Read: James 1:2-5 |
Those who flee temptation generally leave a forwarding address.
– Lane Olinghouse
Resistance training, in the world of bodybuilding and weight training, increases muscle strength by forcing our muscles to work against an external resistance such as dumbbells, our own body weight, etc. The effort against the resistance force causes an increase in strength, tone, mass, and endurance. When resistance exercise training is undertaken repeatedly and consistently, muscles become progressively stronger and mental health improves [Resistance Training the Health Benefits”, Better Health Channel, Victoria, AU, 1999, 04 October 2012]
The first eighteen verses of this epistle address resistance training via Trials and Temptations.
Purpose of Trials and Temptations
The purpose of trials and temptations in our lives is to bring us closer to God and grow our spiritual muscles through resisting temptation. God wants us to obey and follow Him with our free will. Subsequently, God does not force us to obey Him and follow His commandments. To achieve God’s perfect purpose:
• We have to know that each trial / temptation is God allowed. Satan cannot force a temptation on us that God has not approved (James 1:13-15; Job 1:6-12).
• We have to trust God at His word and overcome our doubt. I Corinthians 10:13 says that we will not be tempted beyond what we can handle. Thus, we can resist all temptations, if we yield to
Christ and not Satan.
• We have to endure the testing by resisting. The testing of our faith produces perseverance, which makes us more mature (James 1:2-3).
• We also have to persevere and remember that God blesses those who endure testing and temptation (James 1:12).
Jesus trained his disciples to resist trials and temptation. He taught them how to recognize it and showed them how to respond to temptation and repent from yielding to temptation. In His program, resistance is not futile. Resistance is expected!
Trials versus Temptations
Satan tempts us to bring out the worst in us; God tests us to bring out the best in us. Temptation says, `Do this pleasant thing; do not be hindered by the fact that it is wrong.’ Trial or proving says, `Do this right and noble thing; do not be hindered by the fact that it is painful.’ The one is a sweet, beguiling melody, breathing soft indulgence and relaxation over the soul; the other is a pealing trumpet-call to high achievements.” [Alexander Maclaren]
Resistance produces patience and spiritual completeness
Our spiritual muscles gain mass, tone and flexibility by pushing back against the external forces that Satan brings against us. The more we resist, the more we grow. The less we resist, the more we atrophy and lose spiritual muscle mass.
The Devil’s Dictionary, a cynical book written by Ambrose Bierce in 1911, lists a tongue-in-cheek definition for someone who resists temptation. The book defines them as an abstainer:
n. A weak person who yields to the temptation of denying himself a pleasure. [Bierce, Ambrose, The Devils Dictionary, January 1999, Oxford University Press]
Interestingly, his definition hits on the point that temptation is a two-sided challenge. On one side, we are tempted to trust God and follow His Word. On the other side, we are tempted to trust Satan’s words. Abstainers trust God more and yield to Satan’s lures less than non-abstainers.
Jesus taught resistance training and exemplified that temptation results in spiritual growth or stagnation. It results in growth, when we recognize and resist temptation. On the other hand, it results in stagnation if we fail to abstain from yielding to temptation. Abstaining builds our perseverance and faith.
Trials and Temptations are resistance training for a Believer. The way to prove a ship is sea-worthy is to set sail and try it. Believers are proved by trying and applying their faith in the midst of a sea of trials and temptations. (James 1:12)
A. What Temptations trip you up the most?
B. What Trials do you think that you are undergoing now?
A. For the Temptations that trip you up the most, how can you counter Satan’s attempts to tempt you?
B. For the Trials you are undergoing, how are you enduring it? Are you like Job and hanging in there, or are you following the advice of Job’s friends and following your own will?
A. Charles Spurgeon, noted Pastor of the 1800’s suffered through many physical trials. He saw that one reason God brought trials was to give him more grace — more experienced nearness to Christ. Spurgeon said trials brought him far more grace than ease and comfort did. Why do you think he said the above?
B. Looking back can you see your spiritual growth as a result of the trials and temptations you have endured. If you do not feel you have grown and you believe that trials and temptations are to help us grow, what went wrong?