Truth for Your Trials

Trials are an inevitable part of life, but they’re also an opportunity for God to work. Every time we are faced with a trial or temptation, we have a choice to choose truth or lies to fight our battles with. In this message, we look at James 1 to learn the truth about our trials and temptations.

Message Transcript

Welcome, friends in the room, friends up in the Loft and in Stage 2 and in Fort Worth; El Paso; Cedar Rapids; Boise, Idaho; wherever you are tuning in from. We are wrapping up the last Porch of 2020, which is so bittersweet. What a year. We kicked off this year, and we started a series called Roaring 20s where there was a lot of anticipation and excitement. It had been a minute since we had been in the 20s. Specifically, it had been 100 years. We talked about the last time we were in the 20s as a country.

We went through how the last time it was the 20s it was called the Roaring 20s. Babe Ruth was around. Sliced bread was invented. Prohibition was a thing. Women's suffrage (holla at ya, girl) got passed, and so much has changed. As I was praying through and starting to think about tonight, I thought I would start by doing a similar thing, not for the last 100 years but for the last 11 months. Who would have thought a year ago the world we live in and the way things would look would have gone through so much change and challenges and hardships?

In the last 12 months, we saw the year kick off with the Australian brush fires, which people thought would be one of the biggest defining things of 2020. Oh, how wrong they were. Shortly after that, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle decided to quit the royal family. Who knew that was even a thing? You can just go "Deuces, Grandma. We're out of here." Then the impeachment of the president and his acquittal in January.

Then, tragically, Kobe Bryant and his daughter in a helicopter crash. Then not long after that, COVID-19 was introduced and transformed everything. Phrases like shelter in place, mask mandate, and flatten the curve went from being "What?" to things we're all very familiar with. Hundreds of thousands of people lost their lives, and millions of people lost their livelihood, their jobs, their homes, their ability to provide.

The Black Lives Matter protests after the tragic killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Jacob Blake, and the waves of protests and riots that happened after that; Chadwick Boseman's also tragic death, the Black Panther actor, after a four-year battle with cancer; Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Supreme Court justice, after serving for decades in the Supreme Court, passed away at age 87; and then the most crazy, divided election in our lifetime, maybe ever, all of which 2020 would hold.

It not only held those things, but think about the things in terms of practical life, the challenges that you, that people, that our country, that individuals have walked through. Things like going to see Grandma have become things that come with significant risk. Graduation parties were done away with; sports were done away with; weddings that never took place, or if they did, they were very small ceremonies; birthday parties that didn't happen; so much of what was normal all stripped away. This has been a year that has been full of trials.

A larger number of young adults under 30 live with their parents today than the highest number in our history, which was during the Great Depression. Fifty-two percent of young adults under 30 today live back with their parents, a sharp increase from where it was a year ago in the thirties. The number of people who have gone back onto medication or just the antidepressants and mental health challenges that have erupted… I mean, people have been walking through trials.

If that wasn't enough, there has also been increased temptation, because whenever you have to live at home…you're staying at home, you're all by yourself, you live in isolation, you're cut off from what is normal…the temptation to cope or to look for something to take the edge off only increases. So, what I want to talk about tonight as we wrap up the year… I could not think of a more timely passage in praying through how to end this year, and that is a passage in James, chapter 1, where the apostle James walks through how to handle trials and temptations.

He walks through what the truth is about trials, what the truth is about temptations, because whatever trials are behind you, the truth about living in this world is there are going to be plenty of trials in front of you. There are also going to be plenty of temptations that are just a part of living in a world with a broken sin nature or broken, self-destructive desires in your own self, and living in this world we're in.

Who knows what and when things will exactly get back to normal, and even when they do, the trials that come from living in a world that is not the way it was intended originally to be are going to be there. So, we're going to learn from James on the truth about trials, the truth about temptation, and ultimately, the truth about God to hold on to in the midst of that. We're going to be in James, chapter 1.

Here's what you have to know about James. You didn't hear this growing up in Sunday school. James was the little brother of Jesus. Jesus had at least two younger brothers, a guy named James and a guy named Jude. Think about that. However good your firstborn sibling was, it pales in comparison to living in the shadow of Jesus. Think about it. Little James, 9 years old, first century, sitting at the dinner table, Mom telling him, "Why can't you be more like Jesus?" If I'm him, I'm going, "Hey, why can't you be more like Jesus, Mom? He's the Son of God. What am I supposed to do?"

But James went through life and didn't just grow up in the shadow of his big brother. At some point, he found himself going, "Everybody else thinks this guy is the Son of God, and I don't believe it." Jesus' own brothers, his family, didn't believe he was the Son of God, which honestly makes sense. It's one of the reasons James is such a compelling argument for the resurrection and the reasons we have to believe. Here's what I mean.

Who has siblings in the room? Younger siblings? Older siblings? What would it take for you to believe your sister is the daughter of God or your brother is the son of God? Think about it. No matter how good or how kind or how perfect everything was to Jesus, if he's your sibling, you're like, "Dude, we grew up together. We went on family vacations. I know all the things. I definitely know him. Not the Son of God."

