Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. – James 1:12-15
About two years ago, I had the privilege of meeting some of my Christian brothers whom I knew from a favorite online message board. On this same occasion there was a “Men’s Rally” being held at First Presbyterian Church in Jackson, Mississippi. It was wonderful to sit under the preaching and teaching of Dr. Sinclair Ferguson. Excepting the Lord’s Day gathering that followed that weekend, there were two sessions. Dr. Ferguson spent one session on the subject of trials and the other on temptation.
One particular Dr. Ferguson expressed concerning temptation will always stand out in my mind. I don’t remember if it was his own choice of words (I think), or if he was simply paraphrasing John Owen, but his thoughts were along these lines:
“Sometimes in our lives the desire to sin is present, but not the opportunity. At other times, the opportunity presents itself, but the desire is absent. Temptation is most present and at its strongest when the sperm of desire and the egg of opportunity meet.”
What a way to put it, and how true it is! Friends, it is when opportunity and desire grather one with another that we must up the ante eve more on our guard. “Stay dressed for action and keeps your lamps burning”, Christ says. When temptation comes, and it will, the Christian must be ready. Not only is an active alert, preparation necessary, but also, oddly enough, a resignation of the pilgrim’s trust in his own ability to fight; rather, he must, as William Gurnall has so aptly penned, “Take special care not to trust in the armour of God, but in the God of the armour.”
We are deceived if we think we will not face trial or temptation. Though it is true Jesus said to his disciples, “Watch and pray so that you will not enter into temptation”, we cannot take this to mean we won’t ever face such. From The Christian in Complete Armour we read:
“Now if this bold tempter watched Christ so closely, does it not seem likely he will scout you, too, hoping sooner or later to find your graces slumbering? What he misses now by your watchfulness he may gain later by your negligence.”
So, Christians let us rouse ourselves, be alert, and stay alert, and let us never forget the hideousness and heinousness of sin, that we might remain steadfast under trail and receive the crown of life. Amen. I leave you with one more quote from Gurnall with some food for thought:
Because the devil is a very subtle enemy, the saint must always be on his guard. Satan is called the old serpent. The serpent is subtle above other creatures; and an old serpent, above other serpents. If Satan was too crafty for man in his perfection, how much more dangerous to us now in our maimed condition – for we have never recovered from that first crack Adam’s fall gave to out understanding. And as we have lost knowledge, so Satan has gained more and more experience. Granted, he lost his heavenly wisdom as soon as he became a devil, but ever since, he has increased his craft. And while he does not have wisdom enough to do himself good, yet he has knowledge enough to do others harmd. God showed us where Satan’s strength lies when He promised to bruise the head of the serpent; with his head crushed, he will soon die.