I recently read an interesting article concerning a young scientist in Idaho.
“It’s rare that a junior high school science fair project can be deemed newsworthy, but in Nathan Zohner’s case, we’re willing to make an exception. Zohner, 14, was a freshman at Eagle Rock Junior High in Idaho last April when he won top prize at the Greater Idaho Falls Science Fair. His project consisted of two parts. First, he explained the scientifically proven dangers of dihydrogen monoxide:
It can cause excessive sweating and vomiting;
It is a major component of acid rain;
It causes severe burns when in gaseous form;
It can be fatal if accidentally inhaled;
It has been found in the tumors of terminal cancer patients.
He then asked 50 people attending the science fair whether they would support a ban on dihydrogen monoxide. The result: 43 favored a ban, 6 were unsure, and 1 person was opposed. That person, it turned out, knew what dihydrogen monoxide is: good old H20, or water. Zohner’s project was titled “How Gullible Are We?”
He concluded, “I’d say they’re extremely gullible. They need to pay more attention.”
That’s a good warning.
It also sums up the point James makes in verses 16-18.
When trials come into our life, we are extremely gullible. We are prone to believe things that are not true. We need to pay more attention.
The most dangerous lies are not lies that come from others, but lies we tell ourselves. James says, “We are tempted when we are carried away and enticed by our own desires.”
The lies we tell ourselves are particularly persuasive when life gets tough. That’s why James writes in verse 16, “Don’t be deceived, my beloved brethren.” He doesn’t want us to be misled. We are in danger and we need to be on guard.
Throughout the first chapter of James, he has exposed many of the lies we are tempted to believe when life gets difficult.
* Sometimes when life is difficult we are tempted to believe that we have no choice but to be miserable. We think our situation is so difficult that the only possible response is to complain, grumble, and become depressed. We just “have to” give up, give in, and wallow in our hopelessness.
But James says in verse 2, that’s a lie. “Consider it all joy…when you encounter various trials.” When you are in a trial, you not only can, you as a believer must consider that trial an occasion not just for some joy, but for all joy. Misery isn’t the only option – it’s a sin. And joy isn’t only possible – it’s expected.
* Sometimes when life is difficult we are tempted to believe that our trial is all bad. We think our situation is hopeless. We tell ourselves there is nothing positive in what is happening in our lives, and that our lives and our trials in particular have no good purpose.
But James says in verses 3 and 4, that’s a lie. We are to consider trials all joy not because we are out of touch with reality but because we are in touch with reality. We know that trials produce endurance, and if we don’t give up, endurance will make us complete, mature people of God.
You say, “My situation can’t be good. It is so hard, and it hurts so bad.” That’s a trial. And James says trials can be good, if you let them!
* Sometimes when life is difficult we are tempted to believe that prayer has no point. We give up on prayer because we’re not sure God’s even listening. There are times we want to look to Him for help, but most of the time, we’d rather go to the world, because we think, “God doesn’t care so why should I?”
James says that’s a lie. “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.” (v.5)
You don’t know what to do? Go to God. He is not immune to your pain. He loves to answer believer’s prayers. Ask and it will be given to you. Only you must go to God in faith, sincerely desiring His wisdom and be willing to obey it.
* Sometimes when life is difficult we are tempted to value what the world values. The world’s perspective of life is totally different than God’s. When the world looks at a rich unbeliever they think he really has it good and when they look at a poor believer they think he really has it bad. When we are in a trial it’s easy to begin buying into the world’s way of looking at life and at our particular situation.
But James says watch out, that’s a lie. “But the brother of humble circumstances is to glory in his high position and the rich man in his humiliation.”(v.9,10)
It’s not about material possessions; it’s about your relationship with God. View your circumstances from an eternal perspective.
* Sometimes when life is difficult we are tempted to believe we’d be so much happier if we just gave up and gave into sin instead of enduring the trial and obeying God. We think to ourselves, “This trial is too much. My life would be so much better if I just gave up on God and started doing what I want to do.”
James says that’s a lie. “Blessed is a man who endures under trial…” (v.12) The man who endures is eternally blessed by God. He’s the one who has found true joy, true happiness, true blessedness.
It’s much better to obey God and endure the trial than it is to sin and give up because of what God has promised to those who endure: the crown of life.
* Sometimes when life is difficult we are tempted to believe that sin’s our only choice. We are experts at making excuses for our behavior. “I just had to sin. I had no choice. It’s not my fault. God’s the one to blame.”
James says that’s a lie. “But let no one say when he is tempted that he is being tempted by God…” God’s not the one to blame for your temptation. The problem is with your desires. “Each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own evil desires.” Stop making excuses and start examining your heart.
Do you see why when life gets difficult – you need to watch out! It’s easy to start believing all sorts of different lies.
But perhaps the most devastating of all the lies we are tempted to believe in the midst of a trial concerns the character of God. It’s very easy for us to allow our circumstances to shape what we think about God instead of taking the truth we know about God and using it to evaluate our circumstances.
And when our circumstances shape what we think about God, our view of God becomes twisted. It’s that issue James is addressing here in verse 16. When you are being tempted to sin, “Don’t be deceived my beloved brethren about the character of God.” In particular, we must not allow ourselves to doubt God’s goodness.
Although most of us would never say out loud God’s not good, we think it, and we live like it. As Nancy DeMoss explains, “Theologically, intellectually, we know that God is good. But deep in many of our hearts, there lurks a suspicion that He may not really be good, at least, that He has not been good to me.”
When you say “I am being tempted by God…” either directly or indirectly, you are questioning God’s goodness. “God do you want me to do evil here? It sure feels like you are out to get me. You are telling me to consider it all joy but I can’t do that in this situation you have placed me in. You are telling me to endure but there’s no way that I can do that in this particular circumstance. Don’t you even care about me? I know the Bible says you want my best, but I don’t know, you wouldn’t have put me in this spot if that really were true. Are you playing games with me – telling me to obey and then putting me in a situation where I can’t? God, I don’t think you really are all that good.”
James says that’s lie. And he’s very, very concerned that you don’t fall for that lie. Because “once you doubt the goodness of God, you feel justified in rejecting His will and making your own decisions about right and wrong.” If you start questioning God’s goodness you feel like you might as well go out and do what you want to do.
When we are in a trial our desires tell us God isn’t really good. We can’t trust Him. Therefore it’s better to disobey Him than it is to do what He says.
You better be convinced God is good, and that every good thing comes from Him or you are going to listen to your desires, give in and end up living out the cycle James describes in verse 15: lust, sin and death.
James wants you to understand that God is better than sin. And so he gives several rock solid reasons why you can trust God and why you ought to obey God even in the midst of the most difficult trial which we’ll look at tomorrow.