TRIALS AND TEMPTATIONS 1

Life is full of trials and temptations. It is especially so for the Christian or
follower of Jesus Christ.

Basically, a trial is a difficult or negative experience. For example, most people
regard a period of unemployment or illness as a trial. It seems that difficult
experiences have a way of “putting us on trial and asking us penetrating
questions”. The Bible also regards positive experiences as potential trials for
believers, because our relationship with God and dependence on Him can be
tested even when times are good. When things are going well we are tempted to
value temporary things more than eternal riches with God, or; think that our own
goodness, effort or skill has achieved what we enjoy rather than thank God for His
goodness to us.

Temptation is usually connected with a pleasurable or desirable experience. We
may be tempted to steal when we see something we want or even need.
Temptation can also be associated with the avoidance of a negative experience.
For example, we may be tempted to lie when we feel that telling the truth will
make us look bad or get us into trouble. In order to be tempted you must have a
desire for something you know is not morally or ethically right.


1. Christians often experience more than their share of trials.
It’s true that God gives wonderful gifts to His children, protects them, heals them
and blesses them abundantly. However, everyone who lives in our fallen world
experiences various hardships and difficulties, including Christians. We are not
exempt from the rough and tumble of life simply because God is our Father.
Even though we are seated with Christ in heaven above, we remain subject to
death and decay here on earth. God doesn’t provide a protective bubble for the
faithful so that they never have troubles. In fact, our heavenly Father sometimes
exposes us to life’s difficulties and uses them to discipline us.

Also, because Christians have chosen to follow Jesus Christ, suffering and
difficulties are now their lot in a way they wouldn’t be otherwise. Having been
united with Christ, his sufferings now flow over into our lives. His enemies
have become our enemies. In addition to this, Jesus has called us to forego many
of the pleasures of this life in order to enjoy pleasures in eternity with him. We
are not on planet earth to serve ourselves, but to serve the Lord. By seeking to be
selfless, believers may experience additional hardships or trials.

2. Christians usually experience more than their share of temptations.
This is the case for a whole host of reasons. Firstly, when you start to follow Jesus
several things become temptations that were never temptations before. This
happens because you now know far more clearly what God approves and
disapproves. Although you now have a new nature in Christ, your sinful nature or
“flesh” is still with you. So, depending on your past, there may be a long list of
things which still appeal to your sinful nature which you must now resist. They
have become “temptations” because you now recognize them as wrong. Their
lure will diminish as you grow in Christ, but only as you turn away from them.

Also, your new enemy, Satan, works very hard to get you to disobey,
disappoint and dishonour God. Particularly early in your Christian life, Satan will
provide you with new opportunities, which at first glance appear like blessings
from God. However, these new “opportunities”, when looked at closely, are simply
newly disguised appeals to your sinful nature. Satan will try to lead you away
from God by tempting you with “goodies”. He often increases the size of the
“carrot” or changes the type of “carrot” he dangles in his attempts to take our
focus off of Christ.

Furthermore, your realization of the truth of Jesus will now be routinely
challenged. You will be tempted to deny your faith in Jesus, your love for Jesus
and your union with Jesus in order to maintain the approval and appreciation of
others; or at least to avoid their scorn, persecution, laughter and dismissal.
Keeping quiet about what you believe is a great temptation.

The fact is, believers usually face more than their share of temptations and

What attitude should we have to trials and temptations?

CHAPTER 1. 2-18:

  2“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of
many kinds, 3because you know that the testing of your faith develops
perseverance. 4Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature
and complete, not lacking anything. 5If any of you lacks wisdom, you should
ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be
given to you. 6But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because
whoever doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.
7Such a person should not think they will receive anything from the Lord;
8they are a double-minded person, unstable in all they do.
  9The brother or sister in humble circumstances ought to take pride in their
high position. 10But the one who is rich should take pride in their low
position, because they will pass away like a wild flower. 11For the sun rises
with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is
destroyed. In the same way, the rich person will fade away even while they
go about their business.
  12Blessed is the person who perseveres under trial, because when they have
stood the test, they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to
those who love him.
  13When tempted, no one should say, „God is tempting me.‟ For God cannot
be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14but each one is tempted
when, by their own evil desire, they are dragged away and enticed. 15Then,
after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown,
gives birth to death.
  16Don‟t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. 17Every good and perfect
gift is from above, coming down from the Father of heavenly lights, who does
not change like shifting shadows. 18He chose to give us birth through the
word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.”

Although at first glance this seems to be a hodge-podge collection of insights and
admonitions, upon closer inspection it is clear that this entire section of James‟
letter addresses the issue of trials and temptations in some way. So we will
look at verses 2-18 in detail. However, in order to keep the articles manageable,
I’ve broken the exegesis into three chunks; we’ll look at verses 2-4 in this article,
verses 5-12 in a second article, Trials and Temptations 2, and verses 13-18 in
Trials and Temptations 3.

