Last Sunday we continued our series in James as we talked about temptation (1:9-15). We recognized that while God brings a variety of circumstances and situation into our lives (some blessings and some trials) they are ALL meant to function as a means of moving us to wholeness, Christlikeness, maturity, completeness.
In other words, God does not bring these situations to us to tempt us, but rather to invite us to walk His way and grow. However, our hearts whisper to us other possibilities than that God means these for our good. Our hearts whisper options other than trusting God. Our hearts suggest that maybe a different way is better and if we listen to those whispers, those desires, then James says in 1:14-15 that we are drawn away from God's design of growth into sin and destruction.
Now maybe you are trying to figure out how to avoid the trials all together. You are thinking "maybe if I do better (by obeying God and saying no to temptation) then I will not have to face teh hardships". That is understandable because none of us enjoy the hardships, but you will be in for major disappointment if you think like this. Here is Tim Keller elaborating on what we learn from Jesus' life in Matthew 3:13-4:11.
No one can ever seem to secure a life of sustained success, joy, and blessing. As hard as we try, no matter what precautions we take, no matter how well things are going, something comes in to ruin it. Even the most talented, diligent, and savvy people can’t escape the undulations of life. ‘Ah,’ you may say, ‘but what if we did our part better? What if we lived good lives and obeyed God and prayed every day, asking him to protect us from all suffering and difficulty?’ The answer is, fine— go there. What if you actually could overcome all of your faults and flaws? What if you could become perfectly wise and understand God’s ways, the human heart, and the times and seasons— such that you always made wise decisions? What if you could have faith in God without wavering? What if your life were perfectly pleasing to God? Then – surely! God would protect you, and your own holiness and wisdom would guard you as well, and your life would always go well. Right?
Wrong. Because here stands the one who did it. God the Father has just said that Jesus’ life is perfectly pleasing to him. And the Spirit of God has descended on him to guide him. And look what happens. He is loved and affirmed and empowered by God, and then . . . then! He is ushered into the clutches of the devil. So here’s the order: God’s love and power, then evil, temptation, wilderness, terrible hunger and thirst. That little word ‘then’ is an amazing word. It is almost like Matthew is trying to tell us, ‘Read my lips: No one is exempt from trials and tribulations. In fact, this is often what happens to people God loves very much, for it is part of God’s often mysterious and good plan for turning us into something great.’
So, the invitation from the pages of the Bible is not to obey God to get him to keep the hard things away, but rather to obey him so that you grow even when the hard things come... especially when the hard things come. There is no spiritual magic trick that will keep trials or temptations away, but God does offer the resources through Christ to faithfully endure AND the confident hope that as you do you will become more like Jesus.