That was where James was at until, one day, he saw his brother crucified for a crime he didn't commit. His family got together and buried Jesus, this guy with a massive following. James didn't believe it. He just thought, "He's a teacher, and he's kind of out there." As they went to the funeral and were burying Jesus, his brother, sealing him away in a tomb… Three days later, James sees his sibling Jesus alive, walking around, after being killed and buried in the ground for three days, and everything changed for James.

He went from saying, "I'm telling you, it's just my brother" to "That is my Messiah. He's the Savior of the earth." James came to believe in Jesus. He writes a letter to Christians spread out throughout the Roman Empire, which is basically where all Christianity took off and took place and was birthed. He writes this letter, and it has been preserved. We have it, and we call it the book of James. It's just James' instructions to Christians everywhere trying to figure out how to live out their faith.

He launches immediately into a subject that's so timely for us. He goes, "Hey, my name is James. Let's talk about trials." And he jumps right in. What he has to say is so profoundly relevant. I think God is going to speak and God is going to give us not just handholds for where we are today but for the Christmas break, for where you're headed to in terms of temptation back at your home, for where we're headed to just in general as we walk through trials.

So, we're going to be in James, chapter 1. I'm going to start in verse 1, and we'll dive right in. "James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes scattered among the nations: Greetings. Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds…" He doesn't waste any words. He jumps right in.

"…because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance." Your translation may say endurance or patience, the ability to keep going. "Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." James launches in and says, "I want you to consider it pure joy whenever you face trials of various kinds."

The first thing I want to talk about is the truth about trials. On the surface, you read that and are like, "James, how can you say that? That's so insensitive that you would even say I should consider it an opportunity to have joy when I walk through trials; when I walk through heartbreak and the relationship doesn't work out; when I find out my mom has cancer; when I find out I have an autoimmune disease and I'm going to have to be on medication for the rest of my life; when a pandemic strikes and I lose my job. Joy? Really, James? How can you say that?"

James has given us the truth about trials. One of the things he lays out is it's not if you face trials; it's when you face trials. This is why I love the Bible. It's so unbelievably honest. In other words, there are a lot of preachers and people out there who are like, "You follow Jesus, and nothing will form against you that will ever stand. It's going to be great. Everything is going to work out. I'm believing for you, 2021," or "I'm believing for you, 2020."

Then things like 2020 happen, and they were promising things to people who have faith in Jesus that God never promised, like, "If you follow Jesus, everything is going to be easy." The Bible doesn't teach that. James launches immediately and says, "Hey, you're going to have hard things come your way, but if you let them, they can be an opportunity where because you know the purpose of those things, you can have joy in the midst of those."

The truth about trials is they're things God will use to move us toward stronger faith. Why can we have joy? Because, James says, in the midst of a trial, in the midst of a challenge…things are not going the way you want them to…something happens. Here's what he says in the verse: they are the testing of your faith. The word faith in this context… There are a lot of people who are not sure exactly what faith means or they kind of ambiguously throw it out there.

What James is saying in this context is confidence in God. That's what the word would be synonymous with. It is your confidence that God is who he says he is. He's going to do what he said he would do. He's going to do everything he promised, and he has accomplished everything he has said in his Word. That's what faith is in this context.

James is saying, every time you walk through a trial, it is putting to the test your confidence in God, your confidence that "God is good. He's in control. He has a plan for my life." What he says in his Word about this life being a vapor is true. He made me on purpose. He made me uniquely…all of the things I say I believe.

When I walk through a trial, James says, when life just feels like you're getting kicked every day, punched in the face, metaphorically speaking… When you walk through those things, it is putting to the test and revealing to you what you really believe. Not what you say you believe, not what you may be pretending to believe, not even what you were told as a child "This is what you should believe," but what you actually believe. It puts to the test your confidence in God.

James says, "It's going to reveal where and what you actually believe about God." Why could that be a good thing? The word he uses for test is the same word as in alchemy, or alchemist. It's a big word. It's basically people who work with metals and gold and diamonds and try to test what is. Like, "Is this fool's gold or is this real gold?" And what do they do to find out if it's real gold or fool's gold? They put it to a test. They determine the strength of the metal. They determine if it's real.

James says that's what trials are like. They're putting to the test what you actually believe. Why would that be a blessing? Why would that be a good thing? He says next in verse 4, "Let this testing which makes perseverance continue, or finish, its work so that you may be mature, or you may grow, and be complete, not lacking in anything." In other words, as you walk through those trials, what you're going to experience is it's going to reveal what you actually believe, and it's going to give you the opportunity to grow in your confidence in God.

When you walk through that breakup and you decide, "Despite the fact that this is not what I would have chosen, I'm going to trust you, God. I'm not going to do what everybody in my life is telling me to do, which is 'Get back on Tinder' or 'Get back with that old girl.' I'm going to actually follow what you tell me to in the Bible." As you do, you're going to grow and mature in your faith. God will allow us to move through and to face challenges and trials to grow and mature and strengthen our faith.

