Day 5 of Jump Start picks up with James 1:12-18.
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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. 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.
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. 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. – James 1:12-18
In today’s passage, James returns to a similar discussion we read in v. 2-4 on trials and steadfastness. The second half of chapter 1 mirrors the 1st half.
- Trials are discussed in 1:2-4 and 1:12-18.
- Wisdom is discussed in 1:5-8 and 1:19-26.
- Wealth is discussed in 1:9-11 and 1:27.
So far James has taught us that Christians can experience joy in the middle of trials (v.2) and now in verse 12 he connects enduring trials with what it means to be blessed.
This concept of being #blessed is massively misunderstood in our culture today. Watch any postgame interview with any athlete in any sport and what’s the very first thing out of their mouths? Answer: some version of “I’m just so #blessed to be able to win this game.” Does that mean the losing team is not blessed by God? Does God love them less?
Search any social media platform for #blessed and you’lll come up with millions of entries. If you search on Instagram, you’ll find pictures of new cars, shoes, jewelry and even food…all the with caption, #blessed.
Now most of that nonsense comes from non-Christians, people who James would say are not yet living the #blessed life of real, active faith. But is the Church any better? Does the average, well-to-do American Christian really have a better understanding of what it means to be blessed than the average well-to-do American non-Christian?
If you were asked to list off ways to obtain the #blessed life, would resisting temptation make the list? Persevering in trials? That is precisely the pathway James is guiding us toward.
God Can’t Do That (v.13-15)
Did you know there are some things God can’t do? It’s not that God is not powerful enough. Instead, since we know God is love and God has faithfully revealed his character and heart toward us in Christ Jesus, there are certain things that are simply outside of God’s character. For example, God cannot sin. God also cannot tempt us.
So when you find yourself torn between what God wants for you and what you want for you, James is clear; we don’t get to blame God for the tension.
So who can we blame for temptation? Ourselves! Notice the progression James lays out. Our own desire (what we want, not what God wants) leads to sin and sin leads to death. Our fault all the way.
I was talking with some young men in our church about lust a few weeks ago. It’s the single most relevant topic I find across all different types of guys. The struggle can seem impossible to overcome, especially in the teenage years. One of these young men was fairly exasperated as we were looking at Jesus’ teaching on lust in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:27-30). He told me how his father sat him down one day to talk about sex, girls, etc.
His dad told him, “It’s okay to look and fantasize but it’s not okay to touch.”
James doesn’t leave much room for that application in the life of a Christian seeking to live out a real, active faith. Desire is dangerous because desire misapplied leads to sin and death.
God is good and never changes. (v. 16-18)
Do you sit around the Thanksgiving table and take turns with your family sharing what you’re thankful for? I love that. James doesn’t want you to be deceived (v.16) into thinking God could somehow be the source of temptation in your life. He further reveals the wonderful character and nature of God in verse 17 when he directs our hearts to see that every good gift is from God who never changes.
How many good things in your life go unrecognized? Unappreciated? If you connected those good things (friends, peace, good food, a sense of stability, family, support system, etc.) as gifts from God, how much more aware would we be to just how blessed we really are?
- We would resist temptation more than we do now.
- We would endure struggles better than we do now.
- We would be more patient than we are now.
- We would worry less than we do now.
- We would comfort others in their suffering better than we do now.
Questions for Prayer and Application
1. What does it mean to be blessed? How do you see our culture getting this wrong? Do you see yourself getting this wrong? Ask God to show you more and more what it means to live the blessed life.
2. Think of a time when you survived a struggle and/or resisted a temptation. Remember what it felt like to win? To make the better choice? Ask God to help you remember how good that felt and to remind you how much better his ways are than our ways.
3. Have you experienced a big change in your life? Specifically a negative change? Most of the time, when the dust settles you realize you can handle the changes, no matter how drastic they are. But it’s the unexpected way they came about that is hard to deal with. Nobody likes being blindsided. You know what I love about God? He never does anything out of character, never blindsides you. Your whole world might be upside down right now but God is with you and God never changes. Close with a simple prayer of thanks.