James 1:2-5, 12-17 “2 Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. 4 And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. 5 But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.
12 Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. 13 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.”
The new president of CSB Canada, John Launstein, runs an out tripping company that takes people fly fishing near Pincher creek, Alberta. He would love to sit down with you in a spare moment and talk trout, rods and reels, and flies. The whole concept of going out in the wild and sticking a man-made lure or a hook with a piece of nature on it in a river is to entice the fish to take the bait. The successful fishermen know what lures to use according to the fish you are after, the weather, the temperature, and a few other variables. They know you have to give the fish something they think they want.
And so we spend a few minutes on the phrase from the Lord’s Prayer from Matthew 6:13 “And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” There are some key words we will look at, and then talk a bit about how to deal with temptation. Before we go there I want to make a couple general comments.
The first is to consider the context of this verse. It comes at the end of the Lord’s Prayer. The prayer started with praise and the recognition of relationship… “Our father Who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name…” There is recognition that God is our provider. Don’t try to win the fight with temptation without first putting yourself in place before God. Understand that it is God who gives you and I the power to overcome; it doesn’t rise from within our will. Take comfort that “greater is He (God) who is in you than he (Satan) who is in the world!”
The second is a comment about total depravity. You and I are bent to sin. It is in our nature that we were born with. There is a salvation that leads to forgiveness of the acts of sin, but there is still a root of sin deep down. We are called a holiness church because we believe the power of God is greater than that root, and that He has made available to us everything we need to overcome sin. We call this entire sanctification, or perfect love. I think it is best described as complete surrender. The only way to deal with sin is in a moment by moment ongoing obedience to the will of God as the Spirit works in your heart. Complete surrender doesn’t mean you can’t ever sin again; it means that as you walk in step with the Spirit you can make all the right choices that is holiness, but it is a moment by moment thing that is a life of surrender lived by faith. If you are not at that point of your relationship with God you are still bent to sin. It is like walking on a road that is inclined to the side. You will gravitate down the slope because the road is bent that way.
The third comment is about the need to ask God to lead us not into temptation, as if we didn’t ask it would mean He would lead us there. A better rendering of this sentence would be “help us not be drawn into the occasion of sin, and if we are, deliver us from the consequences of that sin.” Note the passage we read from James 1:13-15 “13 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.” Most temptation comes from within us. It is when our natural desires get pulled out of proportion, out of context. Take food for example. You need it for health and life, but if it takes over, it becomes gluttony and leads not only to physical complications but spiritual ones as well. We are asking God to save us from ourselves.
The first is the word “lead”. This is the fishing word. The Greek word has connotations of being drawn into something. C.S. Lewis in the Screwtape Letters has a senior demon corresponding with his nephew, Wormwood, a junior tempter, about how to get their charge, known as the Patient, secured for damnation. Through 31 letters, Screwtape gives Wormwood detailed advice on various methods of undermining faith and promoting sin in his Patient, interspersed with observations on human nature and Christian doctrine. These situations are all around us. They are highlighted when we are tired. They are highlighted when we are distracted. They are highlighted when we haven’t got full control of all our faculties. I grieve as I read and see the results of people throwing their life away in senseless acts. An 18 year old, out drinking with friends before graduation in Regina, trespasses on a golf course. He climbs 3 fences, one with razor wire at the top, and then tries to steal an ATV and drive it through the fence. He dies in the attempt. His 3 friends with him call 911 but there is nothing to do. A few hours earlier these guys were caught by police in a group of 20 on the same property and escorted off. How willingly do we run to these circumstances? It may not be alcohol, but invariably we all have weaknesses so that when we dabble with them, we get burned. So we pray, asking God to save us from ourselves.
The second word is “temptation”. This word refers to both trials as well as opportunities to sin. Note the prayer is for us to not be there. It is about the future, about avoiding the wrong place at the wrong time. You watch some of these mobs and riots on the news. You see people running to catch up, to get involved. In every sense of the word I would be running the other way. No good comes from that kind of confrontation, and then people weep because people are hurt and killed. Part of this issue is lack of control. We were living in Kitchener, Ontario a number of years ago. It was a bad snowstorm , preceded by freezing rain. As we looked out our living room window we watched a car approach a stop sign too fast. He went right through. A short while later there is a cautious driver. He manages to stop where he was supposed to, and then this yahoo at obviously too fast a speed. He hits the brakes and the car begins to turns sideways aiming right for the back end of the stopped car. Just before he smacks it he steps on the gas and the car somehow manages to go around the car without touching it. Ever been on a slippery slope? It is easy to get there before you even realize the ice is there – then things are out of control. Temptation and trials are like that. But look at the promise in 1 Corinthians 10:13 “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.”
