Each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death… Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures. (James 1:14-18)
Recently our family has been going through what one friend called a “cascade” of trials. Both sets of our parents are very unwell, two old friends have recently died and after 35 years at one job, my husband, Phil, has been permanently laid off necessitating our move up to Valley Center. We’ve been praying that the Lord would open the door for us to move closer to the church, but as Phil said with a smile, “We just didn’t expect Him to kick us through it.”
Yes, this is a time of cascading trial. The Lord has been very kind to comfort and assure us of His nearness and to open my eyes to new truth from a passage that I thought I understood. You see, as a biblical counselor, I’ve been very familiar with James’ description of the desire-temptation-sin-death paradigm above. My sinful desires lure me into temptation – “Oh… I really need/want/must have THAT (whatever THAT is)” so I speak and act in sinful ways to obtain the object of my desire.
But on the heels of that chilling caution about the machinations of sin, James gives another warning: “Do not be deceived.” Yes, I thought. Don’t be deceived by sinful desires. Don’t think that getting what I want will make me happy. But as I’ve looked more closely at that “Don’t be deceived” I’ve come to understand that it isn’t primarily a warning about the deceptive nature of sin per se, but rather a warning about discounting the goodness of God, especially when you’re standing under a torrent of trial.
Here’s James again:
Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures. (James 1:16-18)
He gives good and perfect gifts.
When we face loss, death, change or concern about future provision, we need a clear vision of the Lord who never changes His disposition toward us. He has chosen to bless us with salvation and He takes pleasure in us. He is good and His disposition toward us is one of showering us with good gifts.
James speaks powerfully: Don’t be deceived! The strength that you need to walk faithfully through a torrential downpour comes from remembering how He has covenanted to love you and sustain you, no matter what. The ability to fight against the unbelief in my own heart is fueled by remembering His love and determination to bless me. Am I in a cascade of trial? Yes. But there is another truth here: I am standing under a cascade of good gifts from a Father who never changes, no matter how I doubt, and who loved me enough to save my soul.
When I fail to remember the truth about God’s good and perfect gifts, then lesser joys have power to allure. And I begin to question His goodness. I am deceived by the old refrain: “You don’t really believe. If you did you wouldn’t question Him. If you were really His you wouldn’t struggle like this. He knows this and that’s why you’re suffering the way you are. Go put on that Dunce Cap and stand in the corner until you learn your lesson.”
What do I need to remember when I’m under that cascade of trial? Simply this: He didn’t choose me because my faith was so strong or my record meritorious. He won’t continue to love me because I believe so perfectly. He loves me because He has chosen to love me in His Son and nothing ever changes that. Yes, we suffer, sometimes grievously. But that cascade of trial is overwhelmed by a deluge of good and perfect gifts coming down from a faithful Father who loves us, no matter what.