If we we don’t handle our trials in the right way various temptations can seem like viable options. In fact if we fail to get the wisdom of God for our trials, temptations of various kinds become so much more enticing – temptations to think and act in ways that are contrary to God’s will and purposes.
This is key to what James is saying in his letter, and why he moves from the use of the word trial to temptation in the space of a few verses. It’s not another subject, it’s all connected. The failure to understand the one leads to the other.
Trials are from without says James, temptations are from within, and in doing so he places the responsibility directly on our shoulders. If we fall into temptation and sin it’s our fault. Getting straight to the point he says when we fail to accept the trial and surrender to God in it, and choose our own way, our motivations will move us in the wrong direction, they will entice us and drag us away (1:14), and if that happens it gives birth to sin, and if allowed to grow it will give birth to death (1:15). That’s not about the loss of salvation, it’s about the loss of a productive life – knowing and walking with God and serving his purposes, which is exactly whats going on with those whom James is writing to.
To put it another way: When you kick and complain against trials, and refuse God’s way and God’s wisdom, and follow the escape route of temptation which leads to sin, you forfeit the wholeness of life that could be yours in Christ and instead embrace a living death. That is not God’s will, that is why James writes to them in the way he does. He wants them to reign in life (1:12).
Perhaps you are going through a trial and you have lost sight of God and his purposes and succumbed to temptation and sin, and your life as become unproductive – you no longer know God like you used, you no longer enjoy his blessing…. Brother, sister, whoever you are, wherever you are, James makes it clear there’s a way back. As he says, “God doesn’t change and he is the One who gave us new birth…. so get rid of all filth and evil in your lives, and humbly accept the word God has already planted in your hearts, for it has the power to rescue and renew you.” (1:17,18, 21, paraphrase). What a gracious God.