Although our world society admires or thinks as "cool" to indulge in or yield to temptation, God says the person that resists or endures temptation is blessed. There of course is great and increasing temptation in many areas in most parts of the world. This is something prophesied for the last days both of this present Church Age before the rapture and, for the Great Tribulation before the Lord Jesus Christ comes in power and great glory at the end of the 70th week of Daniel. Even if you are a Christian, I'm sure it is a struggle for you to endure or resist temptation on a consistant basis these days, but we won't have to put up with all these temptations much longer. This is because we (believers in God through Jesus Christ) will be very shortly taken to a sinless environment in Heaven through the rapture and then a righteous society on Earth after Jesus sets up His Kingdom at the end of the Great Tribulation or 70th week of Daniel. God says in His Word - the Holy Bible that if we endure (resist) temptation (in practice) in our lives after we become Christians we will receive the crown of life at the judgment seat of Christ after the rapture. God also says in His Word here that enduring or resisting temptation is a way His people (Christians in this age) can show our love to Him.
This scripture passage says that God does not tempt any man (man or woman) although some other scripture passages say God tests or tries believers to see if we are faithful to Him such as Job 23:10-12. I think the idea in James 1 is that God puts tests of faith that could involve temptation in the lives of believers but God moves the believer to endure or resist the temptation not to entice or persuade or tempt the believer (or unbeliever) to yield to the temptation. God says we are tempted when we are drawn away (attracted) by our own lust (desire or craving) of the Christian's old (pre-conversion) nature or of the unsaved people's only nature. When we dwell on temptation instead of fleeing from it or trying to put it out of our mind or heart, we are more likely to be enticed by it and yield to it. The expression when lust has conceived means after we let lust entice us and cause us to yield to the temptation. When we do this to a sinful temptation we commit sin. Temptation isn't wrong even with God it is wrong only when we yield to the temptation. The Bible says in Hebrews 4:15 that Jesus was also tempted in all manner (all ways) as we are yet without sin because he endured or resisted yielding to the temptations. This passage says that sin if continue to be followed results in death. I think this is talking about what the Bible calls the second death or death in one's sins or to die outside of Christ and be destined to be forever separated from God and His love and grace in hell and then the lake of fire. God wants us to ask His forgiveness and turn from our sins when we do commit sins not to leave them unconfessed or continue to be followed. The scripture passage about enduring temptation and the crown of life and the nature of temptation from James 1 is as follows:
Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him. Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: But every man(man or woman) is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death. James 1:12-15
The first thing to note is that the people we lead to salvation in the Lord Jesus Christ become our brothers and sisters in the Lord. Also when we have good spiritual relation or fellowship with other believers we can still feel them with us or have them on our hearts even when we are physically separated from each other. This is partly because of the bond we have with each other in Christ or by the mutual indwelling of God's Holy Spirit. Especially with the people we have led to Christ and perhaps discipled we should look forward to seeing them again when we are separated from them. However Satan and other demons sometimes hinder believers especially someone who had led people to Christ and the people he or she has led to Christ from getting together because Satan and the demons know Christian fellowship will or should give more joy, love, peace, spiritual strength etc. to believers when we get together compared to when we are apart. Of course Satan and demons don't want believers to have spiritual strength or love, joy, peace or other fruit of the Spirit that we can have in greater measure when we get together as people who have been led to the Lord and the person who did the evangelism.
The Apostle Paul then goes on to say that his and other people's hope, joy or crown of rejoicing will be these believers he(they) led to the Lord when they are in the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ at Him coming. This will start with them being his or their joy, hope or crown of rejoicing at the rapture and the Judgment Seat of Christ and will continue forever as with the other crowns or rewards. The people we have led to the Lord will also be our crown of rejoicing at the coming of the Church with the Lord Jesus Christ in power and great glory when He comes at the end of the 70th week of Daniel or the Great Tribulation to set up God's Kingdom on Earth through Himself (Jesus). The apostle Paul goes on to say the people he and other people who did the evangelism had their glory and joy in the new believers they led to a saving or heart knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ that He also died for their sins and rose again from the dead to give them eternal and new life as their crown of rejoicing. The scripture passage about the crown of rejoicing in 1 Thessalonians 2 is as follows:
For we, brethren, being taken from you for a short time in presence, not in heart, endeavored the more abundantly to see your face with great desire. Wherefore we would have come unto you, even I Paul, once and again; but Satan hindered us. For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye(you) in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming? For ye are our glory and joy. 1 Thessalonians 2:17-20
In the 1st century church there were elders but there wasn't the role of pastor as much then. Although elders today can't be physically witnesses of the sufferings or Christ, they should have a strong idea of that in their heart and mind from their study of the Bible, prayer and the Holy Spirit in their hearts. They should also look forward to and be working for the glory that will be revealed when God through His Son Jesus Christ rewards the Church and here particulary elders or pastors when He comes again for the Church at the rapture, then the Judgment Seat of Christ, Second Coming of Christ and rule with Him of believers including pastors and elders of the Church. The elders or pastors are charged to feed the flock or local church of believers and seekers with faithful preaching or study of God's Word - the Holy Bible. The pastors or elders are also expected to take and continue in the office or pastor or elder for the right reason that is willingly and of a ready mind not by constraint or for filthy lucre (to obtain a good income). The actual or potential pastors or elders are also instructed to not be over- bearing or insensitive over their local church or body of believers or seekers but to be examples (of Christians) to the flock (local body of the church). The chief Shepherd is the Lord Jesus Christ and when the above or similiar conditions for the pastor or elder are faithfully carried out, He will give a crown of glory to the faithful pastor or elder when the Lord Jesus Christ the chief Shepherd appears at the rapture and brings the pastors and elders of the Church with the rest of the Church to the Judgment Seat of Christ in Heaven immediately after the rapture. The scripture reference to the crown of rejoicing and the expected conduct and motives of the faithful pastor or elder in 1 Peter 5 are as follows:
The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; Neither as being lords over God's heritage, but being ensamples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.
