Part of my responsibilities as an intern at Mission Springs is to provide spiritual care for the summer staff that work, well during the summer. These staff come from wide range of backgrounds, maturity levels, ages, schools and other factors. Point being, no two summer staffers are the same; therefore, no two person’s relationship with God is in the same place.
So I and the first year intern set out to figure out a devotional series that can be applied to daily living and that is useful to the wide range of summer staff. We want it to be easy to understand and concise, yet challenging to all- no matter were they are in there walk with God. Not the easiest criteria…
I, for one, know that for me to teach on a topic, I need to be well prepare and comfortable with the topic. So even though summer is till 6 months off, we have been starting to work on devos. This will give me time to review this material a few time before summer and I will not be running around midweek during the summer trying to figure out what devos it going to talk about. Heck Yeah!
So we set down some criteria. Book length, applicability of topics, presentation. We narrowed our original selection down to four books of the New Testament. We chose Ephesians, Galatians, James, 1 John- these books had between 4 and 8 chapters and first look had topics that could be applicable to our potential summer staff. Then we set out to read closely and decide which text would be best for our staff.
We decided on James. We felt that we could work through the whole book in a summer, which is good because one of our goals was to show that it is possible to study a book by one’s self. Also we felt that the topics that James talks about are practical, this means that they can be used by all people, no matter how when one is with their walk with God. James speaks bluntly and concisely- very easy to understand, easy extrapolate and find application in anybody’s life. (Sorry Paul, I love you man, but sometimes you’re sentences structure does not sit with me. I hope you will understand.)
James is one of those books I have tried to do a in-depth study by myself. I tried and failed to complete on multiple occasion, many times quitting before the end of the first chapter. I almost always got tripped up with the idea of trials being a good thing. I mean, really, how can uncomfortable circumstances be a good thing, in any way. Also, I always looked at trials and temptations, and understood them as one and the same. Big mistake.
Trials and temptations are not the same thing- Once I understood that, it make James a bit more palatable.
Trial are the testing of faith, which is a good thing, it builds up perseverance and inspires the search of wisdom- God’s will/plan for you life. Trial many times they are situations out of your immediate control. Temptation are not from God because they are born out of selfish desire in our heart, which we may entertain and at that point turn into sin. Temptations are with in our control, we usually have the possibility to remove ourselves for the situation in which the temptation exists or we can resist the temptation. Trials and temptations are not one in the same. It is every easy to see them as the same because both are difficult situations to bear with.
They can potential go hand in hand, trials can produce temptations and vise versa and that is where lines are blurred and it gets confusing. Allow me to attempt explain myself.
I will use a substance abuse as an example of a temptation. I am going to use alcohol for my case. Alcohol, for intensive purposes is a drug, it alters moods and misused can create dependence, there is an desire there that can become sinful. With that being said, I do believe myself, as Christian, may partake of alcohol, as long as I do not abuse it. However, I digress- back to the example (alcohol is another topic, for another time.)
Say I start abusing alcohol which then results in me neglecting my job, my relationships, responsibilities, etc. This could result in the loss of my job. I could see this joblessness a crappy situation that God handed me and continue in my sin. Or I can see this hardship, a result of my sin, which in return is a result of falling to temptation- as a trial from God. A trial you say, did you not brought joblessness upon yourself; therefore, it is not a trial from God- it is just a consequence of your sin? True… but disagree. I say joblessness (potentially) is a godsent trial. God is using this trial to get my attention, saying “Hey, you are living in sin. Snap out of it!” At this point I can seek to rectify my behavior; therefore, through the lost of the job I had my eyes opened to habitual sin in my life. This is an example of how temptation leads to trials.
On the flip side, say I lose my job (the loss of a job is a trial) and trying to cope with the lost, I start drinking- a little at first, which then evolves in to large amounts, I become so dependent on the alcohol that it alters my behavior. Without, I am impossible to be around and with, I am violent; like I said- drinking altered behavior. In the end, I let myself be dragged way by temptation of alcoholism as a way to deal with a trial. Alcoholism is not how I am suppose to deal with a trial. In James it says that I ought to ask God for wisdom, or guidance without doubting. Wisdom in this case, as I interpret the text, means guidance and/or discernment for how to proceed in a particular trial. To doubt this wisdom that you are seek of God is to not trust in what God is trying to show you.
Tangent- I do not believe James is saying all doubt is bad- I think personally, as a person growing in faith, doubts and questions about faith are going to arise. But the doubt that James is talking about refers to not trusting God’s plans for your life. I believe that I can not see the big picture; therefore, I ought to trust God when He reveals His will.
God desires for me to seek Him in times of need- not turn to evil desires to cope with situations, even though they my provide temporary comfort. James reminds us of the difference between trials and temptations. And guess what, all that is with in the first sixteen verses of the first chapter. Crazy.
Starting and continuing through out college, many young Christians encounter a plethora of new and strange trials and temptations. Trials such as parents’ divorce or student debt to temptations such as alcoholism to sexual things (when I say sexual things- I mean things ranging from porn, sex, lust- all encompassing). And first reaction for most is to blame God for crappy circumstances and the consequences of falling to temptations. James is a reminder that there is a differences between trial and temptation and reminds us what were are to do in these situations and why we are to do these thing. Also James gives us warning signs of what temptations look like. This is one of reasons why I and Rachel chose to develop a devotional study on the book of James for our summer staff- James writes about topics that are very applicable for our staff and anyone who wants to walk with God.
I hope, but I will not promise nor commit to regular posting about the James as I study and work though it over the next few months, but it might be nice. I did that for the picture challenge and y’all see how that fair- not having easy access to interweb is both a blessing a curse- mostly a blessing. Never the less, I hope this post gives some insight into how I interpret and define trials and temptations.
Please free free to comment, question, your insight- because I do not have all the answer and love to be challenged in that way. Enjoy!