Fifteenth-century monk Thomas à Kempis, in the beloved classic The Imitation of Christ, offers a perspective on temptation that might be a bit surprising. Instead of focusing on the pain and difficulties temptation can lead to, he writes, “[temptations] are useful because they can make us humble, they can cleanse us, and they can teach us.” Kempis explains, “The key to victory is true humility and patience; in them we overcome the enemy.”
Humility and patience. How different my walk with Christ would be if that were how I naturally responded to temptation! More often, I react with shame, frustration, and impatient attempts to get rid of the struggle.
But, as we learn from James 1, the temptations and trials we face don’t have to be without purpose or merely a threat we endure. Although giving in to temptation can bring heartbreak and devastation (vv. 13–15), when we turn to God with humble hearts seeking His wisdom and grace, we find He “gives generously to all without finding fault” (v. 5). Through His power in us, our trials and struggles to resist sin build perseverance, “so that [we] may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (v. 4).
As we trust in Jesus, there’s no reason to live in fear. As God’s dearly loved children, we can find peace as we rest in His loving arms even as we face temptation.
James begins his letter to dislocated and troubled followers of Jesus by urging them to ask for wisdom in living as His followers (1:5, 19–22). But how will they recognize such divine help? After briefly discussing a series of difficult relational challenges, James describes a wisdom grounded in humility rather than self-centeredness (3:13–16). Wisdom from God is peace-loving, considerate, willing to listen, full of mercy and goodness, and without prejudice or hypocrisy (v. 17).