Overcoming Trials and Temptaitons Sermon James 1 Feb 6 05

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Overcoming Trials and Temptaitons

James 1:3-18

Intro: Swindoll story of snake attack

Have you ever felt like that was your life? The Bible clearly teaches that trials and temptations will come and that we must draw upon the power of God to overcome them.

Paul spoke of people having a form of religion that denied the power of God, and sometimes I think that’s what we see today, in that we have all of these religious things…worship, Bible studies, t-shirts, etc.  But do we have the power to overcome?

Is there such a thing as power to overcome?

Believe it or not this has been an issue for the church since the very first century, and that’s why one of the first books written…written in fact, by the brother of Jesus addresses this very thing…and in chapter one there are a number of insights that we can glean on exactly how to overcome trials and temptations.

I.                   Face the Reality


EXP:  It seems simple but we have to face the facts:  Trials will come.  Temptations will come.  Verse 2 says “when you encounter…” not “If you encounter…”

So many of us want a fantasy football life where we can live without temptation or trials.  That world doesn’t exist.

ILL: Baylor’s football team was so bad that I used to tell my kids about a game where the opposing team refused to play in the second half.  They just said, “It’s not worth it.  It’s too easy.”  So, the referee gave Baylor the ball at the 20 yard line, and there wasn’t a defense out there…and so 3 plays later, Baylor scored a touchdown.

Some of us could really live a pretty good Christian life if it weren’t for the trials and temptations.  It’s those things that get us down, and we spend a lot of time bemoaning the fact that there are temptations and trials and wishing we could have a life without them.

In fact, we sometimes excuse ourselves and complain to others, “You just don’t know how badly I am tempted…” as if to say that others don’t sin like we do because they are not tempted as badly. 

However, C.S. Lewis points out, however that it is a faulty idea that good people do not know what temptation means.  This, he says, is an obvious lie.  Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is...A man who gives in to temptation after five minutes simply does not know what it would have been like an hour later.  That is why bad people, in one sense, know very little about badness.  They have lived a sheltered life by always giving in.  We never find out the strength of the evil impulse inside us until we try to fight it, and Christ, because He was the only man who never yielded to temptation is also the only one who knows to the full what temptation is.

So we are to pray that God would deliver us from temptation and from the tempter, and we are to direct our steps so that we do all we can to avoid temptation and trial, yet face the reality: Trials will come.

There are 3 reasons for this:

(1)                       Because of our own sinful nature.  Look at James 1:13-14.

(2)                       Because of the world we live in.  

John 16:33 (NIV)
33“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

(3)                       Because God tests us to see what’s in our heart.

Genesis 22:1

Now it came about after these things, that God tested Abraham, and said to him, "Abraham!" And he said, "Here I am."

Verse 2 says these are “Various” Trials.  That means that they have lots of forms.

(1)                       We don’t know what to do

(2)                       We lack money

(3)                       We are oppressed by powerful forces…perhaps we are oppressed by addictions

(4)                       We have damaged relationships

(5)                       Health issues.

These are Trials!

Yet, the Bible says we are to face them with Joy.  Count it all joy.  That phrase is probably not condemning you if you have other emotions.  It is not saying, “The only emotion you should have is joy,”  but rather it is saying, “Consider it something to be exceedingly joyful about!”

ILL:  farmer on his wagon…with his dog next to him on the driver’s bench, comes over the hill…great big crash…Trooper comes upon the horse first…shoots him…then the dog…shoots him…comes to the man, “Are you alright?”  “I never felt better in my life.”

Verse 2 says “Consider it all Joy”  and Verse 12 says “Consider yourself Blessed!”

“Why?”  And “How?”