My daughter is 2 years old. She loves going on playgrounds, playing on the tree fort we have here at Watermark on the Dallas Campus. Every now and then, we'll go up to that tree fort, especially during COVID when it's all locked down and there's nowhere to go. It's one of the few perks of working at this place. There's nobody there. So, we'd go up there and play on that little tree fort. It's like a playground. They have these bridges you can run across, and we'd run across, and she'd play.

There's this one bridge that's not made out of wood. It's made out of these rope nets, if you will, that are kind of cross-braided together. You walk across, and it's just another form of a bridge. Because she's 2, she doesn't get, like, "Oh, I can't really fall through this, and everything is going to be okay." So, she would take a few steps and go out on the middle of this bridge, and then she would panic and just go ballistic and be screaming for her father to come pick her up and get her off this net.

As her dad… Here's a weird thing about parenting. There are times where you have to let them learn on their own. "That net is not going to fall. You're going to be just fine. Come on, baby girl. Keep going. You've got this." She doesn't want to, and she's not sure it can hold her, but as her dad, I'm going, "I know it can hold you. Keep moving." In the same way, in moments of trial, God will allow us to go through trials that we wouldn't choose but that he will use to show us that he is enough.

Every trial in your life, James would say, is an opportunity for you to grow in your confidence. Everything you say you believe is going to be exposed, and you'll find out what you actually believe. In those moments, if you choose to trust God and you keep walking, you're going to find, just like that rope is more than strong enough, he is more than strong enough to hold you, to get you through it. James says that's why you and I can have pure joy.

The other blessing… And this is a huge encouragement this past year, because everybody has been through trials. Everyone has been through a lot of trials. If you made it out without facing one, man, we need to have you teach next week. We'll extend The Porch next week. I think one gift it has given to us is that as those trials have come, we get to discover, "Oh man. These are some areas of my life and my faith where I don't actually believe God is who he says he is."

We've all been confronted with how the chaos and uncertainty and just challenges of life expose some of the places where we may not really believe God is who he says he is. In that test, we discover where we are. It's like this. There are two types of exercise tests when you enroll in Orangetheory or CrossFit or Bar Method or whatever other fitness class out there.

You go in, and the first day they're going to have you do a fitness test. What's a fitness test for? It's to basically show you how out of shape you are. They have you do this test, and they go through it, and it's for the point of discovering where you are so you can get to where you want to be. That's the entire point of it. It's for you to discover, "Oh, this is where I'm at. If I want to get to a fitness goal, I've got to know where I'm actually at in order for me to get there."

This year has been a chance where God, through the trials and testing, has given us the ability to discover, "Man, I really don't trust him with my singleness. I really don't believe his way for sex is right, and I really don't think pornography is that big of a deal. I really don't think it's that big of a deal to smoke marijuana every once in a while. I really don't think it's that important to date the type of person God says." All of us, in the midst of trials, in the midst of the things we turn to, in the midst of the decisions that maybe are a by-product of being in the midst of what we are, we discover where we are.

Here's what I want you to know. We're going to get to this in a second. Wherever you are, the best encouragement I would give you is "Be honest." Just be honest with where you are, going, "Hey, you know what? I really don't believe God is as good as he says he is. I really don't believe I should date the way he says we should date. I really don't believe sex outside of marriage is that big of a deal." If you want to move to the direction of actually growing in your character, growing in your faith, you have to acknowledge where you are now.

James says if you want to grow and you want to mature, it begins with knowing, "Hey, what do I actually believe? What do I actually think? What am I learning about myself in the midst of…?" I know, for me, I do not like being controlled. People tell me to wear a mask. I don't want to wear a mask just because you told me to wear a mask. There's something that's broken inside of me. I realized when people tell me what to do, I just want to turn into a street fighter and be like, "I'm going to tell you what to do."

That is not okay and an area where I need to have God take ground. There's pride, there's anger, there's selfishness, and I don't want to be that man. I don't know what it is for you, but one of the encouragements I would give you is to take an honest evaluation. Where are you? What do you actually believe? Where do you actually need God to take ground?

The second thing he walks us through is temptation. After covering trials and what it looks like to walk through that, he says this. James, chapter 1, verse 13: "When tempted, no one should say, 'God is tempting me.'" He begins to talk about temptation. He says anytime temptation comes, you can cross one thing out. God never tempts people, so it's not God.

"For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death." So, James begins to unpack temptation. The Greek words for trial and temptation are crazy close. In the Greek, there's a little bit of a play on words, but don't get distracted by that.

The point is he begins unpacking temptation, and he gives us the truth about temptation. I think a lot of us, when we think of temptation… People will use language like, "You know, I was just on my way over here, and this guy cut in front of me, and I was like, 'Not today, Satan! You're not going to have your way with me, Devil!'" We're quick to point out that temptation comes from out there, and James says, "No, no, no. There's plenty of temptation that comes from in here."

