James #5 ~ August, 2019
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He always came into the room quietly and took a seat--whether at Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Sunday Night Live, or anywhere else. A junior and a basketball player, he was the kinda' kid who just tried hard at everything - a great big, genuine smile and liked by all. One night after seeing him, I felt prompted to text him and ask how I could pray for him. He responded with, "I'm having trouble with temptation and have been praying about it. If you could too that would be awesome." I texted back, "I will ... thanks for being straight up."
Temptation is a given in life. All of us are tempted ... and when giving in to temptation leads to sin, it hinders our relationship with God. Here's the question-from whence does temptation come?
And, does God tempt us?
If not ... where does the temptation come from??
Let's go back to the beginning. Back to Genesis where we find the entrance of temptation,1 which of course, by its very nature implies a choice, and that choice includes evil. Eve, and then Adam, could not stand up to the temptation put before them 'to really know' which the serpent told them they would, if they ate of the tree of knowledge. With the choice made by the first couple, the sin condition entered what had been a perfect world. (Notice that temptation came through an appeal to pride)
Does God send temptation our way? Hmmmm ... consider this from James: "No one, when tempted, should say, "I am being tempted by God"; for God cannot be tempted by evil and he himself tempts no one. But one is tempted by one's own desire, being lured and enticed by it; then, when that desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and that sin, when it is fully grown, gives birth to death." James 1.13-15
James is pretty clear that God does not tempt anyone; it is impossible for God to violate his own character
Thomas a Kempis in his work, "The Temptation of Christ", written in 1441, has some keen insight on this critical topic.
The beginning of all evil temptations is an unstable mind and a small trust in God. Just as a ship without a helm is tossed about by the waves,
so a person who lacks resolution and certainty is tossed about by temptation ... temptations reveal who we are.
It is our own (individual) desires that entice. It is for this reason that what tempts you, may not tempt me, and visa versa. It is valuable to see that temptation is part of a process-
>First, the thought is allowed to enter our minds~
>Second, the imagination is sparked by the thought~
>Third, we feel a sense of pleasure at the fantasy, and we entertain it~
>Fourth, and finally, we engage in the [evil] action, assenting to its urges.
Kempis admonishes us about thoughts of temptation,
Meet them at the door as soon as they knock, and do not let them in.
We can overcome temptation with the help of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit gives us the power to resist temptation . . . if we look to him. "The Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptation."2
God promises he will not allow us to be tempted beyond what we can bear, as Paul noted: "but with the temptation [he] will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it."3
Hmmm . . . do you conduct yourself wisely, or do you flirt with temptation that will lead to sin by opening yourself up to it? James instructed, "Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you."4
Temptation - here's what to do: Pray for strength before and when you face it, do not flirt with it, and like a Kempis said, 'when temptation knocks on the door, meet it at the door, and do not let it in'! 'Something to think about before you AND me are knee-deep in the muck.
Thank you, brother James, for prompting us to think about the matter of temptation, and God? Grant us your strength. Amen!
Because temptation comes . . . Jesus!
1 - Genesis 3.1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, "Did God actually say, 'You shall not eat of any tree in the garden'?"
2 - 2 Peter 2.9a 3 - 1 Corinthians 10.13 4 - James 4.7