The third word is “deliver”. It is echoed in 1 Thessalonians 1:10 “and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath to come.” It is about being saved out of a situation. It is a plot in most movies and books, where the hero comes at the last minute to rescue the person in distress. God is about salvation – He is about helping and healing. He is God, The Lord God, Creator of the ends of the earth. Isn’t He someone you would like on your side? In a discussion about heroes people were saying they need a hero with a flaw; a hero they can relate to. I am thankful that Jesus has no flaws. And the flaws we have He came to save us from.
The last word is “evil”. This word is about destruction. It is related to labour and toil. Think of the fall of man. Here Adam and Eve were in paradise, the hardest part coming up with names. But sin and evil came in, and the result was expulsion from the garden and a life of work and toil, and separation from God. My wife wrote the following that is quite applicable:
Several years ago, I took a theology class at a small bible college in Southern
Ontario. I found I had an affinity for the subject, and delved in with great
delight and interest. I was often in the midst of classroom discussions, and
took joy in sharing ideas about God’s word.
One day, the lecture was on the
doctrine of sin. The focus was on the first chapters of Genesis and the fall of
humanity. Of course, as a long time Christian, I had heard and read these
passages many times. But this time, it was different. As I listened, I allowed
my imagination to wander into the garden, and walk where Adam and Eve had trod,
hear what their ears had heard. A feeling soon overtook me. I sensed God was
showing me something; guiding my imagination.
The awe I had felt soon
turned to deep sorrow. Unable to withstand the moment, I put my head on my desk
and cried. I was about to dash for the door when I heard the professor call my
name. “Are you crying?”
I swallowed my embarrassment, and looked up.
He looked at me, mystified. “What’s wrong?”
of eyes turned to gaze at me.
“I’m crying,” I stammered. “Because of
all we’ve lost. We once knew the company of God. He walked with us as a friend.
We loved Him purely, without fear or obstacle.” I glanced at my professor. “I’m
grieving all I lost in the fall. I’m grieving Eden.”
Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
First, live life in the Present. Get focussed on today, on now, on where you are at with Jesus right now. There’s a guy that gets his car in the shop regularly for oil changes and tune-ups and everything else. He is focussed on the future in a sense. It is good preventative stuff, about what may or may not happen down the road. Unfortunately he is a lousy driver and his car never makes it to tomorrow because he rolled it while on a cell phone. He was good at spending time for future things, but he left the door open to for something to get him today. And sometimes it isn’t even our fault. This other guy – true story – goes fishing with a buddy south of Calgary. They wrap up after midnight. His buddy goes east towards Medicine Hat, and he heads west to home. He is cruising along in the dark and glances down at the speedometer. He realizes he is only going 70. He looks back up and sees the airbag and cows, in that order. He finally comes to a stop, after killing 4 cows and injuring several others. His SUV is banged up. He had a hole in his back window that his cell phone created. Long story short, we don’t know what’s coming around the bend. Live life in today. Make your plans, but understand tomorrow may not turn out like you think.
Second, know and live in your strengths. Use your strengths to overcome weak areas. A church gets their people to survey their commitments and behaviours. The object is to find where you are weak, and then to work on those areas. Imagine how frustrating that is. The analogy they give is one of a barrel with staves, and some are broken. You can only fill the barrel as full as the lowest stave, so fix the lowest ones… the problem is I don’t want to be a barrel. I may be looking like one more and more, but I prefer to think of myself in terms of strengths. It’s about usefulness. I would want to be a lion. I would be big and strong, near the top of the food chain – always a bonus. I would be fast, have big teeth, and would scare people silly. Others would look at the lion and say,” But you can’t eat watermelon, or swim underwater like a beaver, or fly like a raven. There’s a lot of downsides to being a lion!”I wouldn’t need to fly if I was a lion, or swim like a fish. I would understand that I was created a certain way and revel in the purpose of my creation. To constantly focus on my weak areas is self defeating, and takes away from my ability to live purposely. Looking at whom I’m not, makes me lose sight of whom I am. That is why I am excited about Bonnie’s book on strengths, as well as a shift in the church to looking at people’s strengths. Know yourself in Christ and you can overcome the temptations and weaknesses in your life. Bonnie did this strength based smoking cessation program. She met a lady who had a strong addiction to cigarettes. Bonnie helped the lady to discover her strengths and within 3 months she had not only cut down significantly her smoking, but she changed her peer group to people who were supporting her rather than dragging her down, she began to work on her marriage, she got a job, and all because she found out how strong she was.
Lastly, cling to Jesus. It is the power of Christ in you. Cling to Jesus.