II.                Fathom the Dynamics of the situation

EXP: You notice this passage talks about both Trials and Temptations.  Is there a difference between trials and temptations?  It’s not always easy to distinguish but I think there’s an important difference that we can see when we look at the original language of this passage.  You see there’s actually two different words used.  The word translated “Trials” in verse 2 and also verse 12, is a different word from the word “testing” in verse 4.  The word translated “Trial or Temptation” is the word Pyrasmon.  The word “Testing” comes from the word Dokimon.  (Not to be confused with a first century version of Pokemon)

Alexander MacLaren distinguished the two words this way, "Pyrasmon conveys the idea of appealing to the worst part of man, with the wish that he may yield and do the wrong.  Dokimon means an appeal to the better part of man, with the desire that he should stand.  Pyrasmon says, 'Do this pleasant thing; do not be hindered by the fact that it is wrong.'  Dokimon says, 'Do this right and noble thing; do not be hindered by the fact that it is painful.'  The one is a sweet, beguiling melody, breathing soft indulgence and relaxation over the soul; The other is a trumpet call to high achievements."

The word used in verse 12 translated "temptation" is the word pyrasmon.   It speaks about Satan's enticement to sin...and verse 13 tells us that we need to understand that, "God never entices a person to sin..."

Deut 8:2 says God will test us to see what's in our heart, but he never entices us to sin.

So what are the dynamics?  When you feel tempted to sin, that is Satan enticing you to do evil...to sin against God, and he does it to attempt to destroy your life.  Now he will tell you that he just wants to give you what is rightfully yours.  He will tell you that he wants to add to your life.  He will tell you that this is a way to have what God has unfairly withheld, but you need to know that the devil never talks without lying.  He may tell part of the truth, but he will never tell the whole truth.

So his purpose in temptation is to destroy.

But when we are tested by some hardship that seems to be demanding that we live in extraordinary strength and resolve, that is God’s Dokimon…His testing of us, and when that happens, you need to be clear: God also has a purpose.

God's purpose...is to test what is in your heart, so that you can receive His stamp of approval.   He allows you to be tested by hardship and He allows you to be tempted by evil because His purpose is for you to endure it, and he never lets it be too hard for you, so that He can place his stamp of approval on you.

So, we could say:

·       God Tests us to Approve us

·       Satan Tempts us to Destroy us

God is like a science teacher who has been teaching us, pouring herself into us, showing us how to perform a lab exercise, exposing us to scientific theories…and then comes the test so that she can give us an A, and announce… “This is my student…ready to learn yet more!”

On the other hand, Satan is of sinister nature…appealing to the lower part of us…to the dark shadows of our lives…doing everything he can to ruin our lives.

If God is a mentor, helping us grow…Satan is an adulterer tempting us to stray.

If God is a caring parent, Satan is an abusive predator.

God wisely allows us to go through various trials, and we’re going to see in a minute how He uses those trials for our growth.

But part of enduring the test or overcoming the temptation is having a grasp of what is happening!

And that leads us to the third thing I’d like you to see:

III.              Foresee the Future

Enduring the test means: Blessing.

How could a test be a blessing?  Because they are chances to put the fruits of the Spirit into practice.  These things cannot be learned without practice, and the only way you can practice them is in real tests.

Tests teach us to love and long for heaven.  Sometimes I have people say to me, “I just want to work somewhere with just Christians, where there’s no bad language, etc.”  But the place they describe doesn’t exist on this earth.  Only in heaven.  God doesn’t want you to go around so in love with this world that you have nothing to long for in heaven.

Tests remind us that God is with us and that He will not allow us to go through more than we can endure.

1 Cor. 10:13

No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and 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.

Tests remind us that when we have endured…we will be blessed.  Verse 4 speaks of the completed result of endurance as making us complete, mature, and lacking in nothing. Verse 12 calls it “The crown of life.”  What does that mean?

After his period of testing has ended, the believer will receive the crown of life. No one competing in games receives a crown until the race is over. The phrase the crown of life, it seems, was a well-known idiom in the first century.  It occurs in the letter addressed to the church in Smyrna: “Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Rev. 2:10).

The crown of life “is the emblem, not of royalty, but of highest joy and gladness, of glory and immortality.”  The phrase, then, suggests fullness of life that God grants to those who endure the test of faith. God has promised this gift “to those who love him.”

