“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into divers temptations…” James 1:2
Count if all joy. Did you hear that? Count it all joy when you fall into divers temptations. Really? That’s the last thing I feel like doing when I fall into divers temptations. Lately, I have experienced more of these trials or tests than ever before in my life. And I see others around me going through their own. I hear people say, “Why is God doing this to me?” And on the other hand, I hear people say, “God is not the one inflicting these things on our lives.” So what’s the truth about these temptations? What is James really trying to tell me? What is it that I really need to know?
Temptation is something I need to understand. How can I overcome temptation if I don’t know the tactics of my enemy? If I don’t expect him to attack, how will I ever be ready for the attack? Matthew, Luke, James, and Paul all felt it was something that we needed to be aware of, something that we needed to prepare to handle, something that was inevitable.
Even our Master Jesus experienced temptation. Can you imagine that? The God of creation was tempted like us? Can you imagine Jesus being put through a trial, being tried, tempted, in order to prove who he was, either good or bad? And am I to escape being put to the test or being placed in tests or pressures that will reveal my true nature or quality? How can I escape what my Master underwent? Should I be exempt? If temptation proved the worth and value of Christ, isn’t that what temptation will do in my life? Well, if responded to rightly as Christ did, if responded to in the will of my heavenly Father and not according to my emotions or feelings or rights, then it will prove the value I want it to and that Christ desires. I like this quote from Precept Austin. “Think of yourself as a tube of ‘spiritual toothpaste.’ Pressure brings out what’s really on the inside!” The question is, am I really willing to find out? Well, that’s what the purpose of “falling” into divers temptations is all about.
“Falling” into divers temptations is about the word peripipto. It’s all about falling into something that surrounds you. Do you get that picture here? I get it. It’s like falling off of a pier into deep ocean water that surrounds you on all sides. You didn’t try to fall but all of a sudden, there you were, surrounded by all this dark water. You didn’t ask for it. You didn’t even plan on taking a little dip or sticking your toes in the water. You were just going along, doing what you thought you were supposed to be doing and all of a sudden here you are.
It’s one thing to start dipping your toes in the water, to keep inching in a little deeper. That’s one kind of temptation, but a whole diffferent story about playing with the pressures and appeals of the world around us. That, I could understand. That, I would have brought on myself. Been there. Done that. Unfortunately, will be careful to not do that again. But this is the place where you were walking in His ways and there you are, off the pier somehow, without knowing it, and in over your head. Well, this is the place that James is telling me I should count it all joy. Skip Moen states, it’s “time to count it joy and realize that God’s character building process was in operation.” That’s a whole different story than letting a suggestion enter my head in the first place and having to keep from drowning and fight for my life because I actually chose to enter into the dark water on my own accord.
It reminds me of a time when I was a teenager and my little brother who was about five years old at the time was with me. We both went down to the dock at the river’s edge by our house. He pointed into the water and said, “Look at those bubbles.” I looked. That’s when the little trickster pushed, and there I went, as I lost my balance, right into the water. It wasn’t a hard push, but just enough to get me off balance. He was just a little guy and I was about 16 or 17. I didn’t land headfirst in the water; I regained that much balance, but my feet were firmly planted in the suctiony muddy bottom, new hightops and all. Well, maybe that’s not the same, but it makes me think about it.
It’s a lot easier to climb out of that situation than it is to just climb out of one of these temptations we find we’ve fallen into. So what do I do? Maybe the first thing I need to do is remember that I am not alone and that there is a purpose in everything. Maybe I need to remember that what Satan intends for my evil, God intends for my good. James tells us that there’s something blessed about the person who endures this kind of temptation; for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord has promised to them that love him. Faithful endurance is not only a proof of the sincerity of my Christianity, but it’s the proof of the truth of Christianity itself. Faithful endurance is the proof of the sincerity of my love for You and Your love for me. How I respond validates by belief before the angels and the world of men, before God and Satan. This is important stuff here.
I think of You, Jesus, as a boy, where You, God in flesh, were subject unto Your parents. Luke continues by telling us, “And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.” And see, that’s the point where You or I start getting dangerous for Satan’s plans. When we start to serve and love God in a way that is acceptable and approved and esteemed by not only You God but by other men, think of the danger of that. Others might be drawn to You. Others might come to love You and place their trust in You and give their lives wholly to You. And that would foil Satan’s plans.
If we look at the instances in Scripture where You talk about us being approved, we find that it’s the Greek word dokimos. Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 10:18 that we don’t approve ourselves, but we’re commended by You, God. It’s a term not just for being acceptable, but “to be certified as completely real.” Well, if you want to find out what someone really believes and what they are really made of, just put them in a really tough situation and you’ll see their true colors, right? Then you’ll know if they are just tolerating things because everythings honky dory and wonderful, or if they would be in perfect conformity despite the conditions. To be approved is to be shown that you are the real McCoy. This is God’s opportunity given to us to show to the world and to Him that I am the real deal.
But God isn’t the one putting us through the test! Who is? Satan. Why? Because he wants to show God and the world that I am not the real deal. Remember when Jesus was fasting in the wilderness? Matthew recalled that incident. “And when the tempter came to him…” Oh my goodness, who is the one who tempts? Who brings these situations on us? Is it the same one who brought it on Jesus? Is this the same one that Jesus withstood? Think about that, the tempter tempts. Paul states this idea again in 1 Thessalonians 3:5, “For this cause, when I could no longer forbear, I sent to know your faith, lest by some means the tempter have tempted you, and our labour be in vain.” I also know this to be true because James warns me, “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempts he any man…” So why does Satan push us into these types of temptations?
