AGCC Sun. a.m. 11/9/1997

(see also: 1/1/89)



TEXT: James 1:2-4,12-18; Matt. 4:1-11; Jude 24-25

INTRO: We are living in tough times, the levels of stress are enormous, and the pressures are taking their toll on many lives, including Christian lives! In such times we need to know that God can help us and deliver us. The good news is that He is ABLE TO KEEP US FROM FALLING!

Too often we recoil at struggles, yet they are often used by God to strengthen us, not to make us weaker.

ILLUS: Once there was a great fire, which ran over the Pyrenean mountains, and the inhabitants thought their vineyards were certainly destroyed and they were ruined. But the fire opened fissures in the earth through which they saw rich veins of metal. By this discovery they became very rich. Some fear the fiery criticism will destroy God's Word, but it only opens our eyes to the richness of God's truth. -- Rev. J.G. Vaughn, Gem Encyclopedia of Illustrations, (Cranston & Stowe, 1889).

We do not face tests and temptation without God's help and God's purposes being at work in our lives...and we don't have to face them in our own strength. With God's help He is able to keep us from falling!

PROP. SENT: The Bible teaches us that God will give us grace and strength to stand after each battle in our life, after all, the winners of any battle are the ones left standing!


A. Perception James 1:2-4

1. There is a big difference between a "test" and a "temptation"...

a. God sends trials or tests, but He does not tempt us to sin!

b. Trials or tests are intended to bring out the "best" in us, temptations are used to bring out the worst in us...God never tempts (see James 1:13-14)

2. Trials or tests are usually used by the Lord to refocus our lives...which can easily get off track!

a. Such times allow us to see clearly again

b. It is too easy for us to lose our perspective on what really counts.

ILLUS: People often ask me now, "Zinger, is golf still as important to you as it was before you had cancer?"

Yes and no. Yes, of course, golf is important to me. I love the game; it is how I make a living. But no, golf is no longer at the top of my priority list. In fact, it runs a slow fourth. My priorities now are God, my family, my friends, and golf. Golf is no longer my god. Golf is hitting a little white ball. God is my God, and God is a whole lot bigger than golf. But don't get me wrong. I played some great golf at the end of 1994 and the beginning of 1995, and I plan on playing a lot more. You won't hear me out on the course, saying, "Woe is me. I missed that four-footer, but at least I'm alive." Oh, no. I'm playing to win. But then, in many ways, I have already won. -- Paul Azinger, Zinger, (Zondervan, 1995), p. 223.

3. It is in this view of things that James could actually say, "Consider it pure JOY, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds..."

a. It is not JOY IN the trial, but JOY from the produce of the trial!

b. The fruit that is born when one has been tested is where the joy comes in.

4. We will gain a new perception of what is important from tests and trials.

a. Notice verse 3: "because YOU KNOW that the testing...makes you mature...."

b. The phrase here, "You know" has to do with "wisdom"...the statement made in verse 5 that if we lack any God will give it to us freely.

c. God's plan in tests and trials is to benefit us, not destroy us.

5. Of course we do have something to say in how we view such trials and tests, and how we react to them...and this is where the battle is won or lost in our lives.

a. God will never allow a trial greater than His grace to handle it!

b. Remember that God's purpose in tests and trials is to make us better, not bitter!

c. James clearly defines the purpose of such trials and tests as character building events in our lives...times of refocusing our priorities to those of more mature and godly choices....therefore we can count it JOY when they come...not joy in the pain of them, but JOY in the fruit of them!

B. Perseverance James 1:12

1. Here James makes clear God's goal in ALL trials and tests allowed in our lives.

a. Not only do we gain for the present, but we also gain for the future!

b. Notice too the emphasis on those who "persevere"...there is a responsibility on our part in how we handle such times!

2. The fruit of joy and maturity is NOT automatic...we must persevere in such trials and tests or that fruit will never come!

a. God's promise is to turn those events into character building times...but our part is to persevere through them!

b. God is ABLE to keep us from falling, but we must persevere through these trials and tests!

c. This is really the essence of that God will make us stronger and better when we have come through these events of our lives!

ILLUS: A diamond is a chunk of coal that made good under pressure and a diamond is valuable tho' it lie on a dunghill. -- As quoted in Bob Phillips, Phillips' Book of Great Thoughts & Funny Sayings, (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1993), p. 92.

3. We all want the fruit, but without the frustration!!! Yet, the one doesn't come without the other!

ILLUS: The gem cannot be polished without friction, nor man perfected without trials. Chinese proverb --James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988) p. 18.

4. Would you say your life is BITTER or BETTER from your tests and trials?

a. If it is bitter than you have failed to trust in God!

b. If it is better than you already know the joy of trusting in God.

II. STANDING WHILE TEMPTED! James 1:13-18; Matt. 4:1-11

A. Personal James 1:13

1. Temptation is NOT like tests and trials...they are never sent by God!

a. Temptation comes basically from 2 sources:

(1. Our fallen sinful nature

(2. Satan's schemes and efforts to destroy us.

b. Therefore, whenever we are tempted to sin....don't blame God!!

2. While tests are allowed to strengthen us, temptation's only goal is to destroy us!

a. This is why we should be vigilant against temptation!

b. Yielding to temptation will always result in "FALLING"!

