Spiritual Mathematics (James 1:12-15)

First Baptist Church https://fbcbartow.org

“Spiritual Mathematics”

(James 1:12-15)

Series: Living the Faith [on screen]

Rev. Matthew C. McCraw, EdD

First Baptist Church, Bartow, Florida

October 29, 2017


Good morning, church.  Please be seated.

We’re so glad that each and every one of you is here today!

My name is Matt McCraw and I’m the pastor here at First Baptist Church of Bartow.

I’m glad to see you all.  If you’re a guest, please take some time to fill out the “What’s Up?” card in the bulletin.  You can drop that off in the offering plate later in the service.  We would love to have a record of your visit with us!

As we come to worship, let’s focus our hearts and minds by turning to the Word of God.

Scripture Reading

(Read Psalm 1)

1 How happy is the one who does not walk in the advice of the wicked or stand in the pathway with sinners or sit in the company of mockers! 2 Instead, his delight is in the Lord’s instruction, and he meditates on it day and night. 3  He is like a tree planted beside flowing streams that bears its fruit in its season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers. 4  The wicked are not like this; instead, they are like chaff that the wind blows away. 5 Therefore the wicked will not stand up in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous. 6 For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked leads to ruin.


(worship through music time)

Introductory Comments

Church, I can’t say how glad I am to be with you all this morning.

I’m thrilled to continue our series through James.

You’ll want to go ahead and find your place in James 1:12-15.

Remember that we’ve heard James speak to us about having joy in the midst of trials, seeking wisdom in God, and treasuring our relationship with Jesus above all the riches of this world.

Today, we’re going to hear what James says regarding the Crown of Life, temptations, and death.

Are you ready?

Ok, let’s read the passage.

Read the Passage

Read James 1:12-15

12 Blessed is the one who endures trials, because when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.13 No one undergoing a trial should say, “I am being tempted by God,” since God is not tempted by evil, and he himself doesn’t tempt anyone. 14 But each person is tempted when he is drawn away and enticed by his own evil desire. 15 Then after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and when sin is fully grown, it gives birth to death.

Let’s pray together.


When I was in school, one of my favorite subjects was math.  I’m not sure why, but I seemed to be better at math than other subjects.  Some have compared my emotional capacity to that of a robot, so perhaps that’s why I was better at math (I’ve asked Jesus to help me with my emotions, by the way).

How many of you would say that you are a math person?  How many of you would say that you are definitely not a math person?  Well, this morning we’re going to do a little math.  Now don’t get scared.  What we’re going to learn is some mathematical statements to help us understand God’s truth.

We see in James 1:12-15 that James is kind of following up the previous passage (which is natural since this is one letter) . . . he follows up his discussion on poverty and riches with verse 12 which speaks to something that is greater than both poverty and earthly riches.

He focuses the believer’s mind on what matters.

Now, as I said, I have decided to bring this sermon to you this morning in the form of a mathematics lesson.  Don’t worry if you’re not proficient at math; I’ll walk you through it.

Let’s look at the first point:

I. Trials + Endurance = Crown of Life (v. 12) [on screen]

Remember in the early part of chapter 1, James said to count it all joy when we suffer various kinds of trials.

Now James is saying that when we endure trials we are blessed.

Then, he gives the reason that we are blessed when we endure trials: we receive the crown of life.

Look at verse 12 again.

(Read James 1:12)

12 Blessed is the one who endures trials, because when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.

Well, what is the crown of life?

First of all, James’ readers would probably not have pictured a crown like that from a King Arthur movie, but rather a wreath that would be placed on the head of a victor like those worn at the early Greek games.

Further, the crown of life is not a physical crown like those that we see on this earth.

Now, that’s not to say that we won’t have physical crowns in heaven, when we are with God.  There does seem to be physical things like what we have here, only better.

However, the fact that this crown is called the crown of life means that it’s more than just a jewel or physical treasure.

This crown represents LIFE!

What James seems to mean is that our reward for faithfulness to God, for endurance through trials, will be everlasting and deeply significant life!

No matter what we go through, God will reward us for our faithfulness!

Along with eternal life with God comes abundant blessings, both spiritual and physical.  Blessings of which none of us can fully imagine.

The crown of life is not something that we hope to get; it is something that we know we will get!

This is what God has promised to those that endure through trials and remain faithful to Him.

Remember, God does not expect us to be perfect.  He does, however, expect us to be faithful; not double-minded (as we heard in the sermon a couple weeks ago).

Those who are faithful will receive the crown of life.

James then transitions to a discussion about trials, temptations, and sin.

I want you to follow this flow because it could get a little choppy if we’re not focused.

James says that if we endure trials, the crown of life awaits us.

He then says that it is a natural thought in the midst of trials, grief, and suffering to think that God may be tempting us.

James brings clarity to this thought for us.

Look at verse 13 again.

(Read James 1:13)

13 No one undergoing a trial should say, “I am being tempted by God,” since God is not tempted by evil, and he himself doesn’t tempt anyone.

This brings us to our second mathematical statement:

II. TrialsTemptation (v. 13) [on screen]

Trials do not necessarily mean that you are being tested or tempted.

James makes it clear that trials are definitely not temptation coming from God.

God is not tempted by evil, He does not cause evil, and He has no evil within Him.

It’s against God’s very nature to tempt someone towards evil.

There is no aspect of His character which we can point to, to indicate a propensity for God to tempt people towards evil.

God is repulsed by evil!  It makes no sense for Him to tempt us towards evil!


Think about it this way also.  God is holy.  He wants us to be holy.  Why would He lead us in any way that would lead us away from holiness?  He wouldn’t!

God wants to rescue us from sin, not drive us closer to it!


To clarify, God certainly does test His people.  We see that again and again in Scripture.

