Trials Are Gardens for Lies

Trials Are Gardens for Lies

When your trials and temptations come, don’t let Satan and his schemes have your ear. Don’t assume that God’s sovereignty over all things means that temptation is from him. Rather, in your suffering, remember that he’s a good and perfect Father. He’s the giver of every good thing you might lose, and he’s the giver of every comfort or pleasure you might crave. And better than any of his other gifts, he holds out himself, the gift that surpasses every other one.

What verses do you reach for most often when you pause to give thanks to God?

Maybe you’re bowing over a home-cooked meal after an especially long and frustrating day. Maybe God came through in a moment of more acute desperation or need — at the office, with the kids, over the family budget. Maybe you and your friends got to do that thing you love to do together (but rarely get the chance to anymore). Maybe you simply felt the warmth of the sun on your skin after a week of overcast skies. And you know that meal, that friend, that sun is from God, and so you want to thank him. What verses come to mind?

One comes to mind for me, one I’ve leaned on countless times in prayer:

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. (James 1:17)

It’s a heart-warming, soul-stirring perspective: Every good thing you have, you have from God. In just a few words, James pulls every conceivable blessing — from the smallest snacks or shortest conversations to the weightier gifts of children, churches, homes, and health — all under the brilliant umbrella of the Father’s love.

Recently, though, as I slowly read through James again, I stumbled over the familiar verse because of the verse immediately before it. What would you expect to read before such an immense statement of God’s lavish generosity? Probably not this:

Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above . . . (James 1:16–17)

Don’t be Deceived?

What could be deceiving about a cherished truth like this? To understand the deception at work among these good and perfect gifts (and the real power of the verse), we have to follow the thread back to the previous paragraph.

Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. (James 1:12)

The apostle James writes to a suffering people, a people bearing heavy trials. He begins his letter, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds” (James 1:2). He says that because some were tempted to grumble and despair. They wanted to give up. They also started pointing fingers at God. As James writes in verses 13–14,

Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.

While God stands over all that transpires, and sovereignly works all things for the good of those who love him, no one can ever say that temptations come from him. He never devises evil. He’s not trying to make you stumble, but holding out his hand to keep you upright.

No, temptations arise from our own desires, which gets to a second problem James addresses in his letter: the problem of worldliness. Christians were growing faint under painful opposition. They were also giving in to sinful, fleshly desires (James 4:1–3). They were seeking comfort and relief in indulgence. They had formed an adulterous friendship with the world (James 4:4). So, James says to the church,

Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above . . . (James 1:16–17)

What might suffering people hear in such a warning?

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