Yesterday evening I read these words on a friend's Facebook status: "Blessed is anyone who endures temptation. Such a one has stood the test and will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him." (James 1:12)
We are all subject to temptation. It comes at us every day. It comes to us as a cheeseburger, fries, and a coke. It comes as the big office in the corner. It comes as the office flirt who stops by too many times to say, "hi." It comes as the house that the realtor says, "Yeah, you can afford it." It comes as a cheat sheet on a final exam. It comes as another hour of TV. Temptations are never the same for every person because as James says, "One is tempted by one's own desire, being lured and enticed by it; then, when that desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and that sin, when fully grown, gives birth to death." (James 1:14-15)
I know this reality all too well. I gave into my temptations. I let them grow within me and gave into that which did not produce life, but rather death. I did not endure temptation. It almost destroyed me, it almost destroyed my marriage, it almost destroyed much of what I really love. My temptation had grown into sin and sin was giving birth to death. I even could justify my actions to myself biblically using St. Paul's words, "I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate." (Romans 7:15) I did exactly what many people do and pull the one verse as my justification and did not take the full lesson. He continues, "Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me." (Romans 7:20) Again, I find that I was being consumed by my temptations, my desire, my own sin.
For those of you playing along at home, we Christians are in the middle of Holy Week. This is the time where we remember and celebrate Jesus' last days before his death on the cross and his resurrection from the dead. I am here because I participate in Christ's death as a sinner. I was not strong enough to resist temptation and sin on my own. He died because I was not enough on my own. Under my own strength, I simple find death. Paul found himself in the same position and said, "Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!" (Romans 7:24-25) It is Christ who rescues me from this body of death. It is the presence of the Holy Spirit, and the many saints in our daily lives, who help fulfill the prayer, "deliver us not into temptation."
Every day, as I find myself again giving myself to the will of God and the strength of the Holy Spirit, I find myself being recreated and resurrected in and with Jesus. Yes, temptations still abound. Yes, I am still weak. Yes, I cannot make it on my own. Yes, this change still scares me (see last week's blog). But not changing, not growing, not finding life abundant, that would only mean death.