This summer, I have been leading the guys in our youth group through a study of James. It’s been a while since I took a deep dive into James, so it has been refreshing to see so much in the text that I hadn’t caught before.
Alongside reading the text itself, I have been reading Warren Wiersbe’s Be Mature commentary and it has been a delightful companion through the study.
His chapter on James 1:13-18 is called, “How to Handle Temptation.” What I love about Wiersbe’s chapter on handling temptation is that it isn’t just a pragmatic list of ways to prevent ourselves from sinning.
In instructing us about how to handle temptation and avoid falling into sin, Wiersbe doesn’t direct our thoughts inward—he directs our thoughts upward.
Below are Wiersbe’s three considerations while facing temptation with some of my own elaboration on his points.
1. Consider God’s Judgment.
Wiersbe identifies four stages of sin in James 1: desire, deception, disobedience, and death.
We see this so clearly in the Garden of Eden. The serpent taps into Adam and Eve’s desire to be like God and deceives them in such a way that they disobey, ultimately leading to death for not only themselves, but all of humanity to follow.
God created Adam and Eve and had intimate relationship with them in the Garden of Eden. They were good and he loved them. Even this first couple, declared good in their creation, were not exempt from the judgment of God.
What makes us think we would exempt from the just judgment of God should we be tempted into disobedience?
Unlike Adam and Eve, we did not enjoy intimacy with God from birth. But, in Christ, we can experience intimacy with God through re-birth.
As we face temptation, we must consider the judgment of God.
2. Consider God’s Goodness.
One of the ways Satan deceives us as we are face-to-face with temptation is making us think God is holding out on us.
You see this clearly in the Garden when Satan tells Eve that God doesn’t want them to eat from the tree because he knows that, if they do, they will become like him.
Satan likes to paint God as a sort of power-hungry ego-maniac that lives in constant fear of his creation overthrowing him from his throne.
This message is satanic to its core, isn’t it? What is more satanic than attempting to overthrow the rule of God?
Satan often tries to paint a picture of God he wishes were true, but is ultimately a hellish lie. Satan wishes God was afraid for his position as ruler over all creation, but God is not afraid of anyone, Satan or humans, orchestrating a coup to dethrone him.
God is a good Father who wants what is best for his children despite their frequent inability to see what “best” really is. Because of the brokenness that often blinds us from seeing what is true, Satan is able to twist our desires, deceiving us into believing that God withholds what we need out of fear.
God does not fear you, me, or Satan, and he gives us what is best for us. James 1:17 tells us, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”
As we face temptation, we must consider the goodness of God.
3. Consider God’s Divine Nature Within.
In this point, Wiersbe does direct us, his readers, to look within, but he doesn’t tell us to look within to see how we might pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and avoid sin.
We must look within to see that, in our weakness, God has given those who believe the divine nature we need resist that which is evil and choose that which is upright and good.
The new birth we have when we trust that the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ is enough to save us from our sins indwells us with the Holy Spirit—the only way in which we are able to face temptation and walk away without it devouring us whole.
When we face temptation, we must look to God and what he has done before we consider ourselves and what we can do.
The Father is a good, just God who has given us the Holy Spirit to help us become more like his Son.
In the face of temptation don’t consider your strengths or weaknesses before you consider who God is and what he has done.