Study Notes

James 1:12-16


During our first two studies in James, we saw that trials and difficulties in this life are actually a blessing, strengthening our faith and giving us wisdom, building endurance, and perfecting us. What we are about to find out is that there is another purpose to trials, which bring yet another blessing.

1:12 Perseverance Under Trial

You are blessed when you persevere under trial. You see, trials aren't just for building us up, they are also used by God as an approval process.

This week, I happened to catch a news story describing the process that a person has to go through in order to be approved as a presidential cabinet member. Forms and interviews that delve into the deepest, darkest areas of a person's life. Reviewing in the minutest detail their tax and income records, their friendships and family members, their school careers and employment histories. If skeletons are found in their closet, if they don't measure up, if there is a controversial history, they are not approved.

God uses our trials and difficulties in this life as an approval process. If we are really His children, if we are truly saved, our faith will endure the toughest of times. We demonstrate that we have new life by making it through this life, and then receiving the crown of life.

The Crown Of Life

A few Sundays ago, in our study of Philippians, we discussed the four crowns that are available in heaven as rewards:

There was the crown of exultation (1Th 2:19) that is awarded to those that lead people to salvation and disciple them.

Next, there was the crown of righteousness (2Ti 4:8), which is given to Christians who expect that the Lord is coming back any time, and live with that in mind.

Third on the list is the crown of glory (1Pe 5:4) that is given to those who shepherd the church, being righteous examples.

And fourthly, there is the crown of life that James makes reference to here. It is the reward given when we endure to the end. Jesus told the people in the church of Smyrna,

Rev. 2:10 ...Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.

The fact that we endure through trials, that we don't just throw in the towel and give up, demonstrates that we love God.

Those Who Love Him

Love for God is the key to the Christian life. Without it, we're just playing religion, we're just fooling ourselves. John the apostle wrote,

1John 4:16-17 And we have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this, love is perfected with us, that we may have confidence in the day of judgment...

If you have love for God, you will endure through your trials and difficulties. You will have confidence when you appear before Him. There will be no question in your mind about whether you were saved or not.

1:13-16 Temptation

James now focuses in on the subject of temptation. Temptation is a common occurrence in this life. We are tempted to call in sick to work. We're tempted to speed when we're late. We're tempted to lie when confronted. We're tempted to cheat when it'll save us time or money. Everywhere we turn, we face temptation to do the wrong thing. Don't feel like the Lone Ranger here when you face temptation. We are all dealing with it. Paul told the Corinthians,

1Cor. 10:13 No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man...

In other words, the temptations that you face are the same ones that other people do.

And our natural tendency is to blame God for this. "Boy, God was really putting me to the test today!" we say. But James clearly tells us not to blame God for temptation. He is not tempting us.

Another thing we think is, "It's too difficult! The temptation I face is too much to resist!" But there is no temptation that you experience that cannot be resisted. As a matter of fact, God knows the temptations we are facing and makes sure they're not too much for us. And He makes sure that we always have a way out.

1Cor. 10:13 ...God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, that you may be able to endure it.

So, no matter what temptation you face, you always can avoid falling into sin.

Carried Away And Enticed

James says that there is a progression of temptation. First, he says that we are tempted when we are "carried away and enticed by our own lust." These actions, "carried away" and "enticed," were used by the Greeks in reference to luring animals into a trap, and baiting fish.

So we must recognize first that it is our own lusts that cause us to desire evil. Sin always seems so attractive, so alluring, so desirable. But it is a baited hook.

Now, having a hook dangling in front of us is not going to get us. It is when we bite it that we get snagged. That's what James describes as "when lust has conceived." When our desires get the better of us, we take the bait, and that's when it becomes sin. That's when we get entangled and ensnared. Following our desires when we are tempted is what makes us sin.

So we have a choice. We can resist temptation, or embrace it. There were two men in the Bible that had similar temptations and dealt with them in opposite ways.

Joseph was a servant in the house of a high-ranking Egyptian named Potiphar. Joseph was put in charge of the house, and things were going well for him. But Potiphar's wife began to desire Joseph. She began to proposition him day after day, but Joseph knew that to give in to his temptation would be sin. Finally, she cornered him. She grabbed hold of his coat and demanded him. But he ran away, leaving his coat behind. He did as Paul later instructed Timothy,

2Tim. 2:22 ...flee from youthful lusts, and pursue righteousness...

Joseph was a man who found victory over his temptation.

Another man who faced a somewhat similar situation was David. He should have been at work, but decided to stay home and sleep in. While he was walking around, he spied a woman next door named Bathsheba, he was tempted by her beauty, and although she was married, fell into sin with her.

Joseph was a servant, David was a king. Joseph was poor, David was rich. Joseph had no wife, David had many. Joseph was being pursued by a woman, while David was not. The odds were against Joseph, and David had every advantage.

You see, temptation to sin doesn't have to do with your position in life, with your situation, with your income, or who does or doesn't want to sin with you. It all has to do with where your heart is.

Sin Brings Death

When we sin, we who are Christians always know that,

1John 1:9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

But James talks about "when sin is accomplished." What does that mean? It is sin that is not turned away from, sin that is embraced. When it graduates from something that stumbled you into something that has ensnared you. When the sin conceived in a weak moment turns into a habit, a pattern in your life. This is when sin becomes deadly.

If sin is not repented of, it eventually leads to death. Ask the alcoholics, the drug addicts, those dying of AIDS, the prostitutes, the gamblers, or the prison inmates how they started. They all started small, just one little sin. A drink, a toke, a one-night stand, just needed a little money... And now it has consumed them. Unrepentant sin will kill you.


So James tells us not to be deceived about it. John wrote,

1John 3:6 No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him.

It all comes down to your relationship with God. If you love Him, you will endure. If you continue in unrepentant sin, you demonstrate that you really haven't seen Him or known Him.

For those of you who have never had your sin forgiven, there is one solution, one way out. Only Jesus Christ can forgive your sins. The Bible says,

Acts 10:43 "...everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins."

We know that sin brings death.

Rom. 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Isn't it about time that you gave up this life of sin and gave your life to God? He wants to forgive you, to make you a new person.

2Cor. 5:17 ...If any man is in Christ, {he is} a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.

Give your life to Jesus today, let your sin be forgotten in your past.

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