FAITHFUL TO GOD | Trials, Temptations, Perfect Gifts and Crown of Life | James 1:12-18
Topic: New Testament Passage: James 1:12–1:18
James 1:12-18 1
Trials, Temptations, Perfect Gifts and Crown of Life
* In my 11 years of following Jesus and seeing so many people become faithless. If you have a bible you can open up to James 1 starting in verse 12 and I want to recap where we are at in James letter, he is directing his letter to the “12 tribes in the Dispersion.” This is incredibly significant, because this is a group of people that are facing trials of various kinds because of their faith. The trials are that they are losing status, losing jobs, losing their money all because of their devotion to Jesus. And what’s so significant about how James addresses them is by referring to them with the number 12. If you’ve read your bible at all, you will know that the number 12 is very significant. It starts with Jacob, one of the early patriarchs of the faith having 12 sons, who would then make up the 12 tribes of Israel; these were God’s people. When the God-man Jesus comes and begins His ministry, He gathers 12 apostles, claiming to be a new beginning of God’s people who are no longer identified with a nation, but rather are identified by devotion to following Jesus.
And when we get to James and He addresses them as the “12 tribes in the Dispersion.” James is bringing up their identity as the church, being the people of God at the beginning of this letter and it’s so significant because when we face trials, we have the tendency to think, we are going through trials because God is distant. Or when we are facing trials we think not only is God distant but we must not be God’s people if we are facing hardships. And what James, the half-brother of Jesus is doing, is reminding them that even though you are facing trials, you are still God’s people. And the God that said to Joshua in the OT “I will never leave you nor forsake you,” so it is the same God who speaks to to all Christians in all places that feel discouraged when they face trials wondering if God is near. God is near and He does care and will use your trials for His redemptive purposes in your life.
And it’s from this spring board of their identity that James begins to instruct them on how to live. If we miss this, we will mis-read all of James. It’s not that we count it all joy when we face trials, seek wisdom, care for the orphan and the widow so that, we can be part of God’s family, rather it is because we are a part of God’s family already that we by “counting it all joy when you face trials,” to asking God for wisdom and care for the orphan and widow. We are not working for an identity but we are working from an identity that we’ve been given by God.
THE BLESSINGS OF FAITHFULNESS: James 1:12
12 Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.
How many of you this morning were or are athletic? Baseball, softball, soccer, football. I grew up doing team sports and enjoyed them but what I really enjoyed was skateboarding. From guys jumping down stairs and grinding rails it captured my attention and gripped me to where I spent the better part of my teen years learning how to skateboard; I was completely devoted to it. But like all sports and learning of sports, there was a lot of failing. A lot of falling and very little landing on the skateboard. In fact there would be times when I would hit the concrete so hard, that I would get back up and either be disoriented or want to give up.
James 1:12-18 2
The analogy James uses in this verse subtly is that of a person, who would race in the roman games of their day and the one that would win the race, would receive the crown made of laurel leaves. In James analogy then, the one who is to receive the crown of life is the one who remains steadfast under trial. The man or women of God passes the test of faithfulness to God in this life is blessed/happy. Think about the long game not short game in our Christian life.
A question we need to consider is how do we make it to the end? How are we to be faithful in this life to Jesus, despite whatever trials and suffering we may face? The answer is Our faith needs to be tested. Our faith needs to be tried to see how genuine our faith in Jesus is. James says this very thing earlier in his letter
2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. (James 1:2-3)
A biosphere 2 was created by UofA in 2011 with the intent to afford perfect growing conditions for trees, fruits and vegetables, as well as humans.
People lived in the biosphere, for many months at a time, and everything seemed to do well with one exception. When the trees grew to a certain height, they would topple over. It baffled scientists until they realized they forgot to include the natural element of wind. Trees need wind to blow against them because it causes their root systems to grow deeper, which supports the tree as it grows taller.
Our faith needs to be tested and face trials & suffering so that we may have roots that grow deep in a relationship with God, so that we may be faithful to Jesus and His bride to the very end. Some of you may ask “Curtis, are you really saying that my faith needs to be tested by trials and suffering?”
Job. - Trials are meant to produce a refining of your faith, greater dependence on God and a greater clarity of who He is and His ways.
Finally Jesus and His life. As Jesus bore the cross before the crown so there is a cross we must all bear before there is a crown that we all get to wear.