Let me point out a few distinctions between testing and temptation.

Testing is for the betterment of the follower of Jesus. Temptation is for the destruction of the follower of Jesus.

Testing seeks to build up.  Temptation seeks to tear down.

Testing is good.  Temptation is evil.

Pastor Richard brought this insight to me: testing is for your maturity.  Temptation is for your misery.  I like that quote.

God can use a certain situation as a moment of testing and Satan can use that same situation as a moment of temptation.

James has already told us that God can use trials to bring about maturity and to make us complete.

Likewise, Satan can use that moment for temptation.

We should seize the moment for building ourselves up, not for temptation.

Well, why then are we tempted?

James gets into that in verses 14 and 15.

(Read James 1:14-15)

14 But each person is tempted when he is drawn away and enticed by his own evil desire. 15 Then after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and when sin is fully grown, it gives birth to death.

III. Evil Desire + Sin = Death (vv. 14-15) [on screen]

After telling us that temptation does not come from God, James tells us from where it does come.

Temptation comes from evil desire that is within the hearts of mankind.  Out of desire comes sin, and out of sin comes death.

There’s something to be noted about what James says regarding the origin of temptation.

Does he say that temptation starts with the devil?  (pause) No!

He says that temptation starts with our own evil desire.

You see, even though we Christians have been set free from sin, there is still a propensity within us to sin.  We are still struggling to rid ourselves of the old sin nature.

When it comes to sin, the devil is not our main concern.  Our main concern is our own hearts!

Satan cannot force us to sin any more than a teacher can force a student to learn.  He can put the offer out there, but it is up to us whether or not we will choose to be tempted by the offer and act on the temptation.

This is important stuff!

You see although the devil is compared to a lion that is roaming around and looking to drag off and devour prey, our own evil desire can drag us away and devour us also!

As James says, “But each person is tempted when he is drawn away and enticed by his own evil desire.

So, when it comes to temptation we must realize that it starts with evil desire that is still lurking in our hearts.

The studious Bible scholar will point out something.  He or she will say, “Wait a minute preacher!”  Jesus was tempted and He didn’t have evil desire within him.  What’s up with that?!?!”

Indeed, Jesus was tempted, but I don’t believe it was the same kind of temptation.

Keep in mind that James is not writing this letter to Jesus.  He’s writing this letter to the early Jewish Christians.  He knew that they had a sinful nature.

Jesus did not have this same sinful nature, so the temptation spoken of concerning Jesus is a different type of temptation.

The Reformation Study Bible speaks of it this way.  It says, “There is . . . a difference between temptations that arise from our own sinful inclinations (those that we might call “internal”) and those coming from without (those that we might call “external”).  Jesus, being free of original sin, was tempted externally but not internally.  The testing of our faith may be the occasion for temptations to come, both internal and external, yet the temptations never have God as their author.”

I believe the temptations that Jesus experienced were what we can call “external” temptations, whereas the temptations that James is speaking of here can be considered “internal” temptations, which arise from our heart.

So, these internal temptations can lead us to sin, and sin leads to death.

We must never forget that sin leads to death.  Sin is destructive!

The first part of Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages (payment) of sin is death.” [on screen]

Sin will destroy!  It will kill you!

Romans 5:12 says, 12 Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, in this way death spread to all people, because all sinned.” [on screen]

We should realize the seriousness of the evil desire that is within us because it will lead to temptation, which will lead to sin, which will lead to death.

Concluding Thoughts:

Trials can take two paths:

Trials → Testing → Endurance → Maturity


Trials → Temptation → Sin → Death

One commentator that I read said something really helpful regarding the early Christians that James was writing to.  I believe this is true for us also.  He said, “. . . the greatest danger to James’s persecuted readers is not the wrong being done to them but the wrong they may do.”

Oh, that we would understand that church.  That we would understand that God sees our trials and has stored up for us the crown of life, if we are only faithful!  Oh, that we would see that He can give us the wisdom, the faith, and the strength to endure.  Oh, that we would avoid the temptations of our sinful hearts and avoid the death that comes from sin.

James’ message to us is one of hope: to understand God’s promises to His faithful ones and to avoid the destruction brought about by sin!

My prayer is that we would get that.


Here’s our bottom line for the week:

Bottom Line: View trials not as temptation, but as a test.  Seek the crown of life and avoid the curse of death. [on screen]


Listen to these three weekly challenges:

Weekly Challenge: [on screen]

  1. Dive into further study of God’s character [on screen]

Learn about the attributes of God.

Discover His ways.

Learn more and more.

See that He has no inkling of sin within Him.

  1. Identify where you are prone to be tempted [on screen]

Identify those areas and seek to rid yourself of that evil desire!

Avoid the situations that cause temptation; pray to God to take away the temptation; seek accountability with a brother or sister in Christ.

  1. Ask yourself, “Am I destined for the crown of life or the curse of death?” [on screen]

God wants life for you, not death!

What is your destiny?


If you’re here this morning and you’re not a follower of Jesus, I want you to know that God can save you!  He can save you from the punishment of your sin!

God does not tempt you to sin; He draws you to Himself; He calls you to repentance!

God wants to rescue you from sin.

(Gospel Presentation)

In just a moment we will have a time where you are invited to come down to the front and speak to a pastor concerning any spiritual questions that you may have.  If God is leading you to come as we sing, please do so.


Invitation Song: Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus



Join us tonight for the Fall Festival.  It will begin at 5 PM, but you can come between 2:30 and 4:00 to help set up, pray, and prepare.

Don’t forget that we have a special called business meeting next week immediately following morning worship on Sunday, November 5 to vote on recommended deacons and any remaining membership business

(Sing Doxology)

God bless you, church!  I love you!  I’ll see you tonight at the Fall Festival.

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