James: Faith at Work

Trials and Temptations (James 1:9-18)

Sermon Recap

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

Head

  • 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?

Heart

  • 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?

Hands

  • 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.

How to Be Whole (James 1:1-8)

Sermon Recap

In the 1960s, Howard Hughes bought more land than anyone else in the Las Vegas area, because he liked the idea that he could always get a sandwich no matter then time of day. Joan Didion, in Slouching Toward Bethlehem, connects this millionaire idiosyncrasy to the American (and especially Californian) character:

That we have made a hero of Howard Hughes tells us something interesting about ourselves, something only dimly remembered, tells us that the secret point of money and power in America is neither the things that money can buy nor power for power’s sake… but absolute personal freedom, mobility, privacy. It is the instinct which drove America to the Pacific, all through the nineteenth century, the desire to be able to find a restaurant open in case you want a sandwich, to be a free agent, live by one’s own rules.

We all tend to think that leading an integrated, flourishing life means taking control of our own lives. James begins his letter by addressing exactly that. But his answer to how to be whole is completely different than our idea of it. 

1. Take Control

James starts his letter by telling us what we should do in the midst of suffering. Our natural response is to take control, to either become the victor or play the victim. This tendency traces its roots back to Eden. James says that, when Christians try to take control of our lives, we are being “double-minded,” saying Jesus is King, but living like we are. 

2. Joyful Surrender

Rather than take control of our lives in the midst of suffering, James calls Christians to joyful surrender. We can be joyful in trials because we know that King Jesus has our pain in his hands, for our ultimate good (Hebrews 1:3). And it’s in surrendering to his perfect will for our lives that we become like him: perfect, complete, whole. God takes us through suffering to show us we have nothing but him… and that he is all we need (Psalm 73:25-26).

Reflection and Discussion Questions

Head

  • Read Romans 5:3-5. What similarities are there between this passage and James 1:1-8? What differences do you see?

  • Why should the biblical truth that God is in control of all things and that he is good lead us to rejoice in trials? Where do we see these two truths taught in Scripture?

Heart

  • What trials are you going through right now? Do you tend to take control by becoming a victor or a victim? Why?

  • How does a Christian’s desire for control make them “double-minded?” How did Jesus model wholeness in the way he joyfully surrendered to the Father?

Hands

  • Make a list of all the areas of your life that you try and exert control over. Confess this to God. What does it look like to give up control in one of these areas?

  • What is one trial in your life right now? Take 2 minutes each day this week to meditate on the truth that Christ holds that trial in his hands, and has allowed it in your life to perfect you. At the end of the week, did this make a difference? Share this with someone in your CG.