God can use trials and suffering for His greater redemptive purposes in your life.
This crown though, James says “God has promised to those who love him.” How are we going to be faithful to the end? If we are going to be faithful and endure to the end, then our hearts disposition towards Jesus must be one of love. Not duty that we are fulfilling a job, not carelessness where it doesn’t matter, but love towards Jesus because He is worthy of everything we have to give to Him.
James 1:12-18 3
This is the end goal, to be found faithful and receive the crown of life, which is life with God for eternity. But in the in-between currently, when we face trials, we are left at a crossroads with the decision to either endure or to evacuate. To be faithful or faithless.
TESTING & TEMPTING: (James 1:13-15)
13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. 14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.
An interesting thing about these verses is that the same greek word is translated differently. In one sense this greek word to describe testing also is meant to describe tempting & trials. But we can clearly see from the context of these verses what they are trying to explain. Testing: Is used by God to strengthen ones faith
Tempting: Is used for evil
Testing: builds you up in your faith
Tempting: is used to make shipwreck of your faith.
Testing: to build your character
Tempting: is used to destroy your character.
One is heaven bound and the other has a gravitational pull towards the grave.
This goes back to the people that James is addressing. Facing trials, such as losing jobs and status in society, because of their devotion to Jesus, they are at a crossroads in their society, asking the question “How do we move forward?”
Because we all know, when trials and hardships come, it would be so easy to bow out so that we wouldn’t have to endure anymore. Throw the white flag up and give up. But we don’t want to be faithless, we want to be faithful. And it’s the faithless person towards God, who finds blame in everyone else but themself. *Influenced yet responsible* And it’s really interesting what James does here, he puts an incredible amount of responsibility for our actions on our own shoulders. To the people that say “God is tempting me!” James says “No. God can’t be tempted with evil and He tempts no one.” Well, what about Satan? Does Satan tempt the people of God? Absolutely, he did it to Jesus and He will do it to you.
But notice that James doesn’t mention Satan as being responsible for tempting. James solely speaks to you the individual and says “14 But Each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.
This language of “Lured and enticed by our own desires” is a fishing analogy.
James 1:12-18 4
So if any of you are fishers or have fished you know that you have to get some sort of bate on your fishing line so that you can lure the fish to bite the hook, so that you can catch it and eventually kill it.
The same analogy is used for us. When we are facing trials and they’re difficult, and we begin to desire (appetite) a way out, things that are attractive begin to lure us away from faithfulness to God.
What lures you away from God when hard times come upon your life?
Perhaps what would’ve been attractive to the people in the dispersion who were facing trials would be to receive back everything they loss because of following Jesus.
*examples - Deny Jesus is the only way, say Casear is Lord.
The natural outworking of this is verse 15 “Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.” This is what I will call a counterfeit born again experience.
Rather than trusting in Jesus and what He desires for your life, we trust in our own desires to be right and what is conceived then is not righteousness, but sin and the result of sin is not eternal life with Jesus but in eternal death apart from God.
If you’re here this morning and don’t trust Jesus, I just described your life and where it’s going. Where you believe that what God desires is fallible and what you desire is infallible. Where you second guess everything God desires questioning if it’s good or not and never second guessing if any of your own desires are good or not.
My generation of millennials and underneath me Gen Z’ers have an insatiable appetite for pursuing whatever they desire, and never asking the question, “is it good that I desire this?”
Look at history and see that this view of desire is nothing new:
Hedonism: Hedonism is the pursuit of all pleasure and that by maximizing pleasure, we can minimize suffering. Nothing is held back. If you desire it, go after it. The thought is, once you have fulfilled your desire than you’ll have peace. What’s the repeated testimony of Hedonists? It doesn’t work. (St. Augustine)
For us in Washington state there is no social benefit for you to be a follower of Jesus, for us it’s fairly neutral right now. And I don’t want to say that persecution is coming our way because that word gets thrown around too easily, but I do believe that the cost for following Jesus will become greater not less as the years go on. And what we don’t need is a bunch of Christians that compromise their beliefs but a bunch of men and women who are strong in their convictions about what is true and right and are committed to following Jesus, whatever the cost may be.
Because what is the cost for following Jesus? For the people in the dispersion, loss of wealth, jobs and social status. What was gained? A crown of life!