He doesn't mention the Devil. He says, "Here's how temptation works," and he walks through and says it happens on the inside. The truth about temptation is it comes from within and we fight it with the truth. I'll cover that in a second. The Bible says it comes from within. What do I mean by that? This will make so much sense. Honestly, if you're not a Jesus follower, what I'm about to share right now… I don't know how you make sense of this, because what the Bible teaches…

The reason temptation comes from within is it says we have something called a sin nature. What's a sin nature? It means sin comes naturally. In other words, I don't have to work to sin. It comes very easily. Nobody has ever said, "You know what? 2021 is going to be my year. I'm going to lust more than ever. I'm going to be angry more than ever. I'm really working on upping my selfishness game. I find myself always being the selfless guy, and I really need to work on being a little bit more selfish."

No one has ever done that. Why? Think about that. Why is it so easy for you to be a jerk? Why is it so easy for you to be anxious and so self-focused and so self-obsessed? Apart from the Bible, how do you explain that? Why can't we just all in neutral be like, "Yeah. I'm just so happy all the time. Life is great"? Why is that not possible? Why don't I have to work at lusting after other people? It just comes naturally. The Bible would say it's because you have a sin nature.

If you're going to fight temptation, you have to understand where it's coming from, which is within. One of the key ways it comes is not from Satan; it comes from within. He uses two analogies. The first is fishing: lured, enticed, and dragged away. This is how temptation works. You see some sort of bait. You begin to go, "That doesn't seem that bad" or "I'm interested in that," just like a fish seeing bait, and all of a sudden, you're going closer and closer and closer, and you're lured and hooked.

It's pretty important to know the way temptation works is it always disguises itself as something appealing. He says, "By your own desires." This is how temptation works. It appeals to the things you want, things you desire. In other words, temptation when it comes, if you were to put it in a food analogy, so to speak… Temptation doesn't disguise itself as kale salad walking around, like, "Oh, look at me. No salad dressing. Just salt and pepper. Delicious." That never happens.

Temptation is going to come much more, to use a metaphor, like this Hostess cake that you scarfed down when you were in second grade. It just pops up, and you're going to be more tempted… It's going to come in the form of something that… "Man, that is appealing to me." In other words, temptation when it shows up… And this is so huge, because a lot of us are going to think, "If temptation is there, I would totally see it, and I would know it."

He says that's the thing with temptation. You don't even realize you're beginning to be pulled in. You're walking past it, and all of a sudden, you're hungry. You're sitting there. You're like, "Hey, despite the fact that everybody else is eating one of these Hostess things, I don't eat it. It's not for me. I don't want that. It's not that good." Slowly by slowly, you just begin to go, "Man, that… Maybe just a little bit of icing here. I mean, I've already tried it, so I might as well have a little bit more. Look. Who even agreed this was going to be the standard I would hold myself to?"

Slowly by slowly, in and in. James says, eventually, you're hooked. It doesn't seem that way in the moment. You don't even see it, and you're just going, "Man, it's just a little bit. It's not that big of a deal. It doesn't really matter." Pretty soon, at the end of every temptation, he says, you're lured, enticed, hooked.

This is why the first time you smoke a cigarette, it's like a huge buzz. It's like, "Oh man. Wow. That was awesome." Second time, it's not nearly as much. Third time, fourth time… Or vaping or e-cigs or whatever you want to call it. It's kind of the same thing. Eventually, you get to the place where you're like, "I can't even be normal without a cigarette. I can't even focus." James would say, "Lured, enticed, hooked."

This is why you find yourself at home… You came home, and your roommate is not there. You're walking around, and you're like, "Oh man. We're supposed to go to dinner. We're going in a little bit. There's nobody here. I've got my phone. You know what? I can't leave yet, even though I know I probably shouldn't be here. I struggle with pornography, and I'm all alone.

I just had a hard day, and when I have a hard day I'm tempted to turn to porn, honestly, because it kind of lets me numb. I'm supposed to go to dinner, but I've got to charge my phone, so I'm going to hang a little bit longer and charge my phone. I've got to switch the laundry out. Maybe I'll just sit while I'm waiting and check Instagram. There's a bikini pic." Step-by-step, I'm back into porn.

That's why in the dating relationship it's like, "Hey, we're not going all the way. We don't actually have sex. We just love each other. I mean, it would be wrong if we weren't so attracted to each other. Right? We're going to get married. We're pretty much married in God's eyes." Crossed boundary, crossed boundary, crossed boundary, and now we're sleeping together. We can't even make it work without sex in the relationship. James would say, you took a little bite, took a little bite, and you're hooked.

He says it's the way temptation works every time. You have to know it's not going to come like, "Oh, I clearly see it luring me in right now." That's the challenge. You can't see the hook. You just see what's on the outside. You just see the thing that's appealing to you. But every time you and I walk down the path of sin… He uses another illustration of what comes forward. It's such a sobering… Like, "Oh man! You went from fishing to that?"

He says this in verse 15 after saying they're lured by their own desire: "Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin…" In other words, after that desire and you're like, "Oh man, I want that, I want that, I want that," it brings forth and has conception. He uses pregnancy language. After that conception takes place, that sin, when it's full-grown, gives birth to something too. It gives birth to death.