He is pushing us to lose our approval before God and man. Not only is he the tempter but he is also the accuser. He wants to parade us in front of all creation as failures before God and failures of God. He wants to remove God’s approval from us and man’s approval from us. He wants to prove that I’m not the real deal. Why would he want to prove that? How did we ever become so important in this war that Satan would single me out or single you out? The minute we start really shining with the glory of God, the minute we start resembling the true image of God, we become dangerous to him. Satan knows this and it worries him. His desire is to stop it. God’s desire is to encourage it. It’s the same story since the Garden.
Think of the two trees; the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. God, You put both trees there in the garden. It’s part of your plan. But Your desire was never for us to long for the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Your desire was for us to be drawn to You, the tree of life. You drew Adam and Eve to the tree of life. But someone else wanted to draw them away from the tree of life. Satan wanted them to be drawn away from You and to the tree he chose. Think about that. Why would I want to choose good and evil when I could know good all of my days? It doesn’t make sense. But sin never does. But God, why establish the world with this choice? Why not just the tree of life? Why all the bad things in the world?
I wonder if that’s because love is not love if it has never been proven. Satan has designed some tests to show us up as failures and fakes. But You allow the tests to prove our love for You. Satan puts me to the test but You provide everything I need to pass the test if I remain committed to You in love throughout the test. And yes, Jesus, You are my shining example. Satan intends the test for evil, but You intend the test for good. If I keep my eyes on You as the goal, You will bring out strength and quality. If I keep my eyes on the trial, I will fail. It’s all decided by my inner response, not by the outer circumstances. Satan does not decide my outcome, he can’t control that. God gives me the power to decide my outcome based on whether I choose to walk by faith or walk by sight. External tests will come in our daily life. I must be aware of the danger of these situations to lure me to choose wrongly. God never pushes me to do wrongly. Remember, He is the Tree of Life. He always draws me to Himself. He will never allure me to evil.
Remember, there are two goals here. God’s goal is that in the end, I would emerge stronger and purer. Satan’s goal is that in the end, I would emerge weaker and less pure. He wishes to seduce me into sin. God wishes to strengthen and purify me. But I must remember that Satan is not of equal power to God. Satan is only as powerful as I let him be. Will I focus on God or the outside desires of my heart and surrounding circumstances? Will I walk by faith or will I walk by sight? Faith leads to the Tree of Life, sight leads to destruction and death, which includes the death of the most wonderful relationship, both with man and God. This is an important choice here. My whole life and spiritual well-being depend on how I choose.
What is my character? Satan really doesn’t know, does he? But You already know, Lord. And I have the comfort of these words spoken through Paul. “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” I shouldn’t be surprised. I should expect Satan to throw these hard temptations my way. But I should expect even more to look for Your direction, to rely on Your Word, to rest in You presence, to wait for You no matter how long, to be faithful to You, and to stand fast even when my standing looks more like falling to the floor and weeping at Your feet.
As I think about it, shoving me into temptation over my head is just a ploy. It’s a diversion. It’s Satan’s attempt to distract me from You. Lord, I want to be fully aware of this enemy’s tactics. I want to be able to stand firm against them. Not only that, I want others to know. I want them to be able to stand firm and strong and faithfully against them also. I want to be shown to be the real deal. And I want my brothers and sisters in Christ to be shown to be the real deal also.
I think I could look at every example of every person in Scripture, and if I could see into their lives even beyond what was shared, I think that every one, some time in their lives, and some repeatedly, suffered this falling into divers temptations. There’s always something that brings trouble, that destroys our peace, that shatters our comfort, that wants to steal our joy and happiness. And I can look at Scripture and see how many of these lives either responded rightly or wrongly to these situations. And I can see the outcome, the tree of the knowledge of evil repeated, or the tree of life victorious at last. But this is no yin-yang deal hear. There is supreme power in God. I don’t have to fail. I am more than an overcomer in Christ because God is here, actually present with me, and the One who created everything and has power over death and sin, dwells within me by faith. That’s no light thing. That is reality. That’s the real deal, Christ in me is real. Faith is not an idea, it’s the presence and power of God in and with me. Lord, what if I lived with this knowledge, with this living truth through every adversity and every joy? Maybe then, I would start resembling Your image even more.
I want to share some words of Barclay. “All kinds of experiences will come to us. There will be the test of the sorrows and the disappointments which seek to take our faith away. There will be the test of the seductions which seek to lure us from the right way. There will be the tests of the dangers, the sacrifices, the unpopularity which the Christian way must so often involve. But they are not meant to make us fall; they are meant to make us soar. They are not meant to defeat us; they are meant to be defeated. They are not meant to make us weaker; they are meant to make us stronger. Therefore we should not bemoan them; we should rejoice in them. The Christian is like the athlete. The heavier the course of training he undergoes, the more he is glad, because he knows that it is fitting him all the better for victorious effort. As Browning said, we must ‘welcome each rebuff that turns earth’s smoothness rough,’ for every hard thing is another step on the upward way.” (James 1 – William Barclay’s Daily Study Bible)
Temptation, that Greek word peirasmos, will be a part of my life, Lord. You designed it that way. But it doesn’t have to be to my pain, but to my joy as I learn to respond like You and to depend more wholly on You. I can learn to count it all joy as I learn that no situation is too much for You even though it may be too much for me. I can count it all joy as I learn to truly walk by faith so that things don’t have to feel good to be right. I can count it all joy when I’m treated like You and start responding like You and the world and heaven and hell have to say, “Hey, that one there is the real deal!” Immunity from the cross won’t give me that. Crown-wearers have to be cross-bearers first. Lord, I need to learn this. I need to learn to count this all as joy, even in the middle of pain. Whatever it takes, Lord, make me the real deal.