Blessed is the Man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him. Let know man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death
~ James 1:12-15, KJV ~
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There are two powerful incidents that I recall from growing that showed how powerful temptation is. First, I was walking with my cousins and two younger sisters. We were crossing the bridge that stretched over the canyon. Across from the bridge stands the Grand Coulee Dam. We stopped to gaze at the majesty of this human ingenuity. Suddenly, a rush of sensation to jump off the Bridge and free fall gripped me. For several minutes, I stood frozen in sheer fear and shear desire to feel the air and sensation of falling. It soon passed.
A second incident involved my weekly attendance at the boy scout meeting with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons). My scout master wanted to make a lesson, I am pretty sure about temptation, and had drawn a circle. The challenge was that one of us volunteered to stand in the circle. He then pulled out his wallet and began counting out money. I do not recall how much. What I do remember is that I had the choice of either staying in the circle or step out and take the money and it would be mine.
Both incidents had powerful influence over me at the time. Unfortunately, I had forgotten how powerful temptation was and have fallen into its wiles. The beauty. The lust. The desire. All are designed to cause our fall from grace. Temptation has brought many great men and women to their knees.
Had I given into the one temptation – I may not have survived. Had I given to the second temptation, I’d had much explaining to do with my parents about the recent money lining my pockets.
The Temptations of Christ
James uses the same style of language that is familiar to us. The familiarity is the way the Gospels introduces the Beatitudes.
Blessed is the man that endureth temptation James 1:12-13 Genuine Faith and TemptationTweet
What we also are familiar with is the temptations of Christ. Three of them occurred while having fasted forty days and forty nights. The fourth temptation occurs when Christ is in the Garden of Gethsemane and praying to the Father.
In each temptation – Christ responded with truth. This truth established on God’s word and law of obedience.
Temptation of Desire and Appetite
In his sermon, published at Truth in Love, Archbishop Eitenne shares this insight:
Here, Satan is taking bread or food, as representative of all the appetites of the body as a means of temptation. Here we can easily relate. Jesus’ response puts the human need for food and all the other appetites in their proper order. We are not to use the natural appetites of the body for pleasure or self-satisfaction, but for their proper means of sustaining us according to God’s will.
In 1 John 2:16, we find this true:
For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life is not of the Father, but is of the world.
The world offers us all the desires and appetites that leave our bellies full and our flesh satisfied. Unfortunately, it is only temporary and we continue to remain hungry and thirsty for more of those things of the world. When we are tempted, it may come in guise of satisfying some desire. We develop an appetite for it. Eventually, it leads us to experience death of our sense of self through Jesus Christ.
Temptation of Power and Authority
Archbishop Eitenne continues and shares the following on Christ’s second temptation:
Satan is a master of deception. It is only by Jesus obedience to and service of the Father that will make him King of Kings. What do the scriptures tell us? Psalm 2 says: “The LORD said to me, ‘You are my son; today I have begotten you.’ Ask and I will give you the nations as your inheritance, and as your possession, the ends of the earth.” The Letter to the Colossians tells us: “For in him [Jesus] were created all things in heaven and on earth”. (1:16) Perhaps this temptation reveals that Satan is the most deceived of all of us. Never-the-less, we all know the power of his deceptions, and the Gospel today is teaching us that Jesus is our only power against him. Ultimately, this temptation shows the corrupting nature of power.
We are familiar with the phrase: power tends to corrupt: absolute power corrupts absolutely. This is an observation made by British Historian Lord Acton. The idea is that as a person gains authority and power, their sense of morality appears to lessen.
As we pay attention to how Christ interacted with the religious leaders – He challenged their power and authority they had exerted in oppressing those who came to seek refuge. They had fallen short of the application and spirit of the Law of Moses and conformed it into a legalistic form of religious piety.
Temptation to Become ‘a god’
The third temptation of Christ is the deception that we ultimately have the authority and have no need for God. Or, we have need of God, however, only when he serves our needs and best interests. Archbishop comments as follows:
This is the great human temptation: we want to be God. We want God to serve our needs rather than humbly recognize that we are created for God. Our greatest glory is our love and service of God. Our greatest good is giving all the glory and praise to God.
Our desire to manage our lives and to live according to our own desires leads us back to fulfilling the lusts of our hearts. It becomes a vicious cycle. We become manipulative and calculating. In the Movie The Book of Eli starring Denzel Washington – a dystopian warlord is looking for a specific book. In one line he says: It’s a weapon
Of course, the book referenced is the Bible.
Lusts, power and authority, and placing ourselves on the judgment seat of God brings us to a place of destruction and death.
Quick Relief in Times of Difficulty
I mentioned there is a fourth temptation of Christ. This temptation occurs while Christ is in the Garden of Gethsemane and praying to the Father. He is soon to face betrayal, torture, and the inevitable crucifixion. This temptation appears to come at a time of extreme difficulty and suffering.
It was not death on the cross that Jesus agonized over in Gethsemane. In fact, He stated very emphatically that He came with the purpose of dying. His concern here was that He might not get through this struggle as the Son of Man. He was confident of getting through it as the Son of God— Satan could not touch Him there. But Satan’s assault was that our Lord would come through for us on His own solely as the Son of Man. If Jesus had done that, He could not have been our Savior (see Hebrews 9:11-15). Read the record of His agony in Gethsemane in light of His earlier wilderness temptation— “…the devil…departed from Him until an opportune time” (Luke 4:13). In Gethsemane, Satan came back and was overthrown again. Satan’s final assault against our Lord as the Son of Man was in Gethsemane.