So, as you fathom the situation, and you say, “This is a test.”  (Like Abraham, being called upon by God to do some hard, but noble thing…you endure it…you joyfully embrace the hardship…because you know, “God is using this to do something marvelous…”)

On the other hand, you see that you are in some great temptation, and you perceive, “Satan is tempting me to some enticing sin…”  What will happen to me if I give in to this?  The word picture in verses 14 is a hook for fishing.  The fish is enticed…

ILL: Nothing is more exciting than catching a trout on a fly and watching that trout break water…Do you know what happens?  Often it is following a nymph as it has hatched and is moving to the top of the water to fly off into the friendly skies…and the fish starts moving with more and more energy…and just as it reaches the top of the water…the fish reaches its delight, and it is moving with such force and energy that it cannot stop and it breaks out of the water…and we say, “Oh, it jumped!”  That’s not it at all…It has reached the point of no return.

Verse 14 says we are carried away by our lust or desire…and when that has conceived it gives birth to sin…and sin…in its complete form brings forth death…because what that trout didn’t realize, until it was too late…was that there was a hook on that nymph!

This is what Mr. Sampson never could grasp…until it was too late!

APP: There are some of you here today and you are chasing some illicit affair;  you are flirting with the bait;  you are hanging out with the wrong crowd…You need to stop today to understand that you THINK you are scoping something out, but a force more powerful than you can understand, and more evil than you can imagine is stalking you…and his desire is to destroy you…and if you could foresee the future, you would know that to keep pursuing this sin means certain and undeniable death.

Death to all that you hold dear;  Death to all that you’ve worked for;  Death to your dreams;  Death to your conscience;  Death to your integrity; Death to your Joy;  Death Eternal.

But, what then about those who are locked in a cosmic struggle of a test…How do you endure?  How do you face it day after day; week after week; month after month; year after year…with abiding and immeasurable joy?


IV.            Focus on the Purpose


1. God purifies you through trials…

Just like fire removes the dross from gold and silver, afflictions and trials can cause us to turn away from things that we might otherwise tolerate in our lives...It’s not so much that God is punishing you...as it is we start taking inventory and we start eliminating contraband that is hindering and entangling us.

Psalm 119:67 (NASB)
67Before I was afflicted I went astray, But now I keep Your word.

Psalm 119:71 (NASB)
71It is good for me that I was afflicted, That I may learn Your statutes.

2. God Promotes you through trials...

Over and over the Bible teaches us that after we have been tested, that God exalts us.  He gives us greater and greater assignments.  When I went to Immanuel there was a group of about 30 people, mostly Senior Adults who had endured and stayed.  We fondly referred to them as the remnant, and it was interesting to watch how people’s perception of them changed.  There was a time when everyone wondered, “What’s wrong with these people?”  Now, the most venerated people in the church are the people who were there through the really rough times.

3. God proves you through trials...There’s a sense in which if you were never tested...you would never know how strong you were.  You would never know,  “Am I following Christ because of convenience or commitment?” Trials help you find out. 

1 Peter 1:6 through 1 Peter 1:7 (NASB)
6In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, 7so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ;

(4) God points to you through trials...

You know there are so many skeptics in our world.  They will never believe in the power of Christ unless they can see with their own eyes...someone who has been through a terrible trial and still loves Christ...And sometimes, just like Thomas wanting to see the scars with his own eyes...they’ll never believe a testimony that they can’t see with their own eyes.

V.               FLEE TO CHRIST


Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of all of them.  David had his Saul, Elijah his Jezebel; Paul his Alexander; Daniel his lion’s den; Jacob had his father-in-law; and Jesus had his Judas Iscariot.

You are going to have your trial; your tribulation; your temptation…so FLEE to Christ.  Don’t let that be what pulls you away; let it be the thing that drives you to Christ.

How can Christ help?

We see our NEED for a Savior; and in this Savior we find the Strength to have the victory!

God gives us these resources during temptation:

•     His presence. “He will not leave you nor forsake you” Deuteronomy 31:6

•     His model—Jesus. “For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted” (Hebrews 2:17–18).

•     His guidance. “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path” (Psalm 119:105

•     His mission for our life that keeps us directed. “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us” (Hebrews 12:1 .

•     His other people with whom we share encouragement. “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:24–25

•     His forgiveness when we fall and fail. “If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9

Today:  I want to urge you.  You cannot overcome trials and temptations without the power of the Holy Spirit.

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