My brothers, count it all joy when you fall into divers temptations;…
Of what temptations, think you, was the apostle speaking? Did he mean, think you, that we were to "count it all joy," when we were tempted to the things which are pleasurable to our fleshly appetites, our senses, our pride, but which displease God? Even these temptations may be turned to good by the overpowering grace of God, because every trial in which, by His grace, we stand does bring us larger grace and greater favour of God. But out of such temptations it is a joy to have passed. But there is no joy to fall into them; because even apart from the issue, whether we conquer or are conquered, there is the separate peril whether, by a momentary consent, we displease God. What were, then, the temptations into which the early Christians were chiefly exposed to fall, into which the apostle bids them "count it all joy" to fall? St. Paul recounts them where he speaks of these things which, by the grace of Christ, shall not separate from the love of Christ (Romans 8:35-37; Romans 5:3). But why, then, are we to count such temptations as these joy? Why is it to be a joy to have to forego what flesh and blood desire, to do what flesh and blood shrink from?
1. First (which contains all), it is a token of the love of God. It is a badge of our sonship, an earnest of our future inheritance. To be without trial would be to be neglected by God. To have trial is a proof that God is thinking of us, caring .for us, giving us something which may approve us to Him. It is not the happy lot to have few troubles. The greatest friends of God had most and the heaviest. The happiest lot is to receive in peace, whether more or fewer, what God permits, and by His grace to endure, and to be more than conquerors through Christ that loved us; strengthened by our very conflicts, proofs against temptations through temptations; abounding in grace through the victories of grace, cleaving close to God by overcoming that which would separate us from Him.
2. Then, suffering likens us to Christ; it is a portion of the Cross of Christ.
3. Then, trouble bursts the bonds of this life and shows us the nothingness of all created things. Trouble drives the soul into itself, teaches it to know itself and its own weakness, rouses it when torpid, humbles it when it lifts itself up, strengthens the inner man, softens the heart, cuts off offences, guards virtues. Yet not only are those severer troubles channels of God's grace to the soul, but even temptation itself, when the soul hates it, purifies it. Then only is temptation dangerous when it is pleasant. Then flee it, as worse than a serpent, for it threatens thy soul's life. The apostle speaks not of temptations which we run into, temptations which we seek out for ourselves or make for ourselves, temptations which we tamper with; but temptations into which, by God's providence, we fall. The least, if thou court it, may destroy thy life; out of the greatest, God, if thou seek Him, will make a way of escape; not a mere escape, but out of it, aloft from it, over it. For this the very faith and truth of God are pledged to us that, if we will, we shall prevail. In this way, too, David's words come true, "It is better to fail into the hands of the Lord than into the hands of man" (2 Samuel 24:14). The trials which God sends, as sorrow, losses, bereavement, sickness, are always directly to our profit if we do not waste them. In strife with temptation only canst thou know thyself. "The unrest of temptation sifts whether a man, when in rest, truly loves God." Temptation shows us how weak we are to resist the very slightest assaults. We see in our weakness how any good in us (if there be good) is not of us but of God. And so temptation, if we are wise, makes us more watchful. Slighter temptation is either the way into or the way out of greater. Slighter temptations, if yielded to, prove a broad and high way which leads to greater, and, but for God's mercy, to destruction and death: slighter temptations, if resisted, open the eyes to the peril of greater. Or, again, a great sudden temptation has revealed to the soul the danger of tampering with less. And so temptation drives us to Him who hath said, "Call upon Me in the time of trouble, so will I deliver thee, and thou shalt praise Me." "I will be with him in trouble," saith God. "I will be unto him a wall of fire round about." "My strength is made perfect in weakness." The depth of trouble calls deeply. The deep earnest cry is answered. The longing of the soul is the presence of Christ. He who gives the grace to cry to Him wills to hear. And with the nearer presence of God to the soul come larger gifts of grace and more joyous hope of pleasing God. Experience has made it a Christian proverb, "God gives no grace to man except upon trouble." In victory over temptation God gives a holy fervour. He makes the soul to taste and see that it is far sweeter for His sake to forego what the soul desireth than against His will to have it. Then, after or in temptation, God will give thee consolation. As when on earth our Lord called His disciples to rest awhile, He will, after a while, if thou hold out, give thee rest, or else by the very trial He shields thee from some greater trial. And what will the end be? "Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee the crown of life." Every temptation resisted by the grace of God is a jewel in the heavenly crown.
(E. B. Pusey, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations;