The comment has been made that sometimes it’s difficult to know who’s knocking— opportunity or temptation. An opportunity is something we look for, to take advantage of, so as to seize for advancement or success. Temptation, on the other hand, is associated with either the inclination to sin or undergoing a test to prove one’s ability to endure a trial.
Opportunity and temptation may appear the same, at times. It’s said that if opportunity came in the form of a temptation, knocking once would be sufficient. For instance, a thief sees some money in a cash register drawer that was unintentionally left open. He then gives in to temptation by taking the opportunity to steal the money. Knocking upon that door of temptation only takes one time for that thief to enter his opportunity to commit a crime.
The Lord’s brother, James, had some instructive thoughts about temptation that will help us in our daily walk of life. In the first chapter of James, he addresses two kinds of temptation. One has positive consequences; the other, negative consequences. One provides the opportunity for achieving good works; the other, the opportunity to bring forth disastrous results.
First, consider temptation as the opportunity to pass a test when undergoing various trials of faith. In writing to the scattered converts, James says, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into divers temptations,” (v. 2, King James Version, KJV). The New American Standard Bible (NASB) puts it this way: “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials.” Now, it might be difficult to understand how various trials such as afflictions, suffering, persecution, or losses of any kind can be taken with joy. Christians are able to rejoice under these circumstances because of the positive outcome they eventually produce: “Knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, that you may be perfect [mature] and complete, lacking in nothing,” (vss. 3-4).
James goes on to cite the perfect result of enduring our trials and temptations: “Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved [passed the test], he will receive the crown of life, which the Lord has promised to those who love him,” (v. 12, NASB). If we keep that goal in mind whenever we undergo our trials, we will be able to endure. We endure by asking God for wisdom (v. 5) and putting our unwavering faith in him (v. 6). This is our opportunity to persevere with the crown of life in mind.
The crown of life is on par with two other crowns: “a crown of righteousness” and “a crown of glory.” All three crowns relate to the future reward of the faithful in Christ who will be co-rulers with him in his kingdom. The crown of life has to do with receiving eternal life (Revelation 2:10-11; cp. also the “imperishable crown,” 1 Cor. 9:25), the crown of righteous has to do with receiving the inheritance from the Righteous Judge when believers stand before him on Judgement Day (2 Timothy 4:8; 1 Pet. 1:4; 2 Cor. 5:10). The crown of glory is connected with receiving the victory over sin and suffering when Christ comes (1 Pet. 5:4; Rom. 8:17; Phil. 3:21; Colossians 3:4; Rev. 7:9).
Revelation 21:7 says that believers who overcome the trials and temptations of this life “will inherit these things”. On the other hand, those who fall into the temptations of sin will not inherit these things but instead, “their part will be in the lake of fire and brimstone, which is the second death,” (v. 8). Verse 8 lists those various sins. It behooves us to examine ourselves to see if we’re living in those sins now, and repent of them before that Great Day comes.
Going back to James 2:13-15, we read of “temptation” in regard to sin. Verse 13 says that “no [one] can be tempted by God,” why? Because “God cannot be tempted by evil” [or, “of evil things”], and he himself does not tempt anyone.”
So, where does the temptation to sin come from? Verse 14 says, “But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust.” You may have been told that the temptation of evil comes from without, from another person or a supernatural power. The saying, “the devil made me do it,” is not a good alibi for giving in to temptation. We only have ourselves to blame. For as Jesus said, evil comes from the bad stored in one’s heart: Luke 6:45. And he added, “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders,” (Matt. 15:15-20; Mark 7:14-23).
By the way, speaking of the fact that God cannot be tempted by evil…this rules out the false idea that Jesus is God because, unlike God, Jesus was “tempted in all points as we are, yet without sin,” (Heb. 4:15). Jesus was tempted just like we are but he didn’t give in to it. He never opened the door of his heart to it when it came knocking. So, he is our perfect example to follow. We must likewise refuse to open our doors to it, as well. Of course, this is much easier said than done.
Temptation often knocks in ways that men especially find hard to resist. One time a man and his wife were shopping at the mall when a shapely young woman in a short, form-fitting dress strolled by. The man’s eyes quickly started following her. Without looking up from the item his wife was examining, she asked him, “Was it worth the trouble you’re in?”
We know the consequences of temptation if we do open the door: “Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren,” (James 1:15-16).
The good news about all of this is that God has given us the opportunity to deal with trials and temptation from walking in and destroying us. First Corinthians 10:13 says, “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.” Although we are all tempted, we can be thankful to know that God is faithful to his Word. God guarantees that he will provide the way of escape through his Son, and give us an opportunity to endure it and to overcome it when it comes knocking on our door. Whatever trial and temptation we face, God is still in control as we put our faith in him.
Just remember, that whenever temptation comes knocking, just like the song says, God is able to deliver thee: https://youtu.be/X9JytyAnssw
Good News to YOU!