Weekly Devotional | Trials, Temptations, and Good Gifts
This devotional is based on CJ Mahaney's sermon, Trials, Temptations, and Good Gifts, given on February 21st, 2016.
Day 1: Blame-shifting — James 1:13
- “It is critical that we distinguish between the external trial and the internal temptation” CJ Mahaney
- “The stakes are high here. Suffering will either leave you a much better person or a much worse one than you were before. Trials and troubles in life, which are inevitable, will either make you or break you. But either way, you will not remain the same.” Tim Keller
Questions to Consider:
- Read Genesis 3:8-13. Whom does Adam ultimately hold responsible for the cause of his sin?
- Read Exodus 16:1-8. According to Moses, whom does the congregation of Israel blame for their troubles? What does this accusation reveal about their view of God’s character in the midst of their suffering?
- When was the last time you were tempted to point your finger at God and say, “You did this!”? What thoughts were going through your mind? Did they reflect more of your feelings about the situation or the truth about God from his Word?
- If you did blame him, what Scriptures or help from others, enabled you to think rightly about your circumstances and temptations?
- Read Job 2:9. Much like Job’s wife, our trials always whisper treason against God. Ask that God would give you a deeper hunger for knowing his character. For it is by trusting in who he is that we are able to, in James words, “count it all joy.”
Day 2: The Dynamics of Sin — James 1:14-16
- “Every trial is also a temptation.” Alec Motyer
- “The trouble lies in the combustible material that each man carries within himself.” Edmond Hiebert
- “Temptation involves the innate desire toward evil as it is enticed by the superficial attractiveness of sin. If a person should welcome rather than resist that temptation, desire conceives; and if not turned away immediately, it produces sin.” Doug Moo
Questions to Consider:
- The temptations James is specifically describing in this passage are those that arise in the midst of trial. What trials are you now facing, or might likely face in the immediate future, that could lead you into temptation? What specific temptations are you facing? What Scriptures could you study that would help you?
- Temptation itself is not a sin. Jesus himself was tempted. Yet many Christians often believe a lie and say to themselves, “If I was closer to God, then I would not have these temptations.” Do you also struggle with this?
- Read Ephesians 6:13-17. Two of our most important tools in our war against the Enemy is the shield of faith and the sword of the Word. When trained to use both in combination, the Christian is not easily defeated. Ask that God would bring particular Scriptures to your mind to defend you against the temptations and lies of the Enemy. Write at least two of those scriptures down. Going line-by-line through the verses, use each phrase as a springboard to pray for the spiritual welfare of yourself and at least one other person against Satan’s lies.
Day 3: The Generosity of God — James 1:17
- “Count your blessings, name them one by one; count your blessings, see what God hath done; count your blessings, name them one by one; count your many blessings, see what God hath done.” Johnson Oatman
- “Why the abrupt transition? James knows that when we are in the midst of trials, one temptation we face is to presume erroneous thoughts about God and his character. His audience needs confidence in God so that they will rely and depend upon God in the midst of temptation.” CJ Mahaney
- “He doesn’t change! No variation in relation to his goodness! No variation or shadow due to change in his generosity! He is always good! Always generous! Always giving! And, therefore, always trustworthy regardless of the severity or duration of one’s trial.” CJ Mahaney
Questions to Consider:
- Think about the kind of gifts God has given you, how often he gives them to you, and his heart behind them. What do these thoughts cause you to feel? Do they draw you closer to God? How?
- How would a discipline of meditating on God’s generosity strengthen your affection for God in the midst of your current or coming trials? How could they help defend you against temptation?
- Read Psalm 103. Ask our Father to use the passage to remind you of particular blessings that he regularly gives. Take time to thank God for his gifts and for what that gift teaches you about him. Ask him to make you more alert to his blessings. Ask that God would show you the deep value of his blessing toward you so that you might grow in gratefulness to him.
Day 4: The New Birth — James 1:18
- “This is one of the most glorious truths in the whole Bible. It teaches us that salvation is truly all of God; for until new life is imparted we are dead in our trespasses and sins, and as totally unable as anything that is dead to respond to God in repentance and faith. If anything is to be done, he must do it; if any blessing or change is to come to us, it must come from outside; if any agency is to be at work, it must be other than ours, for we are dead, and our only activity is to increase in corruption. Here is the greatness of divine mercy, the sufficiency of divine strength, and the depth of divine condescension. All the work, from initial choice to completed deed, is his—and so is all the glory.” Alec Motyer
- “What does sin bring forth? Death! What does God bring forth? God brings forth the new birth; that’s what God brings! New birth that issues into new life! So this gift is really the preeminent “good and perfect gift” that comes down from above. This is a striking example of God’s goodness and God’s generosity! It should leave the Christian, even in the midst of trial, humbled and amazed and freshly strengthened to trust God in response to trials and resist sin in the midst of trials.” CJ Mahaney
- “The mystery in our life isn’t the trials; it’s that, in light of my sinful tendency, why would God give us so many gifts?” CJ Mahaney
Questions to Consider:
- Take a few minutes and seriously consider how miraculous it was that God, in eternity past, chose to save you. Your eternal destiny was in the hands of God —who would have been perfectly justified in casting you away—and he saved you. How gracious is our God!
- Read Romans 8:32. Having considered the mercy of God, do you feel a greater joy and confidence in God’s character? What about this passage convinces you of God’s grace? In light of this passage, is there anything (trial, sin, or temptation) that will cause God to stop giving good gifts?
- One reason that temptations and trials are so hard is that they remind us of how weak we truly are. We are finite. We are dependent. And we can be easily deceived into thinking that we must endure on our own strength. Thank God that it is he that will ultimately accomplish the work. Reread Romans 8:32; let it lead you with boldness and zeal, right now, to ask great and particular things of God.
Questions for Group Discussion
- What would it mean for God to tempt us in our trials? Say it in your own words.
- When have you silently charged God with tempting you through an affliction?
- Why do we so naturally blame God with tempting us in our trials?
- Consider together what it would mean if God were the sort of God who intentionally tempted us in our trials. Now consider what it says about God that he is not that kind of God!
- What does it say about his character that “God cannot be tempted by evil”?
- In vv. 14-15, James dissects the anatomy of temptation. Summarize what James is saying to the group in your own words. Contrast this scriptural view of how temptation works with the world’s view of how it works. What is significant about the differences between how people think temptation works and how James says it actually works?
- In v. 16, James warns us not to be deceived about where good gifts come from. Why would we be deceived?
- CJ challenged us to count our blessings. So let’s do it! Right here, as a group, start counting up blessings. Think about the good things we have life, our nation, our church, our family, friends, jobs, etc. Go at it with gusto for the glory of God!
- Why does James seemingly abruptly emphasize the unchanging nature of God in v. 17? Why is this aspect of God significant in light of the surrounding context?
- How does God’s sovereign electing grace make you feel? Do you find it hard to swallow or believe? What does election have to do with trials, temptations, and the generosity of God?