It's eerily similar to him describing what maybe you've known people who have walked through or you're familiar with, which is a miscarriage; that moment where there's a pregnancy, and you're excited, and it seems like there's life there, and then what's brought forward is not alive. It's dead. That's what I mean by it's jarring, it's sobering. James says that's what sin is like. It's like, "Oh, this is going to be awesome. There's life here," and then there's shame, regret, disappointment.

"Man, I live for the party, going for the weekend. It's going to be amazing." Every time, where you think there's life, afterward comes death, the hangover. He says every time sin takes place, there's a hook, and eventually it destroys relationships and brings death. You hear about people who have affairs outside of their marriage. It feels like every other week somebody comes out and they're having an affair.

Do you know what they weren't experiencing in the moment where they were having an affair? Death. They weren't thinking, "Oh man, this is so terrible. I want to keep doing this." They were thinking, "Man, despite the fact that I know this is wrong, it feels like there's life here." Then you see them on camera. You see their children crying, you see their family ruined, and you're like, "And it brought forth death." James says you have to understand the truth about temptation. If you follow it, that's where it leads.

So, how do we fight temptation? The Bible is very clear. The way we fight temptation is with the truth. That feels like a really easy thing to say, but over and over and over again, it says the way you and I battle or live out our Christian faith… We don't live according to our sin nature; we live according to our God nature, the new spirit life. Those may be words you're not familiar with. You're back in church. But let me explain it as clearly as I can.

We begin to learn how God says we should think about stuff. How do we do that? In God's Word. In other words, the Bible over and over and over (we don't have time to go through it) says… How do you live out your faith? How do you live out the new life? How do you fight temptation? With the truth.

Jesus was tempted three times in Matthew, chapter 4. He's out in the wilderness. The Devil comes up and gives him these three temptations. It's a pretty crazy story. Every time, Jesus responds with the Word of God. He says, "That temptation that appeals to me… Here's what God's Word says." The Bible says the way you and I live out the new life is by beginning to transform the way we think by living, knowing, reading God's Word.

In Psalm 119, David writes, "How can a young person stay on the path of purity?" He means purity sexually, but he also means just the path of pure life. "By living according to your word." Hello. "I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. I have hidden your word in my heart…" David speaking. "I've taken your Word and hidden it in there. I read it, and I hold on to it, and I try to live by it." "…that I might not sin against you."

In order for you to live by God's Word, in order for you to… "Hey, I'm not going to fall for those temptations. I'm going to begin to transform my life." You have to know God's Word, because you can't live with it if you don't know it. In order for you to know it, you have to read it, spend time in it.

Tonight, we're going to give anybody who wants one a Bible. We have thousands of them out there. They're NET. They're great Bibles. If you don't have a Bible, that's our gift to you. Even if you have one and you want a new one, it's a gift to you. This break is a great opportunity for you to begin to go, "I am going to spend time every day with God in his Word." Let me challenge you. If you've never done that before, here we go. Ready for this?

I dare you, for 31 days (that's December), read a proverb a day. There are 31 of them. You can do one every day. If you miss one, pick it up the next day, and you're still marching through. That means I open up Proverbs 1. That's what I do December 1. Proverbs 2, December 2. Some of you guys are like, "I'm not a 101. I'm a 201 level." You could do that and walk through the book of John. If you're like, "Man, extra credit; challenge me," read all of the Gospels before The Porch returns. It's not that much, people. You could do it tonight. All of them.

Spend time reading, studying, applying. As you cross through something that intersects with… Here's the deal. The problem with most people when it comes to the Bible and "I don't really like to read it…" It isn't that the Bible contradicts itself, because it doesn't. It's that it contradicts them. Every time that happens, I want you to circle it and write it out and go, "Yeah, this is not what I think in neutral or not how I normally live."

And you begin to go, "God, help me to live out your Word. Help me to apply the truth." Behind every attractive temptation is a lie, and the way we fight that is in that moment knowing, "This is the truth. I can go down this path. I can look at pornography. I can have an affair. I can get wasted again, but that is not just a moment; that is a path I'm stepping on."

I begin to go through in my mind, "What is the truth?" He calls me to live according to his Word; to not set my eyes on anything impure, Job 31 says; to be sober minded in all things. I begin to rehearse and live out the truth. So, if you don't have a Bible, you can go do that. Others of you… Here's what I want to do as it relates to truth. This is going to be an acronym. I hope it's really helpful and really profound.

Honestly, if you do the next three minutes worth of stuff, your entire break… Your future may change with what I'm about to do. If the way we experience freedom from temptation is the truth, one of the challenges we have is drilling the truth into our hearts and ripping out the lies. So, what I want to do is give an acronym of the word truth. Truth is a choice that you have a decision to apply and live out.