We are tempted to get through our times of difficulty when we forget God. The Letter of James starts off with teaching us the importance of genuine faith during times of trials. Here, he is teaching us that genuine faith also delivers us from from the temptations of Satan.
- Facing temptation because of the lusts and desires of our hearts
- Facing temptation because of power and authority
- Facing temptation because of our desire to be above God
- Facing temptation to find quick relief through times of difficulty
Satan Knows Our Weaknesses and Tempts Us
The blessing comes when we endure temptation. When we are tried and resist the adversary. And how do temptations beset us?
M. Russell Ballard teaches us how temptation works in our lives (See, O That Cunning Plan of the Evil One):
The goal of the fly fisherman is to catch trout through skillful deception. The adept fisherman studies trout behavior, weather, the water current, and the types of insects trout eat and when those insects hatch. He will often craft by hand the lures he uses. He knows these artificial insects embedded with tiny hooks need to be a perfect deception because the trout will identify even the slightest flaw and reject the fly.
M. Russell Ballard continues:
The use of artificial lures to fool and catch a fish is an example of the way Lucifer often tempts, deceives, and tries to ensnare us.
And like the fly fisherman in this analogy – we succumb to the snares of Satan. This is because as much as our Heavenly Father knows us. Satan knows us as well – to some extent. M. Russell Ballard shares this insight as well:
Like the fly fisherman who knows that trout are driven by hunger, Lucifer knows our “hunger,” or weaknesses, and tempts us with counterfeit lures which, if taken, can cause us to be yanked from the stream of life into his unmerciful influence. And unlike a fly fisherman who catches and releases the fish unharmed back into the water, Lucifer will not voluntarily let go. His goal is to make his victims as miserable as he is.
The Apostle Paul warns us what happens if we continue to pursue our passions and desires to fulfill the lusts of the flesh:
Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful: but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools. .. Wherefore, God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts…Romans 1:21-22, 24 (cf: Romans 1:18-32) KJV
Working in the field as a seasoned substance use disorder professional I have seen the devastation and powerful hold substance use has on a persons life. The impact and suffering individuals endure is not just from the withdrawals. There is significant damage and death a person experiences.
According to the book Refuge Recovery: A Buddhist Path to Recovering from Addiction by Noah Levine shares this insight:
What usually starts as a search for happiness and pleasure almost always ends in tremendous sorrow, loss, confusion, and suffering.
Bestselling author and renowned Buddhist teacher Noah Levine adapts the Buddha’s Four Noble Truths and Eight Fold Path into a proven and systematic approach to recovery from alcohol and drug addiction—an indispensable alternative to the 12-step program.
Levine also shares this:
Addiction to drugs, alcohol, sex, people, gambling, money, food, or whatever the addiction creates an almost unbearable amount of suffering, confusion, and harm in the life of the addict and the lives of the people who love the addict.
This unbearable suffering is entrenched with false beliefs and values. It also creates imbalance in our lives:
- Emotional and Mental well-being compromised
- Relational well-being is compromised
- Physical and nutritional well-being is compromised
- Financial well-being is compromised
- Spiritual well-being is compromised
And when we continue to cave into our insatiable cravings and lusts – we become further dependent and our suffering increases all the more.
Our Final Temptation and Battle with Satan
The reality of this mortal life is how we will face times of adversity and difficulties. We will also face times of temptation. When we fall into temptation. When the snare of the devil is set and we are caught up in those trespasses. There is hope through Jesus Christ. Our own personal, and final temptation, battle with Satan concerns the forgiveness offered through the infinite atonement of Jesus Christ.
Submitting ourselves over to God is a battle in this mortal existence. When we fall from grace, Satan does all he can to keep us ensnared. In the Book of Mormon, Moroni 7:12, 17 shares this:
… that which is evil cometh of the devil; for the devil is an enemy unto God, and fighteth against him continually, and inviteth and enticeth to sin, and to do that which is evil continually. …But whatsoever thing persuadeth men to do evil, and believe not in Christ, and deny him, and serve not God, then ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of the devil; for after this manner doth the devil work, for he persuadeth no man to do good, no, not one; neither do his angels; neither do they who subject themselves unto him.
In the classic book The Miracle of Forgiveness Spencer W. Kimball shares:
We were to control our urges and desires, master and control our passions, and overcome our weaknesses, small and large. We were to eliminate sins of omission and of commission, and to follow the laws and commandments given us by our Father
The power of Christ’s atonement cleanses us and places us back into a right and true relationship with Jesus Christ. Yet, the adversary wants to convince us that we do not need to repent. Satan’s desire is for us to be just as miserable and suffering as he is.
- Deception is the first appeal
- Delay repentance is the second appeal
- Fear is the third appeal
- Pride is the final appeal
When we dwell in the power of Christ’s righteousness. Dwell in the refuge of our Heavenly Father’s love – Satan has no power or authority over our hearts, minds, and souls (see, 1 Nephi 22:26).
Blessed Are We When We Endure Temptation
Genuine faith increases when we are tempted, resist the temptation, and endure. Our glory is eternal life through Jesus Christ. Genuine faith is also increased when we come to understand that God’s divine gift is Love and Forgiveness. James speaks on how our temptations do not come from God. What comes from our Heavenly Father is the Light of Christ and all good things that motivate us to love God and others (see Moroni Chapter 7).
Through Jesus Christ – we receive forgiveness and eternal life. We also are endowed with power and authority to resist temptations. As we endure – we increase in our faith. As we come to seek forgiveness and repent of our sins – because we have fallen prey to the temptations and wiles of the Adversary – our faith increases and grows.
Our Heavenly Father blesses us in this life and in the life to come. Jesus is the Christ – the only Begotten, and through Him, we are saved.