Good morning church.
It’s a pleasure to be sharing from God’s Word with you this morning. As a church we have been going through a series titled “Faith in Action from the book of James”.
God’s intention in saving us is not for us to have a passive or a lazy faith but a vibrant and an active one. Genuine faith will demonstrate itself in action even in the midst of very difficult and unconducive circumstances!
Continuing our theme on trials and difficulties, we arrive at our text for today from James 1:12-15. Would you join me in prayer before we jump into the text?
“She is fearless!” That’s how Ashlyn’s parents and teachers describe her. In the school cafeteria, the teachers intentionally put ice on the 5-year old’s chilli because if it’s hot she ends up gulping it down anyway. On the playground, a teacher watches her from a close distance every day because if she takes a hard fall, she won’t cry.
The reason she doesn’t cry is not so much because she’s super strong but because she suffers from a condition called “congenital insensitivity” which is a disorder which makes it unable for her to feel pain.
When Ashlyn’s mom was interviewed, this is what her mom said “Some people would say that’s a good thing. But no, it’s not. Pain’s there for a reason. It lets your body know something’s wrong and it needs to be fixed. I’d give anything for her to feel pain.”
The feeling of pain and sensitivity is important for our survival. Similarly what if the pain that we experience in our lives were not ultimately meant for our suffering & destruction but rather to reveal the symptom of what’s wrong and needs to be fixed in our hearts? What if there was a rescuing purpose to the pain & trials in our lives? I believe our passage today’s gives us 2 rescuing purposes:
1. Trials expose the sin in our hearts
V12 continues on the theme of being steadfast in trials and the glorious reward we receive for holding on to the faith. I’ll come to this verse in just a few minutes, but I find it interesting that right after this verse on the blessedness and the glorious reward for holding on in the midst of trials, he gets into a conversation about sin.
I don’t think it’s a random placement but speaking to people that were going through immensely difficult circumstances, they needed to know that these trials were going to reveal and expose what’s in their hearts – which could make them either run away from God or run towards God when they are confronted with their sin.
It was important for them to know but it’s also important for us to know – as we all are in the midst of a pandemic and our experiencing the emotional, mental, physical, financial, social impact of these trials. What James does in v13-15, he actually providing us with a diagnostic tool to search our hearts during trials:
- We are quick to forget God’s character
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. (v13)
When we look at the heart of v13, we realize that it’s a misplaced understanding of God’s character and His response towards us during times of trials. The misplaced understanding is that “God is not inherently good and He doesn’t want what is best for me”.
I think the reason James mentions this is because when we go through trials and painful experiences of various kinds, the first thing that we do in sin is we forget who God is. It doesn’t matter how much of Bible we may have studied in the past, or the number of bible studies we’ve led, when we are hit with sudden, prolonged and painful experiences – we forget God’s goodness, we forget that He is a father who loves us eternally & we forget that He is always with us.
Brother Jeff would always tells us “we are professional forgettors” – “we forget God daily and we are quite good at doing that”…which is why we need the precious reminders in the Bible like v13 which tells us that our God is Holy God who is untemptable.
And also He is Holy God who will never and can never tempt us. Doing this would go against His character & it is impossible for God to change His character. He is always Holy, Good and unchanging every time and in everything He does.
- We are quick to defend ourselves
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. (v13)
When we see v13, sometimes we think who is this foolish person to think or say that God is tempting us. The answer is we are those foolish people. We all know that when we sin, the hardest thing to do is confess our sin. The easiest and most natural thing to do is defend ourselves and blame others. We’ll blame others for making us respond in sin.
We’ll blame our circumstances for creating avenues for us to sin. We’ll also blame God for not removing the sin from our hearts quickly enough. In all these ways what we try to do is say “I’m not as bad as you’re making me out to be. I’m better than that”. Defending ourselves and blaming others is how we try to prove this.
This week was a reminder of my own defensive and critical heart as I had a difficult conversation with a colleague. The whole thing disturbed me for a while, but as I reflected on this I realized that the main reason why I was disturbed is that I wanted to defend the sin in my heart rather than confess it to God.
And I think all of us can relate to this nature, that especially when we are dealing with troubles in our relationships or painful circumstances in life, the easiest thing for us to do to is get defensive and start blaming others.
- We fail to acknowledge the real problem
14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. (v14)
The real problem is not other the people, is not even the circumstance but the real problem is in your heart and mine – it is a SIN issue. The picture that is painted is almost like a fisherman who has laid a bait on the fish hook and thrown it into the water.
The bait has something in it to draw the fish and before they realize it, they are caught and pulled out. It’s the same analogy that is being used for our hearts.
The reason we fall into temptation is not because of what the other person told to provoke us, it’s not because we were under immense pressure we are facing in life, it’s not because of what appeared on our screens, it’s not because of the spur of the moment – we fall into temptation because we desire SIN our hearts.
Our hearts are more depraved than we would like to believe. The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? (Jer 17:9)God is in the process of renewing our heart through Jesus but we have to reckon with the reality of the sin nature that we have.
