Have you ever done something completely stupid? Not just a ‘that was dumb’ kind of moment, but an all out ‘where on earth did my brain go’ kind of moment? If you can’t seem to recall such a time then you are a liar…shame on you! 😉 My problem isn’t that I have to answer that question with a big ol’ ‘you know it’; the problem is narrowing down which of those were in fact the stupidest. Out of the blue this morning, one such moment quickly came flooding back to mind…
When I was in school, without question, I detested science. There was not a single grade level where I found it enjoyable; there was not a single facet that I wanted to engage in. Science made me want to be physically ill. It was because of this hatred that I intentionally put off taking Chemistry until my senior year in high school. Chemistry, in my opinion, is just the most evil of all the sciences but unfortunately one of those necessary evils to get to graduation. I held off taking it until my senior year for one very specific reason though – the ability to exempt the final exams. As you can see, I came at it with a distinct plan in mind. I was ready to attack it. The third day of my senior year we were preparing to do our very first experiment. Beakers were out, test tubes, the bunsen burner, goggles – the works. I have no clue what we were testing, but I remember we had to assemble the stand for our beaker to sit on. We had to light the burner and then, using these big old tongs, carefully place the beaker over the little flame. All was going great – I made my little notations, I did my little measurements, I was rocking this experiment – take that ‘science’, I’m kickin’ butt here. When I had completed my assignment, I then had to go about the task of taking my station back down and putting everything away. I diligently went about snuffing the fire out, putting my goggles away, and cleaning up the beakers and tubes, leaving the bunsen burner for last. I so carefully used the tongs to take the beaker down thinking the whole time ‘be careful – this is going to be hot.’ Slowly I was able to get the steaming glass over to the sink and breathed a huge sigh of relief that I had made that transition without burning myself or spilling the scolding hot contents all over. I went back to take the bunsen burner and ring stand apart and as I was mentally patting myself on the back, I grabbed ahold of the metal ring that the beaker had been sitting on. Did you catch that? I reached out, with my bare hand, and grabbed the metal ring that had been supporting the glass beaker over the hot fire. Interesting fact – when heating a beaker, anything that the beaker may be sitting on will also get hot. I had so carefully removed that blasted beaker only to come back to my stand and grab ahold of the scolding hot ring it had been sitting on. Are you kidding me? One moment, I was as careful as could be, the next I had second degree burns on the entire palm of my left hand. Are…you…kidding me?!?
James 1:13-15…”When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.”
Temptation! Here again, in this section of scripture, we see that James is just a cool guy. He has such a clear understanding of the human heart and mind. How we play the blame game; how we think way more highly of ourselves then we should. What I love is that for the first twelve verses he has really been addressing the idea of trials. The hardships and times of fear we face, that ultimately grow us stronger in the Lord. And then he ever so gently eases over into the idea of temptation – an area that we would rather just deny we struggle with and just say well, this is just the Lord too. But what we fail to get, and what James so pointedly is telling us here, is that trials (for the most part) are testings that happen on the outside, and temptations (for the most part) are the things happening on the inside. What he’s trying to drive home here is that if we aren’t careful, the testings on the outside may become temptations on the inside. Did you catch it? Read that again…if we aren’t careful the testings on the outside may very well become temptations on the inside.
When I was doing that experiment – all signs pointed out my need to be careful and that if I wasn’t I could get very hurt. I stayed alert to those signs for a little while, but then in my arrogance, in my stupidity of thinking I had done enough to stay safe, I fell right into getting hurt. That wasn’t the fault of my teacher. I couldn’t blame the students working around me. That was on me.
In the case of falling into temptation, there is always that gut reaction moment of wanting to blame God – we see that as far back as Genesis when Adam proclaimed…’That woman you put here with me…’, but as James states – God cannot be tempted and does not himself tempt us. Let’s face it – it’s so much easier to pass the blame then to face the reality. At any given time we could always try to make the argument that situations and things that other people do define us and cause us to act out on our temptations. But the Lord, has so graciously shown me the error of that thought process. In the same way that trials are a lifetime guarantee – temptations will always be along our path as well. If we don’t take seriously the danger that lies within those temptations (as James says, it will result in death) then we are walking a very dangerous line. That is why God so graciously left us His Word. He has placed scriptures, such as these powerful verses here in James, all throughout the Bible for us to learn and know, hear and understand, and most of all rely on in times where temptations want nothing more than to suck us in. We can try to say – I will never be able to stop…, we can claim that we make the choices we do because of the horrible upbringing we had…and we can stay trapped in a cycle that will do nothing but bring about death – but we are lying to ourselves. God however…, His word IS true. He IS the God from which everything comes. Every good and perfect gift IS from above. Even when that gift is wrapped in a trial that He helps us overcome. Even when that gift stays wrapped up for years, untouched by us. He IS a consistent God. He IS the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. When His word tells us of how he encouraged Moses to ‘Be strong and courageous’ to ‘not be afraid or terrified’, that ‘the LORD your God goes with you’ and ‘will never leave you or forsake you’. He is telling us those exact same words! And even when our friends struggle or our children seem to struggle, He will reach down and whisper those words in their ears as well. He does NOT change like shifting shadows! He IS all about loving us! Yes, there will be times where trials may tempt us to handle them in sin. Yes, there will be times that we make that choice. But praise God…no, I mean it PRAISE God that He loves us so much! Praise God that He stands ready to help us overcome that sin. Praise God that when we do fall, He is the one that picks us up. Praise God that we have been given the opportunity to live this life in the freedom of His grace and mercy and not bound in captivity.
It is not always easy. You know how that memory of my Chemistry catastrophe came to mind this morning? I was cooking on the stove. I had cooked up a little something and in my haste to keep them from burning, moved them from the back burner where they had been cooking to the front that was nice and cool. In the rush of my putting the things together I sat my spatula too close to the back burner that had just been cooking – and burnt the top of my finger. I’ve walked this road before…and yet did it again! Are you kidding me?!?! Even if that is how you feel over the most gripping of temptations you face – where you thought you’d learned enough not to go there again…know that your God is not there trying to trip you up and make you fall – He is waiting to help pull you back up. There is such hope and so much joy to be found in that truth!
My prayer for Today…
Lord, I would so love to pretend like I am not faced with temptations and better yet would love to say I avoid all of the temptations that come my way. But… The enemy would love nothing more in those times where we fall into temptation, than to cloud our mind with thoughts that would question you, doubt you and be angry with you. Thank you Lord for the assurance that you would not tempt us into evil. Thank you for never leaving us or forsaking us when we feel we are just too weak to resist a temptation or that we are a failure for having given in. Thank you for your grace. Thank you for the promise that you are working to make sure that we lack nothing. Thank you for being our rescuer. Thank you for your patience. Thank you for your love. Thank you for mercies that are new every morning. When the fear of falling overwhelms, thank you for being our peace. So humbled by your love this morning. Thank you Lord. Amen.