The great cloud of witnesses spoken of in verse 1 refers to men and women of faith from Hebrews 11 and others who have already faithfully finished the race of their lives as men or women of God and are in Heaven. Although there is a difference of opinion the description of them as witnesses could also mean they are watching how believers on Earth are living the race of our Christian lives or unsaved people who are considering becoming Christians or true Christians are preparing themselves for living a successful and persevering Christian life or finishing the Christian race. Of course the finishing point is to go to Heaven usually through death although most likely for this generation for many without death to go to Heaven through the rapture. Again the fact that long distance running was one of the original Olympic Games sports in Athens, Greece and the fact that the Olympics will be in Greece in this August 2004 could mean the rapture and the giving of believers' heavenly rewards at the Judgment Seat of Christ right after the rapture in Heaven could be quite soon. Also Greece, despite being 100-1 odds before the tournament began were able to win their first major soccer tournament ever one month earlier by winning the Eurocup 2004 soccer tournament. This could be an added sign of the importance of the Olympics in Greece this year especially because the Greek soccer team had what a lot of non Christian people called "luck" and what the Christian would call God's favour perhaps for His purpose of enabling Greece to be in the sports spotlight even more this year with the Olympics also coming up there in August 2004. In the actual original Olympics athletes were allowed to carry food or beverage with them for the marathon but if they did it would slow them down and make them more tired and probably cause them to miss winning the race and getting the crown or reward. This is what is referred to in laying aside every weight. For the Christian this refers figuratively to denying ourselves of even some good things in this life that might be short of God's best for us to finish first for rewards and crowns for outstanding Christian living. These weights could include riches, comforts, our own (even good) plans instead of God's best plan for our life etc. The sin that so easily besets us for the athlete could refer to getting the wrong amoung or times of sleep, gluttony, drinking too much alcohol or drug abuse or sexual immorality all of which could also affect his or her performance on the marathon or long distance run and stop him or her from achieving a winning performance and a reward or crown. For the believer in Jesus Christ this is referring to any sin which we have a special attraction to or weakness in and which the devil or demons can use especially effectively to hinder or disrupt our Christian living or our running the Christian race. These besetting sins are different for each Christian but are often related to what we are most attracted to or vulnerable with in our life before we became a true or born again Christian and which we still have a weakness for in our old nature or fallen nature after we become a true Christian or receive the new nature born of the Holy Spirit. We also need to keep in mind the Christian life is a long distance race and not a sprint and we need patience or endurance to face and overcome the difficulties we encounter in our lives as Christians from the time we make a decision to Christ to death or the rapture and we go to heaven.
We are to look to Jesus as the author and finisher of our faith in two senses. In one sense he is our model or how to live the Christian life and the one one who perfectly lived the Christian or godly life even though he had much greater opposition and difficulties than we will ever have to endure. In a second sense we look to Jesus because He is now in Heaven at our finish line and He and God the Father want us to keep focused on Him and reward or joy in Heaven for successful completion of the race of the Christian life rather than getting distracted or dwelling on the difficulties we are having in the time being living the Christian life on Earth. Jesus is the author of our faith because He came from Heaven to live a perfect life and died and the cross and rose from the dead to establish the basis or authorship of the Christian faith. He also has become the finisher in His paying the full price of sin on the cross, His rising from the dead to give any willing person victory over death and His ascension to Heaven to also finish his own godly life perfectly and lead the way into Heaven for all who believe and trust in Him and God the Father through Him in the race of this life. Jesus endured the cross even though he didn't view it highly or enjoy it (despising the shame) but couldn't it worthwhile to receive the reward to sit down at God's right hand and to be assured of His having many people who also take up our cross and follow Him in this life as His disciples, although we might also despise our crosses, and look to the crowns or rewards to live and reign with God and Jesus in the life to come or other rewards or crowns in Heaven or on Earth after the Lord Jesus Christ sets up God's Kingdom here when He comes in power and great glory at the end of the Great Tribulation or 70th week of Daniel. We will receive our crowns or rewards immediately after the rapture at the Judgment Seat of Christ if we have faithfully persevered in the Christian life for God and His Son Jesus Christ. The reference to the Christian life as a race with Jesus Christ as our perfect forerunner or prior runner is in Hebrews 12 as follows:
Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin that doth(does) so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us. Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1-2
For comments, questions, advice or more informationContact Doug at Spirit and Truth Ministries