In his book Hope Is Contagious, Ken Hutcherson shares a moment from his personal life that illustrates well the ability to foster joy in the midst of trying circumstances, even as he was battling cancer:
You can face anything in life—anything—and have that same inner peace and joy. And when you do, it’s contagious. It lifts up everyone else around you. Isn’t that the type of person you want to be? Instead of joining over and over again in the whining about how bad things are, just your presence shows others that, hey, life is still a wonderful gift we should all be enjoying.
[One day] I was relaxing in my recliner after having spent five hours in the emergency room the night before. I’ll admit I was exhausted, and the pain medication wasn’t working as well as I would have liked. I looked around and saw my family going about their lives as usual. Video games. Chores. Music. Laughter. My wife, Pat, was fixing breakfast. Even our new little puppy was settling into a comfortable routine and enjoying everyone’s efforts to spoil him. A visitor stopped by to chat. Some friends from church surprised me with a birthday cake—I had almost forgotten it was my birthday. So there I sat, surrounded by so much goodness even as I’m feeling lousy. My favorite cake is staring at me, but I have no appetite. My eleven-year-old runs past me, and I don’t have enough energy to grab him and wrestle him to the ground like I used to. I’m trying to have a conversation with my guests, but between the short night and the powerful pain pills, I can barely stay alert. And you know what I’m thinking? Can you imagine how close I am to being overwhelmed with what is happening to me?
The words practically shouted from inside of me: “Isn’t God great? What a privilege to be his child!”
He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? (Romans 8:32)
John Piper writes:
God strips every pain of its destructive power. You must believe this or you will not thrive, or perhaps even survive, as a Christian, in the pressures and temptations of modern life.
There is so much pain, so many setbacks and discouragements, so many controversies and pressures. I do not know where I would turn, if I did not believe that almighty God is taking every setback and every discouragement and every controversy and every pressure and every pain, and stripping it of its destructive power, and making it work for the enlargement of my joy in God.
Listen to Paul’s astonishing words in 1 Corinthians 3:21–23, “All things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future — all are yours, and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.” The world is ours. Life is ours. Death is ours. Which I take to mean: God reigns so supremely on behalf of his elect that everything which faces us in a lifetime of obedience and ministry will be subdued by the mighty hand of God and made the servant of our holiness and our everlasting joy in God.
If God is for us, and if God is God, then it is true that nothing can succeed against us. He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all will infallibly and freely with him give us all things — all things — the world, life, death, and God himself.
Romans 8:32 is a precious friend. The promise of God’s future grace is simply overwhelming. But all-important is the foundation: I have called it the logic of heaven. Here is a place to stand against all obstacles. God did not spare his own Son! Therefore! Therefore! The logic of heaven! Therefore, how much more will he not spare any effort to give us all that Christ died to purchase — all things, all good, and all bad working for our good!
It is as sure as the certainty that he loved his Son!
Devotional excerpted from Future Grace, page 114
We are all going through trials and tribulations right now.
We are all going through trials and tribulations right now.
A few years ago I was running and it was a very windy day. We were running in the country, as we would climb hills the wind got worse. I found myself being angry at the wind. I actually even wanted to yell at the wind, “stop it!” But in the end, you just got to keep running, you got to keep moving. I think that is the case in the Christian life. The devil attacks (Eph. 6:10-12), temptation comes. Those attacks provide resistance and try to make us give up or knock us down but we have to keep going we can’t give up. Press on. See 2 Tim. 2:1-7 and 1 Cor. 9
1 Cor. 9:24-27
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize?Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.26 Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. 27 No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.
As we look at the Bible we see that God does not tempt us but God will allow us to be tested in order to bring about His greater purposes.
We began a series on James last week, let’s continue this series. In today’s passage we see the process of temptation. But we also see important Theological truths:
God does not tempt us to evil and God cannot be tempted to evil. God does not change. God is good and gifts us with salvation.
James gives us the process of temptation while teaching us that God does not tempt us to evil.
Let’s read James 1:13-18:
Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. 14 But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. 15 Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death. 16 Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. 17 Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow. 18 In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth, so that we would be a kind of first fruits among His creatures.
