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Approval of the Blessed (1:12-18)

Please grab your Bible and join me in the book of James. We are continuing our series, “Dispersed & Dedicated” as James admonishes these early Christians to remain in the faith while they are scattered everywhere and undergoing persecution.

The way that James encourages these saints to be blessed is to tell them that one day they would be approved by God for their willingness to go through hard times faithfully.

We will look today at three points from James 1:12-18. First, we are approved by persevering in trials. Next, we are approved by taking responsibility for temptations. Finally, we are approved by truthfulness in the midst of deception. Let’s read the text together before we begin. Join me in James 1:12-18:

"Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which [the Lord] has promised to those who love Him. Let no one say when he is tempted, 'I am being tempted by God'; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. 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. Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow. In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth, so that we would be a kind of first fruits among His creatures."

To have the divine approval of God should be our ultimate aim in life. While many seek approval from men and worldly glory, we seek the words, “well done!”, from our heavenly Father. The word here for accepted is a word that can also mean tested or proven as in the quality of a thing. Approval in this text comes from “dokimos” in the original language and as much as it means approved, it is also defined as tested or proven. For example, there is silver and there is sterling silver, which is approved. The difference between the two is one has passed through the fire (with copper added to provide strength and prevent tarnishing) for a specific amount of time and the impurities are burned out and the silver is more durable. There was also a similar process used for stones that were made for building/construction in the days of early Christianity. If a stone is found to have poor integrity, flaws, or blemishes it will be marked with a capital A (Greek alpha). This mark stands for “adokimastos” meaning, “tested and found wanting”. At the end of our life we will either be purified and approved on the other side of our trials and temptations or tested and found wanting. God has made it clear that we will face tribulations and he tells us how to stand firm. Those that endure faithfully will prove their faith and be accepted and rewarded. What we are going to learn today is that God is not the origin of the evils and atrocities in the world but He certainly wants to see if we will overcome those obstacles and with a resolute heart continue to love and serve Him. This testing will one day lead to our approval from God. While men might commend you, the only thing that matters is the approval of God (II Cor. 10:18).

A young man studied violin under a world-renowned master. Eventually, the time came for him to take the stage for a performance in front of a live audience. Following each song, despite the cheering of the crowd, the young man seemed dissatisfied with his performance. Even after the last song, with the shouts louder than ever, the talented violinist stood watching his master in the front row. Finally, the teacher stood to his feet, smiled, nodded, and applauded his student. It was evident to the teacher that all of the hours of hard work proved that he was a skilled artist. The young performer relaxed and beamed with happiness. What is the moral of the story? The point of this illustration is that the young student of the teacher was not satisfied until he knew that he had the full approval of the master. It doesn’t matter what others think of us if we don’t have God’s approval. At the end of the day, it is what the Lord thinks of us that will determine if we make the cut and become like the master.

James begins by addressing that we are approved by persevering in times of trials. He said,

“Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.”

We are blessed if we endure during troublesome times. Over the last few months in our lessons, we have discovered several beatitudes in the word of God from Psalms and James. We also referenced those beatitudes taught by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount in the gospels. We emphasized that “blessed” means more than happy, but rather is defined as "content in your favored position with the Lord". While trials are uncomfortable, we can find comfort and peace in our trials as children of God. James does not say blessed is the man that gets rescued out of every trouble, or blessed is the man that doesn’t have to experience hardship and is delivered. James says that in God’s favor, even when you go through various trials, you will have divine approval. To have a positive nod from God is absolutely amazing! That is why many writers remind us that no matter what we experience here that

“eye has not seen, ear has not heard, neither has it entered the heart of man, all that God has prepared for those who love Him.” (I Cor. 2:9).

He is going to bestow favor on us that will make the pain and sorrow of these temporary trials feel minimal and petty in comparison. Right now they feel like an impassable mountain, but when we enter heaven, every step that we pressed on through will be worth it all because of the glory that is to be revealed to us and in us.

According to James, we reach a place where we are approved by the Lord because of our patient endurance in the challenges of life. James says that the level of our endurance in the trials of today will be based on our endurance of the trials we faced yesterday (James 1:2-4). We get residual strength from each trial when we persevere. We prove our faith, by how faithful we are to God in all circumstances. It is easy to be true to God when life is positive, calm, and pleasant. We enjoy life when we have all that we need, and we can effortlessly serve God. When we are pressed and circumstances get heavy, we are not to buckle under the pressure, but we are to let the pressure transform and mold us to be like Jesus and the heat of the fiery trial refine us and make us precious in the sight of God. We will be approved one day based on how well we handled our trials.

