Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.
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.
Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. (New International Version)
The slow slog of uphill adversity, at various times, is a common experience of us all. We must deal with circumstances we didn’t choose, and situations that are out of our control. Throw into the mix that many people have few resources, and you have a feeling of being totally overwhelmed.
In this state of being, it’s challenging to maintain solid decision-making, emotional stability, and spiritual support. We need both encouragement and warning so that we can be strengthened in faith.
The Apostle James sought to encourage and warn a small struggling church who were enduring difficult and unwanted situations. He reminded the believers that the person who perseveres under a time of trial and testing of faith is blessed.
To be “blessed” is to have God’s stamp of approval. God approves of learning, enduring, and maturing through hardship. For such people, God has promised to give “the crown of life.” All the hard lessons we have under our belts, puts us in the position to connect with Jesus and enjoy God.
Don’t blame others
Sometimes, however, we face suffering not because of the circumstances which God brings in our lives, but because of our own unwise response to difficulty.
Problems are compounded whenever we blame our troubles on others, and refuse to learn what God is trying to teach us. This sort of response has it’s origins in the Garden.
Adam said to God, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” (Genesis 3:12) The implication of Adam is that he would have remained innocent, if God had not put Eve in the Garden with him.
Ever since, blame-shifting has been a staple of human behavior. Our bruised hearts and damaged egos send us desperately looking for someone else to blame when we are confronted with our own trouble.
Some folks can be so desperate to justify themselves, they end up saying illogical things, such as:
- “I wouldn’t lose my temper if my co-workers were easier to get along with, my kids behaved better, and my spouse were more considerate.”
- “I would be a patient person if I didn’t have so many things to do, and if the people around me weren’t so slow and incompetent!”
- “I would have a pure mind if there were not so many sexual images in our culture.”
- “I wouldn’t worry about the future if I had more money, and no health problems.”
- “My spiritual life would be much better if the pastor did a better job.”
- “I would follow if there were some decent leadership around here.”
- “I could never forgive that person [or God].”
- “My neighbor is an incredible cook; I can’t lose weight with such good food.”
- “I’ll never be happy, as long as that person is in my life.”
So, I ask us, “What will it take?”…
- To stop making excuses?
- To quit blame-shifting onto others?
- To trust God and step out in faith?
- To cease worrying about what other people think and start doing what God thinks?
- To look at faith as a dynamic relationship with the Lord, instead of just a static thing you possess?
- To read Holy Scripture as if your life depended on it?
- To minister with initiative and confidence?
- To be humble, do justice, and act with mercy?
- To spiritually grow?
- To truly enjoy life?
Don’t blame God
It seems that to err is human; to blame it on the divine is even more human.
God cannot be tempted; it’s not an option. God hates sin and disobedience; the Lord has no appeal for it, at all. It’s a moral impossibility for God to even consider attempting to do evil. Therefore, since God cannot be tempted by evil, God cannot tempt people toward evil.
Then why in the Sam Hill would we ever blame anything on God? Because it’s a cheap easy (and pathetic) way of absolving ourselves from responsibility for our own unwise choices, words, and actions.
Certainly, God tests us, in order to improve our character, and to bring us toward greater spiritual maturity. Yet, God never forces us to make bad, immoral, or evil choices. God may have brought the trial and testing into our lives; but how we respond to it is up to us.
Take responsibility for yourself
The real culprit behind temptation is one’s own personal and strong desire. It’s the intense motive to have-to-do-it, have-to-say-it, and have-to-have-it, which are at the root of temptation.
We all have legitimate needs, wants, and desires for love, security, companionship, and to make a difference in the world. Yet we may seek illegitimate means to satisfy those needs. We are lured to the hook by the enticing bait of temptation, and if we bite, that’s on us. Our own temptations lure us to satisfy our legitimate needs in illegitimate ways.
And when we get ourselves in a pickle because of following our own temptations, the internal push to blame others and/or God becomes strong. It doesn’t help that blame-shifting feels good; it gets the monkey off my back – at least for a time.
But like a bad addiction, blame-shifting needs to occur in a bigger dose, after a shorter duration of time. Before you know it, we’re caught in a destructive cycle. The temptation has enticed us and we have taken the bait. Like a fish-eyed follower of evil, we succumb to the lust for ambition, revenge, sex, power, fame, or money.
Know the consequences of blaming others
Temptation, like a smooth operator, comes along and gives a slick pitch about how our troubles can be managed or taken away through blaming others, even God. Then, all of sudden, like a star-struck fan seeking to be satisfied, we take the bait and go to bed with the idea.
We let sin’s temptation have its way with us. Now, it’s inside us. Like a fetus, the small sin grows within. Eventually, this pregnancy will come to full term. But instead of giving birth to life, there is the terrible agony of death.
Everyone struggles in some way with some sort of temptation. We don’t all wrestle with the same demons, but we’re all tempted in some manner. However, the cycle of guilt and separation from God can be broken. The glory of the gospel is that it breaks the power of sin.
So, hear the good news:
Don’t let anyone fool you by using senseless arguments [blame-shifting]. These arguments may sound wise, but they are only human teachings. They come from the powers of this world and not from Christ… Christ has taken away your selfish desires… God let Christ make you alive when he forgave all our sins.
God wiped out the charges that were against us for disobeying. He took them away and nailed them to the cross. There Christ defeated all powers and forces… Now the forces of the universe don’t have any power over you….
Kill every selfish desire. Don’t be immoral or indecent or have evil thoughts. Don’t be greedy, which is the same as worshiping idols…. You must quit being angry, hateful, and evil. You must no longer say insulting or cruel things about others. And stop lying to each other. You have given up your old way of life with its habits….
God loves you and has chosen you as his own special people. So be gentle, kind, humble, meek, and patient. Put up with each other, and forgive anyone who does you wrong, just as Christ has forgiven you. Love is more important than anything else. It is what ties everything completely together.
Let the peace that comes from Christ control your thoughts. And be grateful. Let the message about Christ completely fill your lives, while you use all your wisdom to teach and instruct each other. With thankful hearts, sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. Whatever you say or do should be done in the name of the Lord Jesus, as you give thanks to God the Father because of him. (Colossians 2:8-3:17, CEV)