- In verses 13-15 we see the process of temptation. James gives the process from test through enticement to sin to death.
- In context, James was writing about persevering under trial.
- In verse 13 James begins to write about temptation.
- John Piper shares that “tempt” is the same word for test at least in many cases. John 6:5-6; Heb 11:17; 1 Peter 4:12-17: God does test.
- In a sense all trials are temptations.
- Verse 13 gives two important theological truths. God does not tempt and God cannot be tempted.
- Notice that verse 13 specifies evil. God cannot be tempted by evil and God cannot tempt anyone, this means to evil.
- God can test us, but not to the point of temptation to do evil.
- A lot of times we are tempted to evil with things that are not bad in themselves.
- Hunger, sex, money and things like that are not sins by themselves. They become sinful as we see in verses 14-15.
- As stated, we do know that God tests. We see that in Genesis 22:1 with God testing Abraham. See also Heb 11:17 and John 6:5-6 with Jesus testing the disciples. What is the difference? We see the difference in verses 14-15.
- James breaks it down.
- In verse 14 he explains the process. When we are carried away and enticed by our own lust. We have desires and these lure us away. Some translations actually say that they drag us away. That is the beginning.
- Think of this like fishing. I used to do some fishing, though I did not do a lot of catching. In fishing I get my hook in the water. I have some bait on that hook. My bait lures the fish and then that entices the fish. The fish is going for a good thing, food, but that becomes a bad thing, the hook. All analogies fail and this one does too because it would not be sinful for the fish. However, these lusts, these desires become sinful for us.
- In verse 15 he continues to show us the rest.
- Lust, or desire in some translations, is conceived, then that gives birth to sin. Sin is accomplished and that brings forth death.
- Desire can lead to the duration of sin without repentance leading to death.
- God cannot be tempted and yet Christ was tempted but this was a different use of the Greek Word. Christ had allurements of ordinary hunger which we can use to sin and He did not.
- God tempts no one and tries everyone. In the trial, His purpose and goal is completeness and steadfastness. God does not make that trial a temptation.
- One person shares a good example:
- When my son Scott was just learning to walk, he fell on a cement driveway and split the area below his chin so deeply that the floor of his mouth was exposed. Hospitals and doctors were 250 kilometers away over tortuous mountain roads. I had no surgical instruments with me. A quick catalog of our resources turned up a less-than-impressive array of one darning needle, coarse thread, one pair of rather blunt scissors, and a pair of eyebrow tweezers. Infection in children develops rapidly and infection in the floor of the mouth can have fatal complications. We also had a little sulfonamide powder. There was no local anesthetic. Rightly or wrongly, I decided to trim and stitch the wound with what we had. We sterilized “the instruments.” I could not help but look at the affair from Scott’s point of view. I did my best to explain, but what can a one-year-old understand? Then he was placed on the dining room table and judgment descended on him. Cruel adults seized his limbs and his head so that movement was impossible. Then the father he had trusted became a fearful monster inflicting unbelievable pain on him. How I wished that he could understand that I feared for his life.Mercifully, he still seemed to trust me when it was over. As for me, I caught a glimpse of judgment from God’s angle.
- The little boy was going through a trial, but he had to go through it in order to get better. We have to go through things because God wants to make us better.
- Verse 15 shows the process. I like how John Piper says that Jesus was tested, but it never got crossed into temptation. Remember it is the same Greek word. Jesus was taken to the wilderness and He faced testing, but it was not conceived to sin and was not accomplished to death.
- I like how Peterson renders this in the Message: The temptation to give in to evil comes from us and only us. We have no one to blame but the leering, seducing flare-up of our own lust. Lust gets pregnant, and has a baby: sin! Sin grows up to adulthood, and becomes a real killer.
- Desire can lead to the duration of sin without repentance leading to death, separation from God.
- In verses 16-17 James shows that every good gift is from God.
- Verse 18 is an example of that.
- James says not to be deceived. How would they be deceived? They could be deceived to think that God tempts to sin or that God brings bad gifts or something like that. They may be deceived thinking wrongly about God’s character. God does not tempt to sin.
- God will send trials, but His goal is building us up.