James will eventually bring up the patience of Job, which should be translated as the endurance of Job (James 5:11). Since we know that Job faced fierce trials that tested him on every level, the fact that he endured each challenge shows his integrity and faithfulness. This is what proved to God that he was blameless and upright, one who feared God and shunned evil (Job 1:1). This detail cannot be known unless you have faced the evils of this world head-on. James concludes the story of Job,

“you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.”

If you recall the wickedness that Job was forced to undergo, it was from Satan, and God was convinced that Job’s faith would withstand the things that Satan planned to do to him. God was not the source of the wickedness and through every trial, the Lord was faithful in preserving Job and eventually blessing him to demonstrate His care and concern for his servant. Job was approved by God and his faith is recorded for our encouragement when we face the same type of obstacles.

While it may seem redundant that we have addressed this subject so thoroughly, the fact is that trials and temptations are such a regular part of our daily lives that we need a steady reminder to remain encouraged and not lose heart in the face of difficult challenges. Do not tune out when we revisit these teachings. These admonitions could be the most important thing you will recall when you come up against a hard time of temptation and trial.

The approval of the Lord is accompanied by receiving the crown of life. The Lord has promised that we will have a crown of life in eternity. The focus here is not on the crown, but on life. If we think with our carnal mind, we want to have the crown. The crown means position, prosperity, power, possession. The issue is that it has very little to do with having a literal crown. You will be crowned with life eternal if you overcome the troubles that you encounter in this life. If that disappoints you, perhaps you need to reconsider what is important to you in your pursuit of things above. Is it the mansion you seek or living in the presence of God? Is it the streets of gold that you can’t wait to walk on, rather than looking forward to marching into heaven with the saints of old? Sometimes we think of heaven in such a carnal way that we miss out on the true spiritual blessings of heaven. Eternal life is the goal. If we miss heaven we miss it all! This means that without heaven we suffer torment forever and ever. Heaven is the place where we find release from every tear, ache, pain, weakness, hardship, enemy, loss, sorrow, grief, etc.

The requirement of being qualified to be a recipient of eternal life is to love the Lord. Our love for Him is not always in the calm, peaceful fellowship of worship, praise, and devotion. Sometimes our love for the Lord will require us to go through some unpleasant circumstances in His service and maintain our faithfulness during these times. The strength of our love is tested when we enter the proving ground of adversity. How deep is your love for the Lord?

Next, James tells us that we can be approved by taking responsibility in times of temptations.

“Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.”

The concern is that some people turn on God when times are tough. Some people will blame God for tempting them so that when they sin or struggle with temptations they can shift responsibility to Him. We hear people say, “Why would you allow this to happen to me, God? Why didn’t you keep me out of trouble? Why weren’t you there for me when I was tempted?" This is nothing new as we see the same blame game taking place in Genesis with the original fall into sin (Adam blames God for giving him Eve who gave to him to eat of the forbidden fruit. Then the woman blamed the serpent that brought the temptation to her instead of taking responsibility for her actions). Satan had no one to blame but himself. One fact in this passage is that Eve tracks down the source of the temptation, but Adam and Eve were responsible for their response. That is what James is trying to get us to see. Regardless of the one that brings the temptation or the avenue through which we are tempted, we get to choose how we handle it. Each one is drawn away (by evil) and enticed (we see something and we want it). That lust is what breeds sin. You and I are responsible for that birth. We don’t get to blame somebody else for that baby that we brought into this world.

James makes it plain that God cannot be tempted by evil; therefore, He Himself does not tempt anyone. On the surface, James appears to be making a faulty argument. Does it make sense that just because God cannot be tempted that He would not tempt others? What is James trying to say here? James is informing us that if God cannot do evil, since He is good, He is also incapable of tempting anyone because He is good. To tempt someone to do evil would require that you were capable of evil. Therefore, the source of temptation is Satan and if we fall prey to his schemes, we are fully responsible for the outcome. Satan will receive the end of his curse and be punished eternally but we too will be subject to the consequences of our own actions.

James tells us to take responsibility for our own actions during times of temptation. We are drawn toward and allured into temptation by our own selfish desires (lusts). There is no need to point fingers anywhere else. Even though Satan is the source of temptation, you cannot blame him. He is evil! What do you expect? The verdict is that if you find yourself falling into temptations that you were not pushed, manipulated, or cheated, but you stumbled and fell on your own.

