James, Jesus’ brother, is going to share with us from the wisdom he received after Jesus’ resurrection. He has a lot to say and a short time to do it, so let’s dive in and see where the Holy Spirit takes us.
“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let the steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (verses 2-4).
This is the first thing off of James’ pen after introducing himself as the writer. It is crucial to the rest of his message. We are ALL going to encounter temptation, testing and trials. They refine and define us. How we face them and what we do in their midst makes a difference in our future. But there is a difference between “temptation” and “testing.”
“Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God,’ for God cannot be tempted with evil. And He Himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desires” (verses 13-14).
Temptation starts with an inward desire. And that desire is for something we know to be wrong, sin. As I was typing I encountered one of my own. ‘Eat all the chocolate.’ Not a horrible temptation but one I struggle with, gluttony and selfishness. I jumped right in and grabbed the last four that I like as soon as the urge hit me. And I KNEW it was a temptation from the moment it happened! I stopped halfway through though and put two back.
I’m not trying to say eating chocolate is a sin. For ME the sin came from me not being hungry and eating them because I WANTED TO NO MATTER WHAT. Didn’t matter that there was a check in my spirit the moment the thought cropped up. I ignored it and pushed it aside to get what I wanted anyway. THAT was sin. God didn’t send me that temptation. It came from within me and from my own sinful practices over time. The ‘flesh’ rising up in me.
Testing usually comes from the outside. The car breaks down and I have to get to work. Do I fall apart and start throwing a fit or do I look to God for my help? I ran into a problem like this once (more than once but one story will do). I had a car that was making a strange sound. I kept taking it to the mechanics to see if they could figure out what it was. No one could hear what I was hearing. Finally I take it to a transmission place and they diagnosis it. I’m ecstatic because I have a warranty on my car and it will cost me only $50 – $100 to fix it. Then the sales agent points out to me that my warranty expired 150 or so miles ago!
I didn’t know what to do! I didn’t have the money to fix the transmission. I needed my car to transport my children. My husband was deployed overseas and I was a solo parent. On my way home, with my car still making that strange sound, I started praying. I poured my heart out to God. And He gave me peace, even before anything was fixed. He also spoke into my spirit what to do. I called the warranty people and since I had receipts showing I had been trying to diagnose the problem for some time, they would honor my claim! Hallelujah!!! Problem solved.
After the repair was complete they brought me my vehicle. On the way back to the shop I heard the noise still. The repairman told me, “It just needs broken in.” Three days later and even more miles on my car I went back to the transmission shop and told them it was still not right. They then diagnosed another issue with my car; a wheel bearing was going out. I couldn’t afford that! I couldn’t even afford another deductible. I trusted God with this problem because He had been SO faithful with the last one. I called the warranty company and they made the transmission place replace the wheel bearing at NO charge to me.
Long story short, my trial helped me remember where my source was. I have pulled this story back into my mind MANY times when faced with difficulties. I KNOW God is faithful and I trust Him to get me through the tough spots. I had no assurances of this outcome before it happened, but I trusted God to get me through somehow and to meet my needs.
I’m assuming that that is why Paul was so non-pulsed when thrown into prison or threatened with his life. God had been faithfully meeting him inside those prison doors every time that Paul could count on Him being there the next time too. Paul didn’t know the outcome for his incarcerations before they ended, but he knew that God would see him faithfully through whatever the outcome was.
Testing proves our faith to us. Tempting molds our character to be more like Jesus. Both require turning to Him to walk through it. Both are bound to show up in our lives. How we meet these challenges makes all the difference. If we rely on our own strength we are bound to fail; maybe not every time but much more than we succeed.
Turning to God in both kinds of “refining” is where true success rests. Testing teaches us patience and reliance on Him. He proves His faithfulness in the midst of our struggles and we prove that we can rely on Him in our daily walk. The testing and trials that come our way are designed to do just that. God allows them in our lives to “test our metal.” “Harden us like steel” to be able to stand against the world’s schemes. Temptation comes from our own fleshly desires. God does NOT cause those desires to flare up in us but He uses them when they do to refine our character to be more like Jesus every day. What Satan meant for evil, God meant for good.
Father God, thank You that I can trust that You won’t let me be tempted or tried beyond our ability to endure. Not MY ability but mine and Yours together. I don’t walk through any test alone. You are always there beside me. You hold me in Your hands and protect me, even from myself. I have had MANY experiences walking through temptations and trials. You have NEVER failed me. It may have taken me longer to get through some of them because I neglected to ask for Your help right away. But when I turn to You, You ALWAYS carry me through. Thank You for never giving up on me. Thank You for patiently making me more and more into the daughter You want me to be. Help me continue to walk boldly into whatever lies ahead, as You are ALWAYS by my side.