So, what does it start with? It starts with U. Anytime you experience an ungodly behavior in your life… This could be, "Man, when I think about my singleness, I begin to freak out, and I panic. I get on 18 dating apps, and I honestly make up various fake identities, and I'm like, 'I'll do whatever you want.'" Whatever that is for you…

Or maybe you're like, "I just get angry when I'm driving in traffic, and I punch my steering wheel" or "I'm addicted to pornography" or "My girlfriend and I messed up again." I want to walk through whatever the ungodly behavior is. So, you just write that out. You fill in the blank. "This is the ungodly behavior."

Behind all ungodly behavior, there's a trigger. There's something that triggered you to go there. That's the T: the trigger or triggers. There's one thing or many things. There could be dozens of things behind it. Beneath that, there is a rooted belief. I'm going to explain all of this. This is life transforming for me. There are rooted beliefs that are informing what leads to the behavior that's here. There are rooted beliefs, wrong beliefs.

It could be wrong beliefs about God. It could be unrealistic expectations about the world. It could be just irrational beliefs. This is where I have to expose what is driving or informing the ungodly behaviors in my life. Then the truth from God's Word. That's the next T. I have to replace the roots with the truth. I have to take out God's Word. "Here's what it actually says." I'll walk through a couple of examples.

Then H, which is helpful future response. What's a helpful future response as I think about this? In other words, "Hey, I want to change this behavior. Every time I get panicked, I turn to something I don't want to turn to. Every time I get overwhelmed at work, I turn to pornography. Every time I get stressed, I do a booty call." Whatever it is for you. "I don't want to do this anymore. I want to actually grow."

If you're in the room and you're like, "Actually, I'd like to change," this is for you. If you're in the room and you're like, "Actually, I'd like to get worse," not for you. Tune out the next five minutes. But here for those who do. Let's say you struggle with road rage. You're driving down the road. Somebody cuts you off in traffic. Boom! You're punching the steering wheel, punching your console. Words come out, and you're like, "I can't believe it."

You're flying by, giving them the bird, and you're like, "What's messed up with you?" You have the fish on the back of your car and everything else. Anyway, you have the ungodly behavior, and you're like, "Man, why did that happen?" Well, you would say, "What triggered me is a guy cut me off on the way there." Maybe that's one of them. That's probably one of them. It seems like it's one of them.

It could be some other things. Maybe you had a stressful call, a stressful email, something related to your boss where you were like, "He's such a jerk." That also triggered you. You're disappointed with whatever is going on in life. There could be several triggers. Most people stop there, and they go, "Do you know what would make my hands stop bleeding from punching things whenever someone cuts me off? If people would learn how to drive! That's what would make me stop bleeding." Nope.

In fact, to focus on the triggers, whether it's anxiety, the things that make you feel that way, is really a useless thing, because you live in a messed-up world. You're going to reduce triggers sometimes. You can just take Ubers everywhere, I guess, but it's not realistic. You have to focus on the root beliefs. What are the rooted beliefs that are underneath that?

Maybe it's just wrong beliefs about "Hey, God, you promised me an easy life. People shouldn't be cutting me off as I'm driving." He didn't promise you that. He said in this world you're going to have trouble. Maybe it's just an irrational, unrealistic expectation that everybody should learn how to drive the speed limit and watch where they're going. That's irrational. You don't do that. There's something where you have to expose and go, "Man, that is off."

Ultimately, maybe it's just selfishness. You're really selfish, and you want your way, and you don't want anyone else to do the things that bother you. You're selfish. So, then you take those and begin to go, "God says, 'Do nothing out of selfish ambition.' God says this life is not about me. God says, 'In this world you're going to have trouble. People are going to cut you off. People are going to end up driving straight into you. You're not promised anything.'" You begin to rehearse and go through all of those truths in correspondence with the root beliefs that are there.

Then I walk through… This is the most helpful pre-game of all time. This is kind of afterward. Your hand is bleeding there, and you're like, "Oh, I need to think of a better response to this." I go through a helpful future response. By pre-game, I mean, I'm thinking on what next time I'm going to do when that happens again. "They're going to cut me off. Do you know what I'm going to do? I'm going to breathe. I'm going to change lanes." There you go. Problem solved.

"I'm going to rehearse, God, that you tell me the anger of man does not accomplish the righteousness of God. I'm going to walk through Scriptures where you tell me to be slow to be angry. I'm going to pray for that person. They're going to cut me off, and I'm going to be tempted to be angry. I'm going to pray for them." You're walking through, anticipating, "This is what I'm going to do."

Maybe you would say, "I struggle with anxiety. I just get overwhelmed with anxiety about singleness. I find myself in an ungodly or unwanted emotion. Do you know what triggered it? I pulled up my friend on Instagram. Just got engaged. Now I'm overwhelmed. I'm going to be alone. Another one bites the dust, and here I am headed to be cat lady. I just feel a spiral." Maybe that's part of it. Maybe the other trigger is you just got broken up with. You just got out of a relationship. You haven't been asked out in years.

