Faithful to the Finish

Oscar Wilde said: “I can withstand anything, except temptation.” Some might say the only way to get rid of temptation is by giving in to it.

In one of my favourite hymns, the lyrics read:

Spring/Summer 2017 - First Word

All of us have experienced seasons in our spiritual lives where our soul has felt particularly lean. A difficulty, disappointment or depression has robbed us of the joy of our salvation.

In this edition of Thrive we’re featuring the critical importance of soul-care. Trials and temptations are a fact of life, and both deplete our inner reserve. It would be prudent for each of us to learn how to respond well to these recurring facts of life.

• Trials are situations designed by God to help us grow to spiritual maturity.
• Temptation is designed by Satan to cause us to sin and hinder our spiritual growth.

Wise pilgrims learn to clearly identify both in life, benefiting from trials and not allowing temptation to rob one’s spiritual validity. Those sojourners that consistently win over temptation will experience soul-health and receive the promise of James 1:12 (NLT):

“God blesses the people who patiently endure testing. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him.

The promise and prize of resisting temptation is the “crown of life”. This is understood as receiving God’s blessing over our life. When we consistently win over temptation, we live and enjoy life to the fullest.

Don’t let Satan get a foot-hold in your life by playing the shame-game or the blame-game. Be keenly aware of where the enemy of our soul seeks to penetrate our heart. His game-plan is spelled out in James 1:14.

DESIRE (James 1:14, NLT):
“… each one is tempted when by his own EVIL DESIRES…”

Desires are not all evil. They can be good, even essential — but any desire to excess becomes destructive, bringing harm to our spiritual and emotional life.

We can often be doing damage to our life while pursuing something good, but to excess. Temptation is often a fulfillment of a legitimate desire, but done in a wrong way or at the wrong time.

The second step in the Devil’s game-plan is:

DECEPTION (James 1:14, NLT):
“… he is dragged away and enticed…”

The words “dragged away” create a haunting term meaning “to be snared in a trap”. The word “enticed” is a fishing term, meaning “to be lured by bait”. Different traps and bait work on different fish and animals. The Devil knows the bait that works best in your life. You see, you desire, you start to nibble, believing you’re smart enough to know when to pull back. The deception is complete — you’ve been hooked. This is a sign of spiritual immaturity.

The third step in the Devil’s game-plan is:

Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin…”

The Message paraphrases this verse as “Lust gets pregnant and has a baby: sin”. James moves from a fishing metaphor in vs. 14 to a child-birth metaphor in vs. 15. What begins in our minds gives birth to an action or destructive habit, but it starts in the mind. Often what we initially flirt with, we eventually fall for. Marketing professionals know this and use it to their advantage.

Desires lead to deception, which leads to disobedience, which ends up in…

DEATH (James 1:15, NIV):
“… and sin when it is full grown, gives birth to DEATH.”

Death is the final consequence of our tendency toward being “prone to wander”. Instead of receiving the crown of life, we receive death. 

We all have free will; we have freedom to choose the narrow path or wander from it. However, God has not given us the freedom to choose the consequences.

For the unbeliever it means separation from God.

For the believer it means broken fellowship with God.

The pastor and hymnist Robert Robinson penned these familiar words in 1757:

“Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, Prone to leave the God I love.”

But, Robinson finishes his thought and his hymn with a final promise:

“Here’s my heart, O take and seal it; Seal it for thy Courts above.”

In James 1:17-18 the Bible turns from sin and evil desires (vv. 14-16) to God’s goodness. Two things will help us from wandering. We will focus on these two realities in the following pages of this edition of Thrive, entitled “Soul-Care: Prone to Wander”.

THINK on whatever is good and perfect (James 1:17) and remember our true IDENTITY, for we are God’s choice possessions (James 1:18).

God has adopted us into His family. The Bible has given us absolute assurance that has sealed us as His children forevermore.

When those inevitable occasions in life visit that seek to rob us of the joy of this reality, the Bible challenges us to refocus our thoughts (James 1:17) and remember we’re Kingdom kids (James 1:18).

This won’t make us immune to dark days, but it will give sufficient light for us to find our way back from our wanderings.

— Steve Jones is President of the Fellowship.