Verse 2 “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials
of many kinds…”
   We are to regard trials, whether hardships, difficulties or troubles, etc., as
    opportunities for joy. Please note that God is not asking us to rejoice in the
    trial itself; afterall a hardship is a hardship. (He is not interested in His
    children wearing “rubber smiles” or always being “happy”. For there is some
    degree of grief associated with every trial, and we do well to feel that grief.)
    Rather, God is telling us to consider it pure joy whenever we face a trial. We
    are to have joy when and as we deal with a trial or hardship. The Greek
    actually says something like this; “Be led into all joy, whenever you face
    trials…”. We are to let God lead us into all joy whenever we face a trial or
    difficulty! In fact, our facing of a trial is meant to be done with nothing but
    joy; “pure” unadulterated joy. The trial may hurt, but our facing of it should be
    with joy only. We are not to worry, nor to be self-pitying, nor to lose heart, nor
    to be unbelieving (untrusting of God) whenever we face a trial.

Verses 3 & 4 “because you know that the testing of your faith
develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you
may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
   How, or why, is a trial an occasion for joy? “Because … the testing of (our)
    faith develops perseverance”. As our faith is tested, (and we keep our eyes on
    Jesus and trust him through the trial), we develop perseverance. And,
    according to v.4, perseverance is at work in Christians to make them mature
    and complete, not lacking anything. Perseverance is the same thing as
    fortitude, determination or tenacity. My wife calls it “godly guts”! By means of
    developing perseverance in us, every trial has the potential to make us more
    mature and complete. The testing of our faith  perseverance  maturity and

This is a staggering truth; with God‟s power, a negative earthly
experience has the potential to produce a very positive eternal
result within us!

   Apostles Paul and Peter have the same view of perseverance as James. They
    too see perseverance as a key element in the development of Christian
    maturity and completeness. In 2 Peter 1.5-7, we read, “make every effort to
    add to your faith, goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge,
    self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness;
    and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love.” When a
    Christian starts to grow in perseverance the result is godliness, brotherly
    kindness and love; clear indications of maturity and completeness. The
    apostle Paul puts it almost identically to James. In Romans 5.3,4 he writes,
    “…we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces
    perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” Paul assumes
    that believers will rejoice in suffering (because they’re sharing the lot of Jesus),
    and then he goes on to describe how the perseverance borne of suffering
    produces character, (maturity and completeness), and character then produces
    hope of receiving all that God has promised to those who trust Him.

By providing an opportunity for perseverance to develop, every
trial has the potential to make us more mature and complete in

   The apostle Paul has more to say about trials in his second letter to the church
    in Corinth. After describing some of his own hardships as an apostle, (ie.
    being hard pressed on every side, perplexed, persecuted and struck down),
    Paul goes on to say, “…we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are
    wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light
    and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far
    outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is
    unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2
    Corinthians 4.16-18) Paul recognizes that hardships on earth have the
    potential to transform one’s inner being and character for eternity, if we will
    simply trust God in them. So don’t lose heart!

Troubles can actually achieve for us eternal glory as we fix our
eyes on unseen eternal spiritual realities, (ie. God), rather than on
the seen (and felt!) temporary hardship.

Notice that neither Paul nor James is telling us to rejoice because our
circumstances are going to be a lot better in heaven than on earth. (Although
they will be much better.) They are telling us to rejoice because we will be
wonderfully eternally transformed in character in heaven as the result of
trusting God in and through our temporary trials here on earth.

Believers overcome their difficulties by the knowledge that Jesus Christ has
triumphed over death and decay on the cross; he demonstrated this by his
resurrection. We know through Christ that death and decay will not have the
final say. Every trial we face will surely pass. It will be replaced with
indescribable glory; life in the presence and lavish goodness of God, all lived
with a character like God‟s own.

   (Back to our passage.) Did you notice that James equates facing a trial with
    the testing of our faith? (Note v.2,3.) Peter saw it the same way. (See 1 Peter
    1.3-9; where trials are also regarded as the means of believers experiencing
    increased joy and transformed lives.) Not only is it likely that Christians will
    face more trials than non-believers, but when they face trials their faith is
    tested. I certainly know that to be true in my own life. I’ve had a chronic
    illness for over 10 years which involves pain, weakness, increased expenses,
    frustration, limited employment, etc. I have been tempted many times to
    believe that God is not worthy of my faith and trust, or that my faith itself is in
    some way deficient. The same is true for all of us who believe. When hardship
    hits we can easily wonder whether or not God still loves us and/or whether or
    not we have failed to adequately love Him? Think of some difficulty in your
    own life now…; Has it not “tested your faith”, or made you doubt God?
   God knows full well that trials are not pleasant experiences; they involve
    pain and they “test” our faith. That‟s why He wants us to see the full picture
    when it comes to our trials. Pain and pressure is not even half the picture!
    Every trial is also an opportunity for us to become more mature and complete,
    for this life and for eternity.

Temporary, painful, testing trials cannot be compared with eternal
maturity and completeness! So, rejoice when you face trials.

Having told us that facing a trial is a time for joy, because God produces positive
outcomes from negative experiences, James now goes on to deal with other
matters related to trials, including temptation. We’ll look at these in Trials and
Temptations 2 (v.5-12) and Trials and Temptations 3 (v.13-18).


Trials or negative experiences are occasions for joy. You can and should rejoice
in them because God is able to take your negative temporary experiences and use
them to wonderfully transform you for eternity if you will continue to trust Him.

                           © 2004

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