Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when 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 tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death. (James 1:12-15)
The crown of life is like the victory wreath given to winning athletes (1 Cor. 9:25). God's crown of life is not glory and honor here on earth, but the reward of eternal life - living with God forever. The way to be in God's winners' circle is by loving Him and staying faithful even under pressure. The believer who endures trials demonstrates that they love Jesus and therefore will receive the crown of life (Rev. 2:10) at the judgment seat of Christ. The Bible describes the believer’s reward (2 Cor. 5:10; Rev. 22:12) under various vivid images such as precious metals (1 Cor. 3:8–14), garments (Rev. 3:5, 18; 19:7–8), and crowns (1 Cor. 9:25; Rev. 2:10; 3:11).
The focus of the chapter turns from trials (James 1:2–12) to temptations (James 1:13–18). Temptation comes from evil desires inside us, not from God. It begins with an evil thought and becomes sin when we dwell on the thought and allow it to become an action. Like a snowball rolling downhill, sin grows more destructive the more we let it have its way. The best time to stop a temptation is before it is too strong or moving too fast to control (Matt. 4:1-11; 1 Cor. 10:13; 2 Tim. 2:22).
God will never deliberately lead a person to commit sin because that would not only go against His nature, but it would be opposed to His purpose of molding His creation into His holy image. Yet God does sometimes place His people in adverse circumstances for the purpose of building godly character (Gen. 22:1, 12).
People who live for God often wonder why they still have temptations. Does God tempt them? God tests people, but He does not tempt them by trying to seduce them into sin. God allows Satan to tempt people, however, in order to refine their faith and to help them grow in their dependence on Christ. We can resist the temptation to sin by turning to God for strength and choosing to obey His Word.
Drawn away and enticed express the intensity with which desire lures an individual until they are tragically entrapped. Sin does not force itself on the unwilling, but is chosen because of its attractions. This idea is vividly illustrated by the tragic path of an addict: a habit once acquired by an individual in the end completely controls that person. Full-grown suggests bringing a goal to completion. The idea here is that sin has reached its maturity and has possessed the very character of the individual. Death here refers to physical death (Prov. 10:27; 11:19; Rom. 8:13).
It is easy to blame others and make excuses for evil thoughts and wrong actions. Some of the more common excuses are: (1) It's the other person's fault. (2) I couldn't help it. (3) Everybody's doing it. (4) It was just a mistake. (5) Nobody's perfect. (6) The devil made me do it. (7) I was pressured into it. (8) I didn't know it was wrong. And, (9) God is tempting me. A person who makes excuses is trying to shift the blame from themselves to something or someone else. A Christian, on the other hand, accepts responsibility for their wrongs, confesses them, and asks God for forgiveness.
Father God, it is my prayer today that whatever trials I go through or whatever temptations the devil puts before me, that I will continue to focus on You. I ask you Lord to give me the strength and courage to take responsibility for my actions and to humbly come to you for forgiveness if I sin against You. Search my heart Lord for anything that would be a stumbling block to others and allow Your Holy Spirit to shine through me. I pray this all in Jesus' name. Amen.
References: NKJV Holy Bible, Life Application Bible (NIV), the Nelson Study Bible.