? It is alluring, that is why it is difficult tough to stay away from. But James tells us where temptations come from – they come from the desires of our heart – these desires lead to sinful actions and sinful actions, when allowed to grow, lead to death. See the difference
Trials = are from without – they come to help us endure – strengthen our character — and give us hope of salvation.
Temptations – are from within – they lead to sin – sin leads to death.
The difference is key. Christians can have victory over trials and we can also have victory over temptation. One of the lessons learned here is that if we keep our heart clean – our desire to be tempted will be less – it doesn’t mean that we won’t have trials – the trials we will always have with us.
Remember the next time you are in trouble – determine is this a trial that will strengthen me or is it a temptation, designed to bring me down?