When C. S. Lewis wrote The Screwtape Letters, many were impressed by his insights into the dynamics of temptation. They assumed he had done many years of theological study. He responded by referring to Psalm 36:1: “They forget that there is an equally reliable, though less credible, way of learning how temptation works. ‘My heart’—I need no other’s—‘showeth me the wickedness of the ungodly’.”
God sends testing and trials, but He only allows temptations. He Himself is utterly holy and righteous. He cannot be tempted and so does not tempt us to sin (v. 13). While testing comes from outside, temptations come from within. The fact is that our own sinful desires entice us to disobey God (v. 14). When we give in, we’re “dragged away” by them. This is forceful and even violent language—the language of prey pursued and caught by a ruthless hunter.
Yielding to temptation is contrasted with enduring testing and troubles. On the one hand, evil desires result in sin, and the consequence is death (v. 15). Ironically, James used the language of growth, namely conception and childbearing, to describe the genesis of sin. On the other hand, perseverance or endurance results in spiritual growth leading to mature faith (vv. 2–4). This is a very different growth process!
For those who persevere under trial, God has promised the special blessing of a “crown of life” (v. 12). James was likely picturing the victory laurel presented to a winning athlete or a conquering general. But God promises an eternal reward, far more valuable than earthly riches. Part of gaining wisdom (v. 5), then, is understanding the clear-cut choice we have between one path that leads to death and another that leads to life.
Praise God together with us for Moody’s new president! Support Dr. Mark Jobe in prayer as he hosts Moody Founder’s Week 2019 on our Chicago campus. Pray for the Holy Spirit to guide Dr. Jobe on this first day of Founder’s Week.