“What to do When Trials and Temptations Arrive”

James 1:1-16

We read through the Gospel of Matthew where Jesus comes to earth, waits 3o years to reveal who He really is and spends three years roaming the countryside describing what the “Kingdom of God” is like and how people in the Kingdom should behave. Hundreds of people followed Jesus around, His family being part of that group. His half-brother James was one of those people who was part of the larger group of followers. While growing up and even through Jesus’ three years of ministry before His death, Jesus’ half brothers did not believe He was the Messiah. It wasn’t until after Jesus had risen from the dead and appeared to James, which is recorded in 1 Corinthians 15:7, did James become a devoted follower. In fact, he begins his letter by describing himself as a “bondservant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ.” 

He could have claimed himself as the half-brother of Jesus, instead James used the word “bondservant” which in Greek is the word “doulos” which is better translated as “slave.” This meant James felt he was in a permanent relation of servitude to Jesus. 

James wrote this letter for the twelve tribes of Jewish believers who had scattered all over. At the time of this letter there were very few Gentiles in the Christian church although certainly this letter would apply to all Christians regardless of their background and is still relevant for us today. James was reaching out to assist believers in their struggles. James echoes the teachings of Jesus and although he may not have considered himself a believer at the time, James alludes to at least fifteen teachings from the Sermon on the Mount. James listened to his older brother and by the time he wrote this letter he was taking his faith seriously. 

James continues his letter with the customary salutation, “Greetings.” Then he dives right into how Christians had to have felt, “in trails.” Notice James didn’t say “if you fall into various trials,” but “when” you fall into various trials. To add to this conundrum James describes it as “falling into” not going step by step, he uses a word that means “plunged into something you can’t escape.” He also claims that when you have been plunged into a trial you should “count it joy.” 

Was James crazy? 

Trials are to be considered as “joy”?

What is James thinking? 

He tells us that our trials are meant to produce patience. 

Having had my share of trials I can assure you I have questioned this joy thing quite often. Here’s what I have found. 

This word patience does not have the meaning of a passive waiting, like sitting in the doctor’s office for your appointment, but it means having an active endurance, like finishing the marathon when every part of your body hurts.  James uses the ancient Greek word hupomone which comes from hupo (under) and meno (to stay, abide, remain) and gives the meaning of, to remain under. On the surface this sounds crazy, but people are doing this crazy activity all the time in order to succeed in something. My older brother was a New England Champion Wrestler in high school. Before a match he would starve himself, run around the gym with a synthetic cover suit on to “sweat” off the pounds, so he could get down to a lower weight. That was patience James was referring to, the frame of mind which endures trials.

My brother endured his trials because the lower weight division gave him an advantage to win. James tells us, “knowing that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” Perseverance is needed “so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” Maturity is our goal. A maturity that allows us to be at peace, in joy, when life throws us curve balls and struggles appear.   

It’s important to recognize that faith is 

tested through trials, 

not produced by trials. 

James was talking to believers, those who had already professed to follow Jesus. It will be through a trial that believers realize what faith we do have. Not for God to see, but to make it evident to us and those around us. 

How does one get faith in the first place?

Our faith is produced by “hearing the Word of God,” Romans 10:17. As we hear, read, understand and trust God’s word we produce faith. Trials don’t produce faith, however, when trials are received with faith, patience is produced. This is not an inevitable outcome. Often, trials are not met with joy but instead are met with unbelief and grumbling which often produces bitterness and discouragement. 

Don’t misunderstand James. He was not saying we should “enjoy” our trials. He did not say that we must “feel” it all joy, or that trails “are all joy.” What he is saying is that we have an option. Trials are going to come our way whether we like it or not. For those of us walking with God, we are called to use them to strengthen our resolve, to become more like Christ, to become whole. 

The idea of becoming whole or having patient endurance means going at it slowly, over time. What often happens is trouble comes our way and rather than using it for good, we look at it in frustration and then we sin. 

People are walking with God, then a difficulty occurs and they are cursing God, a sin 


becoming unbelieving, a sin, 


choosing to do something sinful to escape it, a sin. 

Yet, Jesus taught us to pray, “Lead us not into temptation,” for often trials have in themselves a measure of temptation. Instead, Jesus offers us immeasurable grace that can be used to neutralize any trial. 

When we begin to see trials as opportunities for us to strengthen our relationship with God, to see Him in action and focus on what God can do through them, that is when we begin to consider them joy. 

