Temptations and trials.

Temptations and trials in our lives. Two sides of our lives we can not neglect. We probably all know about temptations and trials, therefore we have to learn how to deal with them. We have to know what to do if temptations and trials are present in our life. For that reason James is mentioning temptations and trials in his letter.

Reading: James 1:1-8 and 12-15

1 James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad: Greetings. 2 My brothers, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations, 3 knowing this: that the trying of your faith works patience. 4 But let patience have her perfect work, that you may be perfect and entire, lacking nothing. 5 If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all men liberally and upbraided not, and it shall be given him. 6 But let him ask in faith, never wavering; for he that wavered is like a wave of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. 7 For let not that man think that he shall receive anything of the Lord. 8 A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.

12 Blessed is the man that endures temptation; for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life which the Lord hath promised to those who love Him. 13 Let no man say when he is tempted, "I am tempted by God"; for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempted He any man. 14 But every man is tempted when he is drawn away by his own lust and enticed. 15 Then when lust hath conceived, it brings forth sin; and sin, when it is finished, brings forth death.


James has written this letter to encourage the Christian Jews who were living abroad to be steadfast in their faith. And also to practice, based on their faith, the right attitude to live. And this theme he is working out in a very practical way.

Another important theme in this letter is: If your faith is true and real, outsiders will notice that by observing you.

+ By observing how you speak,

+ by observing how you act and

+ by observing how you listen.

In other words: the way you live will be an outcome of the way you have faith and of the way how you are a follower of Christ. There is no other way. It is an automatic result of a sincere, true faith. Not a faith that is a result of our works, but a faith that results into works, not the other way around!

It is obvious that the messianic Jews didn’t have an easy life. And in this part of the letter James tries to explain where their problems were coming from and how we have to deal with them, in order to be able to live a fruitful life in Christ.

In both parts  the bible is talking about temptation or trials or some other translations say tests. In all occasions the same word was used in the basic text. But I think there is a slight difference between both. It is different when you speak about a test (or trial) or when we speak about a temptation. I will try to explain to you what the difference is.

In fact two different situations are mentioned:

  1. In the first part James is speaking about the difficulties you just meet. Difficulties, which come from the outside world, difficulties over which you have no control over at all.
  2. The second part is speaking about difficulties, which come from our inside. Difficulties over which you have control to some extend. And the question is: What do we do with the last difficulties? How do we cope with them and how do we learn to handle them in a way, that it will stimulate our faith?

Let us start with the second part, verse 12-15.

It starts right away in v.13 with a black and white statement: “Temptations never come from God!” Temptations which will try to let you sin. How strong is the person that is tempted? Or to bring it closer towards us: How strong am I? How strong are you? Can I, can you cope with these situations?

In this setting “To tempt” means: to tempt someone to do something what is wrong. You can also translate it with provoking someone or challenging someone in the wrong way.  

Quite rightly James says: God can never be provoked by the evil, because the evil can never have a hold over Him, because God is a holy God.

But also: God will never tempt somebody. That is contradicting with Gods character. Someone who really loves you will never bring temptation into your life. This does not mean that He is not testing me and you. He is regularly testing our faith, as happened for instance to Abraham in Genesis 22.

If temptation is coming into your life, it is coming from the evil, from Satan. The only thing he is after is that we disobey the Lord. And we all know that when we are disobeying God, we feel very sad afterwards. Satan wants to pull us away from the Lord into his influence.

The Lord is different. Sometimes God permits events in our lives to test us in our faith. And by these tests we will grow in faith. So when you are tempted, never blame the Lord for it.

But is James in these verses talking about temptation by Satan? James says NO! This temptation is a result of our own behaviour, it is coming from within us. It is a result of a wrong reaction on what we see and hear.

James says it in these words:  but each man is tempted, when he is drawn away by his own desire.

It is our own desire that is the problem. A desire to have better and to have more. Our desire is the problem. But what is the cause, what is the origin of our desire?

You can only desire something, if you know that it exists, if you know how it looks like, if you know what you can do with it etc.

Desiring can only arise from what we observe by our organs of sense. In other words: by what we hear, by what we see, by what we taste, by what we smell etc. It is impossible to have a desire for something you have never observed.

I will give you an example:

Many of you have a TV set. On this TV set you frequently are confronted with advertisements. And even without a TV set you see advertisements frequently. Advertisements are meant to produce desire to buy certain things.

I am not saying that is wrong to buy new equipment, but if it goes to the cost of many other more important things, it is. It makes you greedy. Your desire to get it becomes so strong, that all other things will be less important until you get it.

And so it goes on and on.

Another example from Nepal:

Next door to our guesthouse where we used to stay during our visits to Nepal was a barbershop. But because he didn’t have many customers he decided to sell some chicken every afternoon. He bought one or two chickens, slaughters the chicken and sells them.

Close to this place a dog was living. And the smell of this slaughtered chicken attracted the dog to this place. While slaughtering the chickens the dog came closer and closer he became fully focused on this nice juicy chicken.

One time the dog must have thought that he could get some of the chicken and he came to close. The result was that the owner of the chicken hit him fiercely with a stick on his back and the dog ran away, screaming loudly.

But the dog was not able to resist the smell of the chicken. Therefore the dog returned and came closer and closer again and again the dog was scared off again while screaming and barking.

But we mankind are different. We can make a decision to resist it and to move away from this attraction. The dog just followed his instinct, he was not able to decide different. We can! But we don’t always do!

Of course observing something in itself is not a sin. As long as it has nothing to do with intentionally looking, reading or listening to things which are not good in itself.