- We are apathetic toward the consequences of sin
15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. (v15)
One of the main things that happens to our heart because of sin is that it numbs us and makes us insensitive to the consequences of our sin. The world gives this really glamorous picture of sin but in reality it is a miserable dungeon trap. It’s so enslaving which is why we keep going back again and again to the things and people who we know aren’t really helping us but harming us.
Not just is SIN enslaving but its end is in DEATH – spiritual and physical separation from God forever! In Luke 16:24 we see a description of separation from God eternally where the rich man in hell calls out to Abraham and say ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.
There is unbearable anguish in unquenchable fire – and this carries on for all of eternity. I say all this to not frighten anybody but to also lay a reminder from the Bible on how terrible is the anguish and yet we become apathetic toward the consequences of sin. Trials are a tool that God uses highlight what’s broken inside of us.
As a result of this global pandemic, many of the developed countries that used to boast of a robust healthcare system have been shown to be weak and helpless. A lot of the real issues in their healthcare systems have been exposed.
It’s not that the chinks in the armor were not there prior to the virus but rather the pandemic has revealed the healthcare systems for what they were. Similarly trials are not creating brand new sins each time we go through it but rather trials expose these sins that always were with us (Our inclination to forget God, Defending ourselves, not acknowledging the real problem of sin, being apathetic to the consequences of sin).
But if all that trials did is just make us more aware of our sin, then that leaves us without any hope. There’s something more to God’s purpose in trials. God’s rescuing purpose in trials is not just in exposing our sin but also using
2. Trials to point us to our need for a Savior
Even as trials are exposing our sins, it’s also creating this longing in our heart to look to a Savior for help. We can either chose to be a false, useless savior for ourselves (self-medicate ourselves) or we could go to Jesus who is the true, rescuing Savior (real healer).
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. (v12)
In the background of the verses of our sinful condition, as I was reading this verse, a few questions popped into my head. Can I remain steadfast by my own strength? How can I stand the test? How can I receive the crown of life?
How is it that I who deserve to be spiritually and physically separated from God eternally are now being offered the “crown of life”? How is this even possible? Because of our predicament, God will have to do something for us because we can’t do anything to help ourselves.
- It points us to God’s promise
It’s interesting that James uses the phrase “which God has promised” at the end of the versewhich means that we can’t work for the crown of life or we can’t earn it like a salary. It’s a true fact for us as believers today as well. The only qualification which allows us to receive the crown of life is God’s promise that he makes toward us.
He promises us the crown of life instead of the death we deserve. He promises to eternally love those who once hated Him. He promises to keep those that once had forsaken Him.
But this great and precious promise came at an extremely high cost because someone has to pay for the multitude of sins you and I had committed. “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23).
And that’s where the promise gets serious because to be able to give all of these wonderful gifts to us, it would mean that Jesus Christ – God’s Son would need to take on the punishment meant for us. It’s almost like a death row where we are on our way to get executed for the very sins that we had committed, and then as we are walking toward the gallows someone exchanges his place for us and chooses to get executed instead of us so that we can be set free.
21 God made him who had no sin to be sin[b] for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Cor 5:21)
Jesus Christ not only died on the cross but rose again on the Third Day and this what makes His promise a reality for us. Just like in a marriage, once the couple is married it’s no longer the husband’s bank balance or the wife’s individual bank balance.
Everything that used to belong to them individually now belongs to each other. The riches of Christ’s account has been credited to us – that’s why we have the reward of the crown of life.
- It points us to God’s compelling love
which God has promised to those who love him. (v12)
Can we actually manufacture love for God? From God’s Word & also our experience, we can all admit how easy it is for us to turn to sin & be unloving toward God especially when circumstances go against what we expect and desire.
Because our hearts still desire sin. And therefore, the only way that our hearts can be redeemed is when it is overwhelmed by a greater love.
14 For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. 15 And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. (2 Cor 5:14-15)
Jesus Christ’s love is a compelling love. When our hearts are compelled and changed by the love of Jesus Christ, that’s what makes us love God. In my marriage,
I would say that more than the wonderful moments of companionship and joy, it’s been the moments of grace and forgiveness that my wife has shown towards me that has deepened my love for her.
For some us right now, you may be in a season of pain and difficulty. It could be through a troubled relationship with your family member or a friend. It could be a financial difficulty that you’re going through. It could be a loss of job. It could be struggles with a habitual pattern of sin. It could be deep loneliness that you are experiencing as a result of the lockdown. Or it could be a season of dryness in your relationship with God.
As these trials are revealing the sin inside of you more and more clearly, don’t run away from God by turning to sin or remaining in sin. God can use this trial to actually deepen your relationship with God.
God can repair your heart. But the only way that’s going to happen is by remembering the compelling, persuasive, pursuing love of God. He has not stopped loving you and He will not stop changing you with His love until you and I receive the crown of life. Why would you want to still be in sin? Turn back to your Savior. 0