August 27, 2021
Three Rivers District
Strength Through Trials
9 Believers in humble circumstances ought to take pride in their high position. 10 But the rich should take pride in their humiliation—since they will pass away like a wild flower. 11 For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich will fade away even while they go about their business.
12 Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.
13 When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14 but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.
16 Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters.
DevotionThe world is full of trials. Through the lens of the Covid-19 pandemic, widespread discord, the decline in church attendance, challenges to family life, and the lure of all manner of temptations, the world looks bleak. Viewing our world through these lenses seems to provide a discouraging portrait of God’s creation. It is easy to throw up our hands in defeat, as though our situation is unprecedented, and worse than in any previous era. Truth be told, though, every generation has faced its share of perils. Temptations and trials have been rife since Eve, then Adam, tasted the forbidden fruit. Jealousies and covetousness have followed humanity since Cain slew his brother Abel. Wickedness has abounded since the Great Flood and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.
Some of the most perplexing questions humanity wrestles with continue to be ones like these: Why are trials and temptations so common in our world?
Why do bad things happen to good people?
Why does God allow evil to reign in so many people, times, and places?
An acquaintance once told me that he left his wife because, “God told me to do it.” James rejects such an excuse. In verse 13, he asserts that God cannot be tempted by evil; likewise, he tempts no one toward evil. The source of temptation is our own desire. When that desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin.
We are living in a world that does not always love God, nor follow God’s ways. It is easy to take on the character of the world, rather than the character of God. James directs his readers to keep themselves unstained by the world – from its principles, attitudes, and habits. “But this cannot be done,” John Wesley cautions, “till we have given our hearts to God, and love our neighbor, particularly those most in need as ourselves” (Notes 1:27). For Wesley, faith and good works are united in God’s love for us through Jesus Christ, We, in turn, express our love for God through good deeds, particularly toward those in need.
In James, it is when Christ’s followers walk and talk like Jesus that God’s gift of salvation becomes evident in the world. Sometimes Christians suffer because they follow Jesus. Salvation is more than a belief or feeling. A devotion I recently read put it like this: the problem with Christianity is we have made it all about belief in Jesus, rather than learning to be like Jesus. In verses 2-4. preceding the text for today, James observes that trials lead Christ’s followers to maturity. Those who stumble fall to temptations born from their own desires, which leads to sin and death.
O God, help us resist temptations that constantly lure us. Help us be strengthened by our trials to better serve your Kingdom, by reaching out lovingly to our neighbor in need. Amen.