Example: If your neighbour buys a new car we can not neglect that. It is not wrong to look at it. What is important is: what do we do with this information? Maybe some of us will think: I like to have the same, or may be even worse: how can he pay for this? Then we give way to our own egoism, our own lust and desire and greed.

We can also react in a different way: How nice for our neighbour that he has a new motorbike, what a good thing for him! I hope he will enjoy it!

Do you taste the difference? We must never admit greed to come into our lives. If we do, we play with fire. And James continues with: “15 Then when lust hath conceived, it brings forth sin; and sin, when it is finished, brings forth death.”

When you put a seed in a pot and you water it frequently, it grows up and gives fruit someday. If you don’t give water, it will die.

It is the same with sin. If you give in to sin, your sin will grow and someday it will also give fruit, namely death!

To see, to sin, to die. The fruit of sin is no doubt death. And death in your life means, that you live a life outside God, without God. Dead for God, is the biblical meaning of being dead.

Verse 1-8

Let us now have a look at the first part, the verses 1 to 8.  James is telling us: “count it all joy when you fall into divers temptations.”

Do we really have to be glad when temptations, trials come into our lives? I don’t think so. But I do think we have to be happy because the Lord wants to test our faith. That we have to be happy, because God gives new opportunities to let us show our loyalty to Him. You can read about this subject also in Rom.5:1-5 and 1Peter1:3-7.

Both Paul and Peter discuss the same subject, happiness, in the same way.

As I said before, this part is mainly speaking about influences from outside, from the environment in which you live and work. And I really hope that this sermon will be an encouragement for you and will help you to grow in your faith.

I will give you a few examples of temptation, of trials:

  • Violent movies on the TV.
  • A woman who is drinking tea with her neighbour and gets confronted with gossiping. What shall we do, run away?

Many times it is not possible to run away from it. And from my own experience I know how difficult that can be. But what you always can do is: await a proper time to say something and in the mean-time pray silently to the Lord for wisdom. God’s wisdom.

Do you know that this can have a healing effect, a cleaning effect on the people around you? The right words to tell the other people where you stand and that you do not want to get along with them in this way. Be sincere, be honest, while at the same time depending on God! That is what we can do!

Also when thinking of the situation of the Christians in many places. It is not always easy to be a Christian, especially if your family is not Christian, isn’t it? In those situations too you very much need the wisdom and inspiration of the Lord.

Let us return to James: we have read that the result of testing will be patience and perseverance.

Perseverance in the sense that our faith will not be undermined by it. No even stronger: our faith will be stronger afterwards. Do you understand? The testing will result in a stronger faith! By these trials and tests God is teaching us and making us stronger in our faith.

May be we can compare this testing with an exam at school. At school you many times have to do exams. In the end the last exam is the most important one. Then you will receive your final reward.

In life it is more or less the same. God is examining us many times to test our faith. How strong is our faith, how much do we trust the Lord for everything? How do we pass this test. Individually but also as a church community!

Thinking about these matters, it occurs to me that a test has 2 possible consequences:

  • My faith is strengthened, I will come closer to Him.
  • I end an episode in my life. This does not mean that I will never be confronted again with this kind of trials, but I have learned at least how to handle these problems. In the end you will learn how to handle certain trials, tests, problems. Therefore the next time it occurs, it will be much easier for you to deal with it.

It is clear that testing is not a passive thing, it is active. We do not just accept it, no on the contrary. But many times we need Gods wisdom through the Holy Spirit. His wisdom to deal with it with joy in our heart. In this way we develop ourselves more in our faith and our life. It is a kind of process, that will go on until we die or until the Lord returns. Growing and growing, more and more close to our Lord Jesus.

Therefore perseverance is not the ultimate goal. The ultimate goal is, that we will be perfect and entire and lacking nothing (v.4)

To be entire, everything we need as a Christian we have already received. Who is entire already?

In this earthly life none of us will reach the ultimate goal. Our life is an ongoing process, a school that will last our entire life. Not in the way that the Lord is continually testing us. He will never ask what we can not give. But whatever age we have, we are never too old to learn in the Jesus school of life.

God is testing us every now and then. And when you fail the test, you have to do it again and again until you pass, in this way we can grow closer and closer to our Lord Jesus.


As I said before, we always may and have to pray God for wisdom. James says about this: do it in faith and with an undivided heart. Never leave room for you own input but trust fully in the Lord. With complete confidence in Him and not in anything or anybody else. Knowing for sure, that everything, I say again EVERYTHING is in His mighty hands.

If you heart is divided, your prayer will be powerless. You must not expect that the Lord is going to give something. Otherwise He will give, at His time and in His way.

A divided heart will make our life unstable. In this situation you will be pushed from trust to mistrust and back to trust and so on.

Being inwardly divided has direct consequences for your life. According to James, such a person is unstable in all his ways. The other way around is not always true: if a person is unstable, it is not always the result of not trusting the Lord, other causes are possible.

But it will be clear, that if you do not trust the Lord completely, it will result in an unstable life. It is like a cow with 3 legs. The cow runs well with four, but if one is not functioning well, she is really handicapped.

Pray with faith and confidence. That is important for our whole prayer life. It does not make any sense if we pray for something and we have no faith that something will happen, isn’t it?

To end we can conclude the following:

  • We may experience Gods protection in our life. But at the same time the Lord permits tests in our lives. In these situations we may experience also Gods guidance and wisdom. Whatever happens, how big the struggle may be, God is teaching us to be patience and to persevere by fully putting our trust in Him.
  • Temptations are the result of a wrong reaction on what we observe. Greed can be the result. Our desire should only be directed towards God. Also temptation will result in perseverance. Also this is good for our faith.

And to finish: if we stumble, God is our perfect Father, and He will help us to get back on the right track. Whatever we have done.


Jan Smit