We give up so little for so much
Encouragement to the faithless
James 1:12-18 5
THE FATHER OF GOOD GIFTS: (James 1:16-17)
16 Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. 17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.
James calls us in response to the differences we noticed between testing and how God uses that for our benefit to build us up versus how tempting is meant to break us down. He’s saying because of this difference that is laid out, don’t be deceived thinking that God is responsible for evil or that He tempts you with evil. Rather, God is good and every good and perfect gift comes from Him.
I don’t know about you, but it often seems to me that for many people, when bad things happen they look to God thinking “why did you let this happen!” We often blame God for the bad and forget God when things are good. But we need to recognize that God is the one who provides good and perfect gifts for our joy and flourishing.
You might find yourself asking the question, “What are good and perfect gifts that God gives?” Is it only things such as church, Jesus, God’s word and God’s wisdom? Those are all incredibly important good gifts we receive from God, but it is so much broader than that. Your’ breath is a gift from God this morning, the friendships and relationships you have with your spouse are gifts from God. The food and drink that you have for lunch and dinner later today. Ruth and I are going on vacation later this month and that is a good gift from God. We are going to open a bottle of wine that is way too expensive and that is a good and perfect gift from God.
The point of recognizing this church, is that all of life becomes an opportunity of worship. When good things are happening to us, and we have seasons of flourishing, those become opportunities to pray and thank God for who He is and what He has done. And if we’re talking about good gifts, even the trials we face in this life are good gifts God uses to make us more like Jesus.
So every good and perfect gift comes from God, and James gives God a title that “The Father of Lights.” This could be translated as the Father of heavenly lights, meaning He’s the God who has created everything. Specifically though, the stars and planets in the sky.
And from the sun in the sky, when it hits an object portrays a shadow and wherever the sun may be in its track would come a variation of that shadow due to change. And it’s important to James that we understand that God our Father does not change. That as He gave good gifts yesterday, He will give good gifts today. If He was faithful to you today, He will be faithful to you tomorrow: He doesn’t change.
James 1:12-18 6
God our Father:
Jesus, in His Sermon on the Mount, talks about how our Father gives good gifts to His children who pursue Him:
7 “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. 9 Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? 11 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! (Matthew 7:7-11)
If you Fathers and Grandfathers who have evil in your heart and have evil desires can give your children and Grandchildren good gifts, how much more our Father in Heaven.
So from the hands of our Father in heaven, every good and perfect gift comes from Him. And if He gave good gifts yesterday, rest assured He will give good gifts for the rest of our days. The greatest gift that the Father has given us is Jesus, is it not? John 3:16 “He gave His only Son” And the Father has given us His Son for a purpose.
NEW CREATION: (James 1:18)
18 Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.
There’s a meta-narrative that ties the whole bible together. And as I began with saying the number 12 is incredibly important throughout the whole bible, gardens are incredibly significant throughout the Bible as well.
The first garden of Eden was made by God for our first parents Adam and Eve, to flourish in and where they shared perfect communion with God. But, they chose to do life without God in the picture. Once that decision was made, sin entered the world and Adam and Eve were cast out of the garden. They were cast out into the desert, into the wasteland, into the muck and mire of life. And as humanity seeks to run father and farther from God, God pursues us in Jesus, by sending His only Son.
Jesus lives the perfect life without sin and dies on the cross you and I deserve for our sins and He’s buried in a garden. A couple days later, Mary Magdalene, one of the followers of Jesus goes to pay tribute to His tomb. And Jesus is not there, the tomb is empty and she assumes that the Roman guards took the body of Jesus away. And as she’s crying Jesus comes up to her and says “Woman, why are you weeping,” and she assumes Him to be the Gardner.
James 1:12-18 7
Do you know what’s happening because Jesus rose from the grave? The restoration of the garden of Eden is taking place. And you this morning, Reach church, have been born by the will of the Father, through the preaching of the gospel to be a kind of first fruits of the restoration of Eden, the new creation to this world. The first buds of Spring, the first signs of life. You are a new creation, the old has passed away and behold the new has come!
I’m not saying things will get easier for us, in fact I believe them to get harder as we face trials of various kinds, trials without and temptations within. But all that we may lose in this life cannot compare to what we will gain in Christ and the restoration of His kingdom, here on earth.
So trust Jesus. Stay Faithful and strive for the crown of life.