A Crowning Achievement
Blessed [happy, spiritually prosperous, favored by God] is the man who is steadfast under trial and perseveres when tempted; for when he has passed the test and been approved, he will receive the [victor’s] crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.
We give rewards in every field of business, academics, and government, and we give them for every achievement. Imagine giving a top award at a big banquet to the person who endured and conquered temptation most effectively! That, James tells us, is the award God gives, and it includes the “crown of life” as a symbol of the person’s dedication to God.
How do we endure temptation? First, we have to recognize it. Far too often, we glamorize sin, excuse it, laughter at it, and let it become a normal part of our lives. White lies, sexual jokes, gossip, a critical attitude, and many other behaviors are part of life for most people- including many Christians. We won’t resist the temptation if we don’t realize it’s destructive.
When we recognize the temptation, we need to get as far away from it as possible. Change the channel, delete the song, filter the site, close our mouths, or walk away. Nature, though, abhors a vacuum, so we need to replace the temptation with something good and wholesome and honoring to God and the people in our lives. Read inspiring books, listen to uplifting songs and talks, hang out with people who build others up instead of tearing them down, speak words of hope and affirmation.
Nobody said these things are easy. Resisting and enduring temptation takes focused attention and energy, and it requires tenacity to keep resisting when the temptation rises again out of nowhere. But God generously rewards, with the crown of life, those who hang in there- what a reward!
Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired and success achieved.
When was the last time you were rewarded for doing something that was good for you? Most of the time when people are awarded it’s because they’ve done something that benefits others. James, though, tells us that those who resist temptation will be rewarded. Now isn’t that just like our God. He gives us strength to resist temptation, offers us alternatives of good things to replace the sins and destructive behaviors, and then when we pass the test, He rewards us. What a deal!
We need to know that temptation isn’t unique to us. Many times we may feel that no one else is struggling as we are but Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians that temptation is “common to man.”
“No temptation [regardless of its source] has overtaken or enticed you that is not common to human experience [nor is any temptation unusual or beyond human resistance]; but God is faithful [to His word—He is compassionate and trustworthy], and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability [to resist], but along with the temptation He [has in the past and is now and] will [always] provide the way out as well, so that you will be able to endure it [without yielding, and will overcome temptation with joy].”
1 Corinthians 10:13
Read this verse again and hear what Paul is saying to us. He tells us some important things to know about temptation. Not only is temptation common to the human experience but it is not beyond human resistance. Far too many live with the idea that temptation will always be part of their lives but both James and Paul teach us that every temptation can be overcome. While it is certainly true that we may not have the strength on our own, we read that God is faithful and that He will not let us be tempted beyond our ability to resist. This means that we don’t have to fail or fall into the trap of temptation. Paul says that with every temptation, God also provides a way out-a way of escape. The writer of Hebrews tells us that we are to “look unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith.” Quite often, like Peter, we begin to focus on the storm or trial or temptation and the more we focus on those things, the greater they grow in strength until they drag us beneath the waves of despair. We know in Peter’s case as he cried out for help, that Christ reached down and took his hand and lifted him up above the waves. He’ll do the same for us!
James says that those who endure trials and temptation are blessed and Paul says that God will enable us to “endure it (the temptation” without yielding and will overcome temptation with joy.” Does not scripture say that “the joy of the Lord is our strength?”
So then, we know that everybody is tempted in some way. We know that because of God’s love and faithfulness toward us, that He will never allow temptation in any form to become beyond our ability to resist. We must move away from the idea that we will never find victory over temptation. Our victory comes because “greater is He that is within you than he that is in the world.” We know that in every situation, God always provides a way of escape. Paul, writing to Timothy, encourages him to “flee temptation.” We don’t have to prove our resistance. We don’t have to prove our spiritual strength. Sometimes the best course of action is to run away from those things which tempt us. We might need to cease going certain places, hanging out with those who are engaging in things that cause us to stumble, change the genre of music or movies, and replace all the above with wholesome, godly activities. The first step toward resisting and overcoming temptation is learning to be honest- honest about ourselves and honest about temptation. We have to decide whether or not we are willing to accept what the Bible calls sin as sin. As long as we don’t see the seriousness of sin, we won’t focus on resisting temptation. As long as we can shrug it off by some means of excuse or rationalization we will never act to overcome it. Yes, it is true that we aren’t perfect. Yes, it is true that we often fail. But neither of these can be justification for failing to resist and overcome temptation.
John tells us that the life of an overcomer should be the standard for Christians.
“For everyone born of God is victorious and overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has conquered and overcome the world—our [continuing, persistent] faith [in Jesus the Son of God]. Who is the one who is victorious and overcomes the world? It is the one who believes and recognizes the fact that Jesus is the Son of God.”
1 John 5:4-5
So today if you are struggling with some temptation, take heart. The fact that you’re struggling says that you are resisting. Call in the troops. Be candidly honest with yourself and God. Ask His help and trust in His power. Know that there is nobody who understands or cares more for you than Christ. Through Him we have an Advocate and a Mediator for He Himself was tempted in everything and overcame it so that we are made more than conquerors through Him.
“For we do not have a High Priest who is unable to sympathize and understand our weaknesses and temptations, but One who has been tempted [knowing exactly how it feels to be human] in every respect as we are, yet without [committing any] sin. Therefore let us [with privilege] approach the throne of grace [that is, the throne of God’s gracious favor] with confidence and without fear, so that we may receive mercy [for our failures] and find [His amazing] grace to help in time of need [an appropriate blessing, coming just at the right moment].”
“Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors and gain an overwhelming victory through Him who loved us [so much that He died for us].”
I give you the words of an old hymn:
O victory in Jesus, My Savior forever
He sought me and He bought me with His redeeming blood
He loved me ere I knew Him and all my love is due Him
He plunged me to victory beneath the cleansing flood.
May you find victory over every temptation and on that day when you stand before Christ may you receive the victor’s crown!
Dr. John Thompson