So when you see that, you begin to spiral and spiral and spiral. You may think, "I just need to get rid of Instagram. I need to get friends who are not…" What you need to do is focus on the root beliefs that are beneath that. Maybe your belief is, "Hey, God, if I will follow you, husband or wife should be brought into my life, and you're not giving me that." He never promised that. Maybe for you it's the idea that you've bought the lie or the wrong belief that "A life where I don't get married is not a life worth living." That's a lie.

Jesus had the most abundant, fulfilled, perfect life of all time. He never married. You've bought a lie. I don't know what it is for you, but you have to dig to that root belief. Then you go, "What's the truth from God's Word?" The truth from God's Word is "If I never get married, Jesus is enough. That relationship has the ability to satisfy any person and any heart and allow me to walk through any hardship I face."

The idea that life is not worth living… I'm going to replace it with the truth. "God, your Word tells me this life is a vapor. It's not about me. What I'm going to experience for all of eternity pales in comparison to focusing here." Then I'm going to walk through a helpful future response. Next time I see the Instagram pic, I'm just going to say, "God, will you help me right now? I feel a little bit discouraged. Will you help me to find my hope in you? I'm going to trust in you."

Then I'm going to go comment and say, "[Heart, heart, heart.] Love this. So excited for you and Steve." And I'm walking through. Some of you, truly… You need to spend the next 30 days, and you need to do this. You have an addiction or, honestly, just some real dysfunction. You need to begin to go, "God, will you search me and know me and help me walk through this?"

Some of you, honestly, shouldn't date right now, because there are so many triggers and so many bad, toxic, messed-up beliefs that are underneath. The reason you get into a relationship and you're like, "Yes, I'm trying to follow God, and he's a great guy," and all of a sudden, three days later you're sleeping together is because something triggers that ungodly behavior.

It's like, "I feel like I've learned my whole life wrong beliefs that in order to be loved I need to give sex. I got the impression he may not love me, so I go and give him sex." You shouldn't be dating right now, because you need to root out those beliefs with the truth from God's Word before you're ready to date and move forward. The way we fight temptation is with the truth.

Finally, he ends with one of the most helpful reminders of all of them. "Don't be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters." I love this. I want you to think about the last 11 months. I want you to think about just life. James would write to you what he wrote to these people facing trial and temptation. "Don't be deceived. Don't let anyone trick you. Don't fall for the lie." What lie, James?

"Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights [the stars] , who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth [the gospel]` , that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created."

James goes in, and he ends with, "Hey, hold on to the truth about God. As you walk through trials, as you walk through temptations, you have to hold on to the truth about who your God is, the truth about your God. He is good. He's not far. He's in control. Every good thing in this life, every good thing imaginable comes from him, and he only gives good things." He walks through and points those things out. Don't buy the lies of temptation that there could be anything good that is disconnected from God. Our God only gives good things. I'm going to explain how he can say that, how we can know that, how we could even believe that.

My son is 5 years old, and a couple of nights ago we were watching this movie. It was Arthur Christmas, which I had never seen before. I'm not recommending. I'm not opposing. But we were watching it, and in the movie… It's a Christmas show, and it's about Santa Claus and Santa coming. At some point, Santa is in the house. Don't get distracted by it, but Santa is walking around, and he has the elves. It's like a twenty-first century version of Santa, so he's suited up and has a lot of technology.

The house they're in… The boy wakes up, and Santa is in the bedroom. Santa is afraid he's going to get found, so he dives on the floor and is lying at the foot of the bed hiding from the little boy. It's an average scene. Not really much to talk about…unless you're 5 and your greatest fear in life is something hiding underneath your bed or at the foot of your bed. So, he begins to play through this tape in his mind. I go upstairs. I put him down to bed. I don't know he's playing that tape. I read him a story. Bedtime prayers. "Good night, son. Love you."

"Dad, why was Santa at the foot of the bed?"

"Oh, Santa was at the foot of the bed… No, Santa doesn't come into kids' bedrooms."

"Is Santa underneath my bed, Dad? I don't want him in my bed, Dad."

He's walking through, and he's terrified. I'm trying to explain Santa. Normally, a 1-year-old is terrified of Santa, but a 5-year-old… "Santa is going to break into our house? That doesn't feel safe, Dad." I'm trying to explain, like, "No, no, no." Because he's still trying to get even Santa Claus. A story for another time.

But as it relates to that, I'm going, "No, no, no. Santa only comes down the chimney. There's a secret about Santa I'll tell you someday, but Santa just brings good gifts. He just brings good things. You don't have to be afraid. He's not going to stop by your room." "Please don't let him stop by my room, Dad." He only brings good things.

What happened was he got this wrong impression of what Santa was like, as though Santa was real anyway. But he saw this wrong version of it, and he held on to that. He couldn't wrap his mind around, "No, no, no. Santa brings good things. Santa is jolly. He's great. He has the reindeer." He held on to a wrong version of him. He couldn't see that, no, he brings good things into your life.

James says to his audience, and he would say to you and to me, "Hold on to the right version of your God. Don't interpret God through the lens of your circumstances. Interpret your circumstances through the lens of who your God is. Your God is good. Every good thing in this life, every good thing that has ever existed comes from one place, from one source, and that is God. He's not only good; he's great. He's the Father of lights." What does that mean? It's the Father of the stars.