James continues to explain how trials are a means to seeking wisdom from God. We often don’t seek wisdom until we are under a time of difficulty. James encourages us to seek wisdom from God, who gives liberally, to understand if the trial is something God wants us to eliminate by faith or preserve in by faith. James also added that God gives wisdom without reproach. In other words, God isn’t counting how many times you seek wisdom and He has no limit to His giving of wisdom. 

James does add some clarifications. Asking for wisdom needs to be done “in faith,” “without doubting.” 

Which makes sense, the one who doubts and lacks faith shouldn’t expect to receive anything from the Lord. It doesn’t mean God won’t provide grace or answers, but when He doesn’t, the one with doubts and without faith is often quick to blame God when wisdom is not provided. It also means there is no foundation, which James equates to being “unstable” or “like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind,” rising in hope and sinking in despair.

James also describes this as being “double-minded.” It’s like that person who wants to make sure they cover all their bases. They don’t really believe but they have enough belief to think it’s a possibility that God is there and will help. But in the meantime, they aren’t going to put all their eggs in that basket. Just in case, they do their own thing anyway. 

James realizes this is not an easy task. Like the Book of Proverbs, and other Old Testament wisdom literature James makes a sudden shift in his subject from trials and wisdom to riches and humility. James provides encouragement for those affected by trials. For those who are of lowly status they should glory in their being lifted up by God. Which is much easier than for the rich to rejoice when they are brought to humiliation by trials. 

Both the poor and the rich are served by trials which reminds us that whatever our status, it is still only this life, which fades as the grass and the flowers. James is warning us that if we put our life and identity in things that fade away, we too will fade away. However, when we put our life and identity into things that will never fade when we die, we too will not fade. 

James goes from times of trials to times of temptation. He provides us with what looks like a Beatitude from the Sermon on the Mount, verse 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.”

Trials will come, for those who are able to persevere under them, they are blessed. For they have stood the test, they are genuine and strong in their faith. According to James there will be a reward of the crown of life that is promised by the Lord and makes the endurance worth it. James also provides a motive for resisting temptation, because of our love for God. Which passion is stronger? The passion of sinful temptation or the passion for the honor and glory and relationship with God.  

A demonstration of our walk with God is how and why we resist temptation. Some resist because of fear of humans. The thief suddenly becomes honest when they see a policeman. The man or woman controls their lusts because if found out they would be embarrassed. Or one could resist temptation because of the power of another sin. The greedy miser gives up partying because he doesn’t want to spend the money. Although these methods resist temptation, James provides us with the best motive for resisting temptation, because of our love for God and our desire to love God with greater power and greater passion than our love for the temptation.

James then explains how temptation comes and works. For starters, it doesn’t come from God, although He does allow it. Basically, God does not entice us to do evil. 

Unfortunately, humans have a tendency to blame God when they find themselves in trials. They will also blame the devil, “The devil made me do it.” However, temptation comes from within. Our lust has a greater hand in being tempted than the devil or his angels. 

The Old Testament is full of stories where God allows great tests to come to His people. In Genesis 22:1, God tested Abraham. He allowed affliction to come to Job. He sent tests as a form of judgment upon those who rejected Him, in the book of 1 Kings, but not one of these examples is God enticing a person to evil. 

Satan tempts.

God tries. 

The same trial may be both a temptation and a trial. 

So which is it? A temptation or a trial?

James reminds us that we are tempted when we are drawn away by our own desires and enticed. We need to check ourselves first before we give Satan too much credit. Although Satan does tempt, the only reason it can hook us is because of our own desires. 

What about the sovereignty of God? 

Isn’t He responsible for all things? 

Such is the mystery of “free choice.” God is never responsible for human’s sin. Desire begins in the human and Satan knows full well the progression it takes when enticed. Satan convinces us that the pursuit of our corrupt desires will somehow provide life and goodness. There are times when it seems like they do. The world tells us if it feels good and is not hurting anyone, do it. But if we remember that Satan only comes “to steal, and to kill, and to destroy,” (John 10:10), then we would be more effective at resisting the deceptions of temptation. 

Check in time. 

What are your temptations? Where do you compromise? Do you desire to have a stronger love for God than your love for your desires? 

Trials are a fact of life. How people deal with them is enlightening. Believers are called to see trials as “joy.” A way to see God in action, to connect with God for wisdom, and to demonstrate just how Christianity works to show how Christians have a Savior that is with us always, giving us strength and hope through all things. 

What do those around you see when you are faced with trials?

Let’s pray.


Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.