2 God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. 13 And remember, when you are being tempted, do not say, “God is tempting me.” God is never tempted to do wrong, and he never tempts anyone else. 14 Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away. 15 These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death. 16 So don’t be misled, my dear brothers and sisters.
So far in our series, “The Litmus Test for Life” we have seen not only the purpose of tests, to purify and grow us, but also the product, what God wants to produce in our lives through tests, perseverance and perfection. Last time James taught us NOT to put our trust in treasures during trying times, and the importance of having a proper perspective on possessions, because our view of money determines the value we place on it. Now in verses 12 through 16 James is going to talk to us about “Problems in Times of Testing” but interestingly he starts this section on problems with a:
- Promise – VS 12
Why does James start talking about the problems in times of testing with a promise? Because he is preparing us for the problems by providing a proper perspective. That while we will encounter problems in this life God has a plan. James is calling us to focus on the promise not the problems. What is the promise? “God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.” James reveals both the promise and the prize. The promise is to those who love God and the prize is the crown of life. It’s your love for the Lord that blesses your life. So how do we love the Lord, through obedience. Jesus said in John 14:15 “If you love me, obey my commandments.” That means trusting God enough to take the test. Are you learning to embrace the tests or looking to escaping the tests? The love that Jesus talks about here is not based on feelings but on faith. Today we have fooled ourselves into believing that love is based on a feeling, so we find ourselves falling into and out of love. Most marriages fail because we have built them on a foundation of feeling instead of faith. In marriage God calls us to a covenant commitment, not a coveting commitment. A covenant commitment is based on God’s Will, where a coveting commitment is based on my wants. Why does a feeling-based marriage fail and a faith based one flourish? Because Faith focuses on the Father where feelings focus on me. God’s goal in marriage is for 2 to become 1 but as long as the foundation is built solely on feelings then it will always be built and bound together by 2, my feelings and my spouses’ feelings. But a faith focused marriage gives us both a single focus, God the Father. Why do we need to follow Jesus by faith, because feelings can fade and because feelings are not always factual. What about you are you living an obedient life by trusting God and taking the tests or trying to flee or fake the tests? Are you obeying or objecting? Now it’s important to note that obedience is not obligation. Obligation says I have to, where Obedience says I get to. Love follows even when the feelings fade, which is critical because tests have a way of tempering our feelings. So, let me ask you is your goal loving God? Is your primary purpose to please God or to please people? Are you living your life for an audience or for the Almighty? Most of us fail to live for an audience of One. We become people pleasers instead of lovers of the Lord. One of the reasons so many people are worn out is that they have become people pleasers first and God pleasers second. Remember you are running to please Christ not a crowd. Notice that we are blessed with both an eternal reward and a present reward. Your eternal reward is the crown of life. Your present reward is the hope of God’s promise. The security that comes from knowing you’re in His will and that you’re pleasing Him with your obedience. Your eternal reward requires both patience and persistence, our problem is that we are not very persistent people. When we encounter a problem, we tend to give up, instead of give it to God. We need to develop persistence which James has already told us is the product of testing. Unfortunately, many of us have let the problems cloud promise. We are focused on the crud in life instead of the crown of life. The secret to focusing on the crown of life is to focus on Christ, the Lord of life. We need to focus on the person not just the prize. Otherwise you will be motivated by obligation instead of obedience. When we stop focusing on the person of Christ, we end up getting caught up in the problems of life. What you give priority to will become preeminent in your life. So, let me ask you are you giving priority to the problems or to God’s promises?