Outcome of Trials

James 1:12-15

Goal of good pastor closely related to goal individual Christians should have for themselves; pastor’s goal – to be used of God to encourage and promote increasing holiness in his people, what they should also desire. Makes it so much easier on shepherd when sheep are moving in the right general direction! According to James trials in form of testing and temptation are primary means God uses to keep us moving. God does not intend for his kids to be couch potatoes, content with status quo, in maintenance mode for duration of life. God expects children to be constantly moving up the growth chart until we reach goal he has set for us and he takes us home.

Our conduct during testing of vital importance; that’s not what makes it a trial or temptation but is what determines the outcome.

No, as I argued extensively above, a trial is simultaneously a temptation. Our response determines whether we “step forward” (endure in trial) or “slip back” (succumb to temptation). This biblical truth does, and must, make a profound difference in Christian conduct across the board. Krabbendam

Better job we do behaving in way pleasing to God, more progress we make in holiness, in coming to resemble Lord Jesus more closely. Must remember, though, testing in life not like testing in school: if everybody gets 95+ on test, we’ll skip the next one. Passing life test doesn’t get us a freebie; does gain us great reward in both this life and next. Receiving blessing of that reward requires effort, work that produces good works.

Short rabbit trail: work and works are essential part of Christian life, as a result and evidence of our salvation, NOT contributing in any way toward gaining or meriting our salvation. All work necessary to procure our salvation done by Lord Jesus, nothing that needs to be added or can possibly be added to his work. However, we must “work out our salvation” (Phil. 2:12) since God works in us to “do his good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13).

Back to trials and temptations: one situation can have two diametrically opposed outcomes. Can serve as a test that God uses to move us along path to victory for us and defeat for Satan; can also serve as temptation that leads to defeat for us and victory for Satan. Key ingredient that needs to be developed is endurance; closely related word is stamina, something that doesn’t come naturally but must be built and increased.

A. path to victory v.12

There is path to victory, both intermediate and eternal; not an easy one but does come with great reward. Some blessings come along the way, others must wait for heaven. Some given as encouragement to endure, others as reward for enduring. Endurance – continually pressing forward toward a goal, resisting all that would distract focus. Two directions endurance is active – toward the reward, against temptation. Not passive “Eeyore” type of putting up with what must be tolerated; it’s active constancy that requires effort, vigilance at all times.

First obvious component of reward is experience of blessing – knowing that you are the recipient of God’s favor. “Blessed the man” – described as such, present tense; no need to wait for sweet bye and bye to experience good things from God. Given immediate prior context James must be talking about spiritual, not temporal blessings – good things from God not connected with station in life. Don’t try to explain to unsaved friends: won’t get it, wouldn’t appreciate it if they did receive it; it is result of right relationship with God.

Important part of raising daughters – “Daddy date”. Where to go, what to do not really that big a deal; it’s the who that mattered, daddy and child spending time together, being and doing together, with or without conversation. Blessing James refers to is promised to child who loves his Father; best gift Father can give is himself, time and attention. Response of child: thorough satisfaction, contentment, treating gift as priceless treasure.

So how does that work with us and God? The more we endure, the more we focus thoughts on God, living consciously aware of his presence, our need. Causes us to desire him more, think of and pray to him more, depend on him more fully, recognizing his grace to us, asking God to fuel our love for him. All that improves nature of our obedience – more willing, lasting, actually the overflow of our love for God. As we experience more of God’s nearness, we want more of it, want to please him more, resist temptations to do less, find more pleasure in God.

All leads eventually, when we “pass the [final] test (HCSB) (proven to be genuine, NET) to the ultimate reward – crown of life. Something precious and valuable, reserved for the saints; a symbol of victory, reward for service, sign of royal position and dignity. Is eternal and abundant life guaranteed by Jesus, begun in this life and reaching its full expression in new heaven and earth.

James writes in the singular, imagine if entire church family was committed to enduring testing, desiring to find full satisfaction in God alone. Praying and obeying and loving and giving and pressing forward all in God’s strength and for his glory. Boggles the mind!

B. recipe for disaster v.13-15

Would be easy when testing comes to follow in Adam’s footsteps: when you fail the test blame the teacher, in Adam’s case, God. “the woman you gave me” – yeah, Eve’s kinda at fault but if God had provided a better woman, outcome would have been different. James heads that idea off at the pass, will have none of it. God does send trials to establish genuineness of our faith, encourage perseverance, spur us on to greater holiness. It is impossible that God could or would send situation with intent of entrapment, enticing people to sin against him. (13)

Sad truth is man doesn’t need external source of temptation or incitment to sin; fallen man contains all ingredients necessary to commit sin. The unsaved at best has conscience or inconvenience to act as moderator of his sinful desires. The believer has huge advantage – a new heart, filled with Holy Spirit and love for Christ, desiring to find expression in obedience to God and resistance to sin. But,… this new heart lives in an old house for duration of earthly existence. Consequently, must deal with conflict between new heart and old flesh, new desires and power of remaining sin. (14)

Indwelling sin is a sinister, malignant, power that is found everywhere in the believer as a fifth column (Rom. 7:23; Jam. 3:6, 8). It lies at the root of all actual sins, and has a “depraved desire,” a “lustful longing,” all of its own (Gal. 5:17). Indwelling sin, as well as its “lust,” are radically evil, invariably lie in ambush, and are ever poised to strike. Krabbendam

Those sinful desires are crouched, ready to pounce on an opportunity for exercise. Having the desires does not constitute sin, sin is result of giving rein to those desires and indulging them. (14) Not a one-shot deal, series of steps in process leading to disaster; is possible to deal with child of temptation at each step, changing ultimate outcome.

James describes it in very human terms, that of procreation. First is flirting with temptation, going to bed with it. Things lead to things, now there’s an unwanted pregnancy, result of embracing temptation. Pregnancy guards future offspring, waiting for further opportunity for sin. Left to its natural development, can expect birth of a child, sin that is now open and growing. Will continue to grow to maturity, firmly placed on path of no return and resulting in death.

Progression works this way: starts in mind and emotions with idea or desire. Then contemplated and fed it leads to a plan; plan is put into action and results in self-deception. For the genuine believer, this progression should be occasional thing, not pattern or habit of life. Believer’s sin does not come from heart bent on pursuing sin; however, it is still believer who commits it and is responsible. That good heart can be enticed and drawn away; by itself, it is no match for desire, must have assistance in order to successfully resist.

When Christian begins down path of temptation, it’s not a done deal with only one exit at the other end. Can and should “kill the baby” as soon as possible, sooner the better, especially since situation is one of kill or be killed. Only possible to bring about with God’s help – aid of indwelling Spirit, fervent prayer, time in the Word. Same strategy serves as preventative as well as curative; abiding in Christ , being filled with the Spirit weakens sinful desires, prolonging their onset and diminishing their effectiveness.

Bad news is that Christian’s life is continual battle that will end only at death or return of Lord Jesus. Good news is that battle that characterizes Christian’s life will end at death or return of Lord Jesus. Also good news is that we can be victorious in battle against indwelling sin. Can keep it under lock and key with help of Holy Spirit. Can get it back under lock and key when it escapes, again with help of Holy Spirit. Only hope for believer comes from above/within, from God exercising his power in our lives.

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