3. It is amazing how easy we find it to fulfill temptations!

ILLUS: Have you noticed that when we decide to do something wrong the means are so readily available? --James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988), p. 477.

4. We need to be honest with ourselves about always comes from us or Satan, not God!

B. Process James 1:14-18

1. If we choose to "water" the seeds of temptation in our lives we shouldn't be surprised at what grows from it!

a. "Falling" starts with desire...a desire that appeals to our fallen sinful nature.

b. At this stage we can shut it down by not dwelling on that initial desire, ...if we fail to do this however we will find ourselves in trouble!

c. The statement in verse 14 "he is dragged away" has a fishing concept behind it, like the fish that is dragged to the bait....which leads it to its imprisonment and death!

2. If we flirt with a temptation we will be in trouble!

ILLUS: Focus on the Family's James Dobson says that in his thirty years of marriage to Shirley, he has never considered cheating on her. But early on Satan did lay a trap. He recalls: "Shirley and I had been married just a few years when we had a minor fuss. It was no big deal, but we both were pretty agitated at the time. I got in the car and drove around for about an hour to cool off. On the way home, an attractive girl drove up beside me in her car and smiled, obviously flirting. Then she turned onto a side street. I knew she was inviting me to follow her. I didn't take the bait. I just went home and made up with Shirley. But I thought how vicious the devil had been to take advantage of the momentary conflict between us. That's why Scripture refers to him as 'a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.'" -- Focus on the Family

3. Almost all sin starts off small and not so threatening...but yielding to small sins makes it easier to yield to larger ones later.

a. Most Christians don't go out and commit gross sin first, they start by rationalizing the smaller sins first.

b. This process takes us from "standing" to "falling" in time!

ILLUS: In writing about America's problems with our own national security, Jim Banford, author of The Puzzle Palace, said, "Once you've sold one secret you're usually hooked. They don't start by asking to get a top secret document. They usually ask for something innocuous, like a telephone directory. Once a person starts, they're hooked at that point." Isn't that the way Satan operates? He tempts us to make little compromises that seem so insignificant and end up ensnaring us in sin.

4. We must learn how to stop the process if we are to avoid the sin!

5. It is clear from the remaining verses (16-18) that God's gifts are good, not temptation is an issue of our fallen nature and sin, not God teasing us!

C. Power Matt. 4:1-11

1. Since Jesus did not have a fallen nature, his temptation came from Satan directly...which makes it just as real and just as possibly damaging.

a. The same resources for standing against temptation that Jesus uses are available to us!

b. We can stand firm if we follow Christ's example.

2. Notice the 3 areas of temptation:

a. Temptation for Security (Physical stuff) 4:2-4

b. Temptation for Spectacular (Gimmicks and signs alone) 4:5-7

c. Temptation for Shortcuts (bypass God's will, ends justify means) 4:8- 11

3. In each case Jesus had victory:

a. first, because His life was prayed up (He had prayed before temptation).

b. second, because He made decisions based on the Word of God rather than the desire that might have pulled Him.

c. He looked at the long term results, not just he short-term benefit.

4. This is where the power to stand comes from when we face temptation.

5. Even these temptations however can be used by God to strengthen us if we respond order for us to be useful to help others we must learn to face temptation and stand against it successfully.

ILLUS: Sometimes your medicine bottle has on it, "Shake well before using." That is what God has to do with some of His people. He has to shake them well before they are ever usable. -- Vance Havner by George Sweeting, Who Said That? (Moody, 1995), p. 22.


A. Provider! 24

1. The source of our strength to keep STANDING obviously cannot come from within us, it must come from the Lord...and HE IS ABLE to keep us from falling!

2. God's goal is to make us strong...a goal that will be accomplished if we draw our strength from Him.

3. It is not God who trips us up, He is able and willing to pick us up.

4. Since God is able...we can trust Him!

B. Preeminent 25

1. There is only one way to is through Christ!

a. all other ways will fail

b. all other ways are inadequate

2. It might seem narrow...but there is only one who is able to keep us from falling, only God, the "only God"!

ILLUS: Truth is narrow. If we were hiking and came to a wide river, and we learned that there was one bridge, down the river a mile or two, we wouldn't stomp in disgust and moan about how that was such a narrow way to think and that the bridge should be right there, where we were. Instead, thankful that there was a bridge, we would go to it and cross over. Or consider the following. When we go to the doctor, we want a prescription for exactly what we will need to get well. We would be quite startled if the doctor said, "These pills ought to cure you if you're sincere. After all, we believe in health, don't we?" Or would you trust yourself to a surgeon who had received no specialized training but was simply a really good person who meant well? Of course not! You know that truth is narrow. And you will trust your life only to someone who knows exactly what he or she is doing. --James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988), p. 484.

3. How have you been doing with trials and temptations? Do you find yourself TRUSTING God or scorning Him in bitterness. If you trust in Him HE IS ABLE TO KEEP YOU FROM FALLING!

CONCLUSION: In antiquity the winners were the ones left standing after a battle. This is still true! God promises that He is able to keep us from falling....He alone can give the power to stand! Are you drawing strength to keep standing by exercising your trust in God's power to save?