For a lot of us, our excuse for giving into temptation is to say, “The devil made me do it.” How do we make sense of the trials we face? Where do temptations come from in light of our circumstances?
1. Tried and Tempted
Trials aren’t only a form of adversity. Prosperity can test us too. Regardless of adversity or prosperity, trials we face either lead us to be thankful or be tempted. The Bible show God testing his people but James 1:13 makes clear he never tempts. How can that be? We must remember that the occasion for temptation is not the same as its cause. Temptations don’t come from outside of us but from within, a product of our desires. Desire in and of itself is not the problem but abnormal over-desire for something other than God is. Trials reveal what temptations lie within our hearts.
“The soul that loves God seeks no other reward than that God whom it loves. Were the soul to demand anything else, then it would certainly love that other thing and not God.”
- Bernard of Clairvaux
2. Fighting Temptation
To fight temptation, we must also see that tests also reveal an opportunity to take hold of God’s goodness and grace available to us. God always provides a way out in our temptations in Jesus (1 Cor. 10:13), who faced down every temptation without sinning. Yet despite his perfect obedience, he suffered the death borne of all our selfish desires. By faith in him, we are not slaves to our desires but freed from them to love God over all else. We can echo King David’s prayer in Psalm 73:25, “Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you."
Reflection and Discussion Questions
Even though James uses the same word to describe them, what are the differences between a trial and a temptation? Who is responsible for each of them?
Why is desire not a bad thing in and of itself? Why is Christianity not about getting rid of all desires but the right ordering of our desires?
What temptations have you given into that you have blamed on outside circumstances or other people? Do you think those things are truly at fault?
How does Jesus’ perfect obedience to the Father in the face of every temptation serve to encourage us as we face temptations? How does his death on the cross help us?
List out 2-3 trials you’re facing right now. What 2-3 temptations have emerged from these trials? Pray that you would resist them and trust Jesus.
Memorizing and repeating God’s Word to ourselves helps us resist temptation. Take time to memorize James 1:17 and recall it when you face temptation this week.