Temptation: the right perspective

James 1:16-18

There was one point which James emphasised in the opening verses of this letter: get the right perspective on life! He opened with a discourse on faith and trials that reminded readers that trials are there to show the true colours of a person and mature their faith. The following discourse was about temptation and the reminder of the human condition, that is, its fallen sinfulness. In closing this discourse, he said these words:

“Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.”

Do not be deceived! My dear brothers and sisters, it is imperative that we get our perspective right. For whatever reason, we seem to get this association that when trials and temptations come that God is punishing us or disciplining us for something we did wrong. No! Far from it, trials come in order to build us, not tear us down; rather than discipline us, temptation is the result of our own fallen sinfulness that we have not committed to God’s control in our lives.

What did James say? “Every good and perfect gift is from above…” All good things come from our Father God. Jesus said (Mt. 7:9), “Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone?” He continued to say (Mt. 7:11), “How much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” God desires to give us the good things; He intends to give us the good things, yet so often, as it is, in life we miss all the good things because our perspective is focused on all the bad things that happen! We see the hard, the bad, the worry of life but miss all the good, the perfect, the joy of life that is right in front of our eyes! Wake up, you are blessed by God, each and every one of us is blessed with good and perfect gifts from above!

Our Father God isn’t, like us, human. He doesn’t have mood swings “like shifting shadows“. Our God is steadfast and true, His character never changing, His truth is firm and will stand for all eternity. God doesn’t have days where He thinks, “I’ve had such a bad day, I’m going to make David’s day bad as well! Here’s a car accident, a broken arm and, hmm, you can lose your wallet as well!” God isn’t like that…and praise Him that He isn’t! Yet, again, when bad things happen we look at God and say, “God, why did you do this to me?” (Yes, God is sovereign, all-powerful, and in control, but I’m going to save this discussion for another day.)

Instead, out of God’s grace, mercy, and love He chose us and gave us a new life through “the word of truth” – that is, the gospel of Jesus Christ. “God loved the world, enough to willingly sacrifice His own Son to death, His One and only Son, so that whoever believes in Him may not perish but have eternal life.” (My translation – Jn. 3:16) There was nothing that we have done, nothing that we do, nothing that we can do that will earn us eternal life. It is only out of the free will of God’s grace, mercy, and love that He chose to give us life – eternal life – through the sacrifice of His One and only Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus went through the pain, the suffering, the torment, the humiliation of all that the crucifixion was out of His love for you and I. Just go read about the crucifixion and what they did, Jesus willingly underwent all of that, just because of the love the Father and the Son have for the people of this world.

For what end did God give us life? James says “that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.” What does that mean? What do firstfruits represent? Firstfruits were an indicator of the harvest that was to follow. It is somewhat astonishing and amazing to think about what that means. Just take a look at yourself and think about who you are, the harvest of God’s children that is to follow is like you. Personally, if God is willing to take a broken, weak, confused, sinful person like myself, then there are no boundaries for entrance into the family of God. If I am representative of the harvest to follow, then praise God that anyone and everyone is welcome in the house of God.

The firstfruits that we have in the Bible, let’s look specifically at the 12 disciples. You have a tax-collector, fishermen, ordinary men who became the 12 Apostles, the firstfruits of the word of truth. They weren’t educated men, they weren’t high standing officials in government, they weren’t wealthy merchants, they were mere men like you and I. What about the book of Acts? There is a jailor, there is a slave girl, a wealthy female merchant, Paul the Apostle, a Ethiopian eunuch; the point I am trying to make is that all are welcome, there are no divisions or categories which people must fall into – all are welcome in the family and household of God.

Does your perspective line up with God’s perspective? Or do you see life though dark-tinted glasses missing out on all that God continues to bless you with? Open your eyes, pray that the Spirit would open your eyes to see the wonder of God’s creation, love, and abundant blessing in your own life. Don’t get me wrong, life is hard and something we doubt, but let us remind ourselves over and over again that our God is good and desires nothing more than to give us what is “good and perfect” for our benefit. Yes, sometimes that means going through some trials but He does so to build us up. Sometimes there are temptations, but He has given us strength and His promise that He will aid us (1 Cor. 10:13) in our time of trouble.