Faith Works: A Study in James


How does faith work when you are tempted?

Everyone loves being the recipient of a well-thought-out gift—the kind of gift that shows that the giver understands your interests and wants you to feel appreciated. But when you receive a gift that you aren’t exactly crazy about—because it’s the wrong size, wrong color, wrong everything—you find yourself wondering if the person even knows you or cares. 

But when the gift comes from our Father who knows what we need, we need to assume it’s the gift we need, even if it’s not the gift we want. 

Mary, the mother of Jesus and James, provides us with a powerful example of a gift well-received. In Luke 1, the angel Gabriel comes to Mary and bestows upon her the gift of favor as the mother of Jesus. She was able to withstand the confusing, terrifying, amazing events of her life from supernatural impregnation to witnessing the murder of her Son because she believed in the character of God, received His favor upon her, and trusted in the goodness of His plan. Jesus and James had a mom who was nearly divorced by her fiancée, rejected by her small religious town, and wrongly called a sexually immoral, lying woman. When this life was revealed to her, she was told by her relative Elizabeth in Luke 1:42, “blessed are you among women”. Jesus was a good gift sent down from Heaven but being His mom led to some hard days. 

Trials in life are inevitable. Whether you’re a casualty of downsizing and have recently lost your job, whether you’re struggling with singleness and wanting desperately to have children, or you’re feeling like you’ll lose it if you must referee another argument between the kids, we all struggle in life, and it prompts difficult questions. You wonder where God is, why things are always so hard, or if God is even there. 

In the Christian life, we often can forget that the Lord Jesus Himself had the same kinds of struggles and temptations that we do. James saw his own brother, Jesus, struggle perfectly through trials that were unbearable. In these verses of his book, James is trying to encourage the Christians to endure trials like Christ. When the Psalmist says we must pass through the valley of the shadow of death, it means we cannot book a flight over it or take the long way around it. 

When we were kids in school, every recess, the team captains would flip a coin. If you picked the right side of the coin, you won. If you picked the wrong side of the coin, you lost. 

Life is like that every day. Every day, every decision you make has a coin with the word “trial” on one side and “temptation” on the other.

If you choose sin, you are deciding that you will join Satan’s team and rebel against God. Sometimes, we are most vulnerable to this when life is most painful. In those darkest days, we feel that God owes us, has failed us, or that we deserve to self-medicate with our vice of choice. That choice is faithless. 

However, if you choose holiness, you are deciding that you will stick with Team Jesus and invite the Holy Spirit to supernaturally empower you to endure your trial and grow in character through it. That choice is faith. 

What you go through does not determine who you become. How you respond to what you go through is what determines who you become. The good news is this – we’ve all chosen the wrong side of the coin and fallen into sin. Thankfully, this is Jesus’ specialty and He allows us to retake our test until we pass it as a trial no matter how many times we have failed it as a temptation.

Which people or verses in the Bible do you find most helpful when you are in a tough season and your faith is being tested and your flesh is being tempted?