- James says in verse 17 that every good and perfect gift is from above.
- In Today in the Word from Moody Bible Institute it reads:
- In 1885, a Russian czar commissioned Carl Fabergé and his family jewelry business to create a special Easter gift for his wife. They designed a beautiful white egg, inside of which was a gold “yolk.” Inside of that was a golden hen, and inside of that was a miniature diamond crown and a tiny ruby egg. Known as the “Hen Egg,” this was the first of 50 such jeweled eggs created over a span of 32 years as royal gifts.
- That is a major material gift, right. Jesus gifts us something far better in our salvation.
- In verses 16-18 The gift is our salvation. The gift is the abundant life in God (John 10:10). The gift is living life with Jesus (John 15).
- The gift comes from God and He is comparing God as the Father of lights.
- We have another theological truth. God does not change. He does not vary. There is no varying shadow. The sunlight changes as the clouds move or the earth moves, but God’s light is strong and constant. 1 John 1:5 is about God as light.
- Verse 18 is an example of that.
- In exercising His will, he saved us, that is what James was talking about.
- They were the first fruits, in other words, this is the early church and they were the first believers.
- God does not tempt us to evil. It is important to remember that God is good.
- The devil can tempt to evil, but so can sin around us.
- It is important to remember the process and put up safeguards to prevent sin and ongoing sin.
- Our desire can entice.
- That enticement can give birth to sin.
- Sin can go on and become death.
- We must remember to cut this off before the enticement leads to lust.
- We must repent before ongoing sin leads to death (Psalm 66:18).
- We must remember that God is good.
- We must worship God knowing that He brings good (verses 16-18).
- We must worship God knowing that He does not change like the shadow.
God does not tempt but He will let us be tested through difficult times.
In his spiritual memoir A Stranger in the House of God, author and Moody Bible Institute professor John Koessler tells the story of his younger brother George. Since childhood, George’s life consisted of heartache after heartache: because of a collapsed lung shortly after birth, he struggled with a learning disability that made him the butt of far too many jokes—even from his own family; his first wife cheated on him after being married for less than a year; he was permanently laid off from the only job he knew how to do well at the time. As the pain snowballed, George hit rock bottom. Because he hadn’t kept in touch with George, Koessler was unaware of what was going on in his brother’s life. A literal wake-up call concerning George’s condition came late one night. Koessler writes:
I awoke from a sound sleep with a sense of dread, compelled to pray for my brother. In particular, I felt impressed to ask God to spare his life. The longer I prayed, the more anxious I became, sensing George was in some kind of grave danger…
A week later I got a phone call from my father. My brother’s roommate contacted him saying George had tried to commit suicide. Despondent over his life, he slit his wrists with a kitchen knife. “He really meant business,” my father said. “If his roommate had come fifteen minutes later, it would have been too late”…
My brother’s roommate discovered him about the same time I was asking God to spare George’s life.
With the encouragement of family and friends, George partnered with God to put his life back together. He learned how to cope with his learning disability and overcame his depression with the help of medicine. He worked difficult, trying hours as an emergency medical technician in order to earn a college degree—which he earned with honors. All the while, he was taking the all-important steps toward a life of faith. After meeting his second wife, Jan, at a church function, George committed his life to Christ.
George’s transformation stirred in him a deep desire to serve others spiritually. This man, weighed down for so long by such profound pain, would eventually become the chaplain for the Detroit Fire Department. Koessler closes the chapter concerning his brother with these words about George:
He doesn’t regret the difficulties he has faced. He doesn’t see them as unfortunate twists of fate or himself as a victim of circumstance. He sees them as tools wielded by the gracious hand of God. “Without them,” he says, “I wouldn’t be the person I am today.”
George doesn’t consider any of his accomplishments remarkable. “I’m just a survivor,” he says. “I’m no hero.” Perhaps not to others. Certainly not to himself. But he is to me.
 Ken Hutcherson, Hope Is Contagious (Zondervan, 2010)
 John White, Eros Redeemed (InterVarsity Press, 1993) p. 49; submitted by Jay Caron
 John Koessler, A Stranger in the House of God (Zondervan, 2007), pp.188-189