James describes the process that leads to sin like the cycle of life. Yet, the truth is that it leads to death. He explains, when our lusts conceive, meaning we enter into the pursuit of our desires, this gives birth to sin. Once sin is born, like any other newborn, as a behavior, it grows and becomes full-grown (accomplished) until it leads to death. This is not only spiritual death, but it will eventually include eternal death (second death) and separation from God. How many sins have you produced and brought into this world? How many of those have you taken responsibility for and sought full forgiveness for from God? Have you put to death the deeds of the body or are you dying in your sin today? Accept that you have transgressed the will of God and use this lesson as a motivator to get your life right with God.

Finally, James teaches that we are approved by truthfulness in times of deception.

“Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow. In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth, so that we would be a kind of first fruits among His creatures.”

James admonishes these Christians not to be deceived. This avoiding deception is in reference to being made to believe that God is the source of our temptations to sin and do evil. We already established that this teaching is not true and those that accept this falsehood have been duped and they are not in the truth.

Secondly, being deceived also includes not accepting that God is full of goodness. James argues that God is good. The only kinds of things that come from God are good things. He only bestows perfect gifts from above. Evil and wickedness along with any influence to get us to step away from truth is from below (hell). Contrasting above and below, James is making a strong point to argue that these trials and temptations are not from God. Temptations are either from the depths of hell or they are brought to us by the evil influences that are found in the world. James adds here that God doesn’t change (no variation, nor shadow of turning). That means that the only things that we see “coming down” from the Father of lights are blessings, love, care, and concern for our souls.

One of the greatest gifts that ever came down from heaven was Jesus the Son of God. Through Him, we have the opportunity to gain eternal life. In order to avoid missing out on this great blessing of salvation through Jesus Christ, we are admonished, “Do not be deceived”. We are born into the family of God by the truth and thereby approved (II Tim. 2:15). James says that in the exercise of God’s will he brought us forth by the word of truth. This again is referencing the idea of a seed bringing about conception, birth, and the maturing of something within us. James states that when these brethren heard the word of truth, they were born again through obedience to that word and they became new creatures and what are known as "first fruits". In order to get fruit, it starts with a seed. The word of God is the seed (Luke 8:11). If we plant the word of God in our hearts, it produces only good things. If we fill our hearts with evil, the only thing this can produce is wickedness (bad fruit). The first fruits were always the preferred part of the harvest. These early Christians were considered to be the first among many that are faithfully adhering to the word of truth. What this means for us is that we are also producing fruit (either good or bad) based on what is planted within us. The difference between those who allow sin to be born and grow in them and those that allow the Spirit of God to dwell in them and put to death the old man of sin is their relationship to the Lord and His truth. If you are deceived and have a negative perception of God and what He wants for you then you will never search for and accept the truth. When you accept that God is only good, then His word of truth is a message that you will find liberating and you will cling to it, accept it in your heart, and eventually grow and mature until you are transformed by it and begin producing the fruits of righteousness (Phil. 1:8-11).

We bear much fruit and this is proof that we are disciples of Jesus (See John 15). Those who cease the production of this fruit will be cut off and burned. The Lord will not tolerate a branch that wants to claim to be in Him but will not produce the fruit of the Spirit. The world wants us to believe that God is either non-existent or that after He set this world in motion, He abandoned the project altogether letting it spin out of control. The fact is that God has been working to restore all things and one day He will welcome those that have loved and obeyed Him while driving away from Him the deceivers and those who chose to be deceived rather than clinging to the word of God. The fact is He is the vinedresser and His Son is the vine in whom you and I thrive.

The weeds will be burned; the wheat will be preserved and kept in the barn of the Lord. If you recall, each of these had to grow together until the harvest. We are warned that apart from Christ we can do nothing. In Him, we can be fruitful and produce abundant fruit to the glory of God who prepared us for this purpose. What are you producing? Have you received with meekness the implanted word which is able to save your soul?

There are three ways for Christians to find approval from God according to James: Persevering in trials, taking responsibility for temptations, and being found in the truth rather than being deceived.

The initial way to find approval from God is in becoming a Christian by coming in obedience to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Are you a Christian today? We would love to help you be born again? You can put away the old man of sin and be raised from the waters of baptism where all your sins are washed away and you begin a new life as a child of God (Mark 16:16; Romans 6:1-4). You need to be willing to turn from sin, confess that Jesus is Lord, and be immersed in water for the forgiveness of your sins.

Perhaps you are a Christian, but you have struggled and faltered and need the uplifting prayers of those who understand the challenges of life that you are facing. We are here to pray with you and uphold you during this time. You are not alone in the struggle. If you need to confess a weakness or if you just need encouragement please make it known by sending an email to us.

If you want the approval of God and we can help in any way, contact us and we will do our best to help or get you in contact with someone that can assist you.

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