James points out he's the God of the cosmos. He's the God of all that is. He's the God of existence. He's not just good. He is great. In the face of temptation, you have to hold on. In the face of trials, you have to hold on. Because what do we all question? In the midst of trials, we question, "Where are you, God? How long are you going to let this happen? Do you even care what I'm walking through?" We begin to question, "Are you really good?" James says, "Don't get a wrong version of who your God is. He's good."

Then he lays out the most beautiful verse and powerful truth you have to hold on to. James would say, "Here's how I know he's good. Here's how you can know he's good: because it was him who chose to give us birth." That's talking about new life. He's talking to Christians. He's saying, "This is what God did for you. You didn't do this. I didn't do this for you. Your mama didn't do this for you. God chose to give us birth through the Word of truth." That's the gospel.

That's the message, that God came into this world to die for you and me, for sinners everywhere. You don't earn your way to God. He extended an invitation where he paid for your sins. He says, "Everyone is welcome. I paid for your sin. I paid for everything messed up you've ever done, and if you will trust not in how good you are, how many times you've been in church, or whatever bad things you've done to make you think I don't love you… If you'll trust in what I did on the cross for you, paying for your sin and rising from the dead, you will have eternal life. You will be born again."

James says, "You didn't choose that." When you walk through trials, you remember who your God is. You didn't work your way into relationship with him, which means you can't work your way or sin your way out of it. It was God who chose to give you new birth. It was God who started all of this. He's the one who gave his life, who started this work in you. He's not going to let you go. He says, "None who are in my hand will ever be able to escape."

So, when you walk through trials, when you walk through temptations, when you feel down and out, you remember who your God is. He's the same yesterday, today, and forever. There's no shifting or shadows in the midst of him. He's the Father of lights who's in control, and he loves you. James says when you're tempted to believe he's not good and his way is not good, hold on to the truth about your God. That's the third idea.

Just like you didn't choose to be born from your parents, no one who is a follower of Jesus chose that. God allowed that to happen. I have two kids. Neither one of them played any role in coming into existence. Mama and Daddy played that role. They didn't choose it. They just got brought along. James says he chose. That's the message of the Bible. He chose. Every Christian, every person… They don't get credit for it.

This is why it's such unbelievably good news that you cannot escape, outrun, work yourself out of a relationship with God if you've trusted in him. You can hold on to that hope no matter what 2021 has, no matter what the rest of this year has. James says, "Hold on to the truth about your God no matter what you face and what you walk through…what he has done and what he will do." He is good. How do I know? He proved it when he gave his life for you, for me, for anyone who will simply accept it on the cross. Let me pray.

I want to do something we don't often do here. I want to invite you to close your eyes. I know every single week there are hundreds of young adults who join us who are here for the first time, many of whom have never had a moment where they put their faith in Jesus and trusted in what Jesus did on the cross.

I have felt this burden from the Lord that there are some in this room who, tonight, feel God calling you into a relationship with him, inviting you to step out of the darkness of your life, out of the pain, out of whatever it is, and into his forgiveness, that you could experience at a soul level beginning to be healed, forgiven, and what Jesus would say, completely righteous. No matter what you did today, what you do tomorrow or 20 years from now, you will be forgiven in a moment, and it only happens one way: by receiving the free gift Jesus gave us on the cross.

I would hate to end 2020 without giving a chance for you to make the most significant and important decision you're going to make for the rest of your life, which is to put your faith in Christ. The invitation God has given to say, "I'm a sinner. I acknowledge I don't deserve to have a relationship with a perfect, holy God, but if what is written in the Bible and the gospel is true, that you made a way for me to have that relationship by giving your life for me, I just want to accept that free gift by faith. I'm putting my trust not in me but in Jesus."

If you're in that place, I want to invite you right now to raise your hand. Everybody's eyes are closed. I want to lead you in a prayer. You're going to make the most important, significant decision you're going to make for the rest of your life. Wherever you are, raise your hand if you're ready to say, "I'm going all in. I'm ready to accept God's grace, his forgiveness. It was for me. I want to make the most important decision I'm going to make."

Those who have raised hands, I'm going to pray, and wherever you're at, quietly, you can pray after me. The prayer doesn't save you. The prayer is a reflection of the faith you are expressing at a heart level. There are no magic words. It's putting your trust in Jesus. Wherever you're at, quietly to yourself, as loud as you want…

Father, I know I'm a sinner. I know I don't deserve to have a relationship with a holy and perfect God, but I'm putting my trust in what you did through sending your Son Jesus to die the death I deserved after living a life of perfection I couldn't live, and he did that for me. I'm putting all of my faith, all of my trust, all of my hopes of eternity on no one other than Jesus and his death and his resurrection. I thank you that because he rose again, I will rise and live forever with you in eternity. Take my life. Use it, and make me more like your Son, my Savior, Jesus. In his name we pray, amen.

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