When we do good things, we want to take responsibility for it. We’re quick to say, at least to ourselves, “Yes, I recycled,” “Yep, I returned the shopping cart to the store,” or “I gave money to that needy man.” But just as fast many of us do not take responsibility for our poor choices. We come up with excuses, “I was desperate,” “I had to” or “There was no other way.” But the fact is we always have a choice. There is always a way out, it may not be the easy way, but there is a way. (1 Corinthians 10:12-14).
Many times trials come with temptations. Perhaps money is tight, we don’t know how we’re going to pay the rent, the electricity and buy groceries. There is an eviction notice on the door. This trial weighs heavy on us. There are several ways we can respond to the situation. One, we can pray, trust The Lord, keep pursuing the Kingdom of God, and know that He has always taken care of us and will continue to do so. Two, we can worry, make ourselves sick and try to think of a way out. Three, which can result from the second response or not, we can get the money in some unsavory way, such as steal, write a bad check, or earn the money in a corrupt way. Faith allows us to respond by praying, trusting God, and obeying Him. Verse 12 reads,
“Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.”
Do you know God loves you? Do you know He loves you unwaveringly? No matter what you do or say, His love for you doesn’t stop. He has always come through for you. He has always brought you through. Why would this time be different? If He didn’t provide for you in the past, it is because you chose to worry and provide for yourself in a way that didn’t align with Love.
God doesn’t withhold your needs so that you will be tempted to sin in order to meet them. He allows us to go through trials so that our faith can be strengthened, so we can be more like Jesus, glorify Christ, and be a witness to His awesome powerful love. Worse than ‘the devil made me do it,’ is when people claim they failed God’s test and sinned. That excuse is a lie. God didn’t dangle the carrot of sin in front of us. We sinned because we didn’t trust God enough, we didn’t look around for Him, and we didn’t pursue Him, His will or His Kingdom. Verses 13-15 reads,
“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. 14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.”
God is good! There is not an iota of evil in Him, not a drop of bad, nor a smidge of vice. He is perfectly righteous. (Psalm 92:15). He is love. (1 John 4:8). It is not God who tempts us, it is our misplaced desires. Rather than desire what God desires, rather than take joy in God, or consider our trials joy because we know the outcome will be Jesus’ glory, we want money, an easy life, and we want to satisfy our lust and appetites. Somehow we are deceived into thinking that life following Christ is not delightful or joyful. Put the brakes on! Think about what He has given us. He is wonderful. Verses 16-18 read,
“Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. 17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.18 Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.”
He saved us from slavery to sin and gave us grace. He saved us from eternal death and gave us eternal life. He gives us gifts, blessings, family, and love. He transforms us and conforms us to His image. God doesn’t stop sending us gifts and blessings because He changed His mind. He withholds some gifts and blessings because we don’t want to recognize or receive them. We choose not to trust God. We choose to not have faith.
I know a woman who is in a constant state of anxiety, trouble, and flux. She wants to trust Jesus as her Lord, but she won’t give her heart to Him. She seems to enjoy drama, desperation, and difficulty. She says she follows Jesus but there is no evidence that she does. She says she trusts The Lord but she whines and grumbles over her problems and begs, borrows, and steals to meet her needs. She goes to church and hears that God will do awesome things for her, but she won’t trust Him to do it. She sees believers living lives of faith but she won’t give up her fear in order to experience The Lord. As a result she lives in a constant state of deception, grumbling, worry, and other sins. Verses 19-21 read
“Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. 21 Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.”
She won’t submit to Jesus because she believes the excuses she makes for sinning. She is too full of pride to trust God. She has put her faith in money and her joy in her desires.
Following Jesus means putting our faith into action. Trusting the Lord is not just a state of mind. It is a lifestyle of obedience. Faith is exhibited not by saying we have it but by obeying God and walking in His word. James said it this way in verses 22-25,
“But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. 24 For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. 25 But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.”
Doers of the word trust God, doers of the word look like Jesus. Hearers who do not do, trust themselves and money. They study themselves and try and discover how they can meet needs, overcome trouble, and save themselves. The problem with that is, we are sinful. We are not perfect. We can’t save ourselves. We forget about our sin and our inability to save ourselves and we try anyway. But if we submit to Jesus and the Word of God take root in our hearts, He saves us and transforms us. We do not look to ourselves and our own image for salvation, provision, transformation, and blessing, we look to Jesus. The longer we do that the more we look like Him.
Jesus didn’t look good, He is good. He didn’t say He loved us, He laid down His life and loved us. It is faith which saves us, but faith is always manifested in action. Love is manifested by a new character, that of Jesus. Love, peace, joy, kindness, patience, faithfulness, and self-control are seen in action and obedience not lip-service. A man is not kind because he says he’s kind. A man is kind when he acts charitably. A man does not love the Lord because he says he does. He loves the Lord with his entire being when he loves others the way Jesus loves him. Stop talking the talk and start walking the walk. Verses 26-27 say it like this,
“If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person's religion is worthless. 27 Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”
Not giving into temptation is not a matter of saying we will not, it is not a matter of saying we trust God. It is a matter of actually trusting Him by obeying Him.