Read James 1:13-17
13 And remember, when you are being tempted, do not say, “God is tempting me.” God is never tempted to do wrong, and he never tempts anyone else. 14 Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away. 15 These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death.
16 So don’t be misled, my dear brothers and sisters. 17 Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow. (NLT)
We can get terribly mixed up about the role God plays in our testings and temptations. We may speak loosely of God sending such things across our path in order to teach us valuable lessons. We may hear of people saying God sent cancer into their bodies in order to get them saved. Or hear of others saying God took the life of a child because he so badly wanted that child in heaven.
Which is not just nonsense but harmful nonsense. As our text reminds us, when anything truly bad happens to us we can be sure God is not behind it. When we are tempted to be untrue to God we can be sure that God is not playing some sort of game with us to prove our fidelity to him. God doesn’t send temptation our way, but he does allow us to experience it. And our battling of it is a way in which we increase our dependence on him.
And it is a battle. Our text tells us that there is a process involved in yielding to temptation. It starts with desire, which if indulged leads to action. Harmful acts spring from harmful desires. The battle is fought in the mind and emotions. While we can’t avoid temptation, we can take steps to lessen its power. Resisting the temptation to gluttony will not involve gazing fondly at the window of the local cake shop.
Temptations will come, but we can exercise mind control in a way that we need not automatically succumb. In the words of Martin Luther’s rather cryptic saying, we can’t stop the birds from flying over our heads but we can stop them from making a nest in our hair.