X-TRIALS: TAKIN’ LIFE TO THE X-TREME
August 19, 2001
Several summers ago, I went to Florida. After being there for a couple of days, a close friend of mine hooked me up with a great fishing guide named Captain Mark Becton. Mark and I attempted to do one of the most difficult things to do in saltwater. We tried to catch a tarpon called the silver king on a fly rod. Believe it or not, we have Captain Mark Becton on the line right now.
Ed: Mark, what’s up? How are you doing?
Mark: I’m doing good.
Ed: Mark, I wouldn’t want to lie or exaggerate when I talk about fishing or anything. I want to hear from you what happened that fateful day when we caught the big tarpon.
Mark: Oh, boy. That’s going back a ways.
Ed: I know it.
Mark: Well, let’s see. We found the fish. You did make a beautiful cast, I have to admit that.
Ed: Thank you.
Mark: You struck the fish pretty good. He didn’t quite realize he was hooked, though.
Ed: Mark, we were fishing in an area off the Gulf Coast of Florida, specifically Boca Grand, and that is kind of where the tarpon migrate during the months of May to June, correct?
Mark: That’s correct.
Ed: They have love on their minds and they all congregate there by the thousands.
Mark: Yeah. It’s kind of like a nightclub for tarpon.
Ed: It kind of is. So anyway, we saw a school of tarpon if I remember correctly, a few of these big, green, torpedo looking things. You told me cast and we hooked the fish. Of course, when a tarpon strikes, a tarpon goes nuts, doesn’t it?
Mark: Yes, it’s pretty colorful. It’s probably one of the most exciting 30 seconds of fly-fishing.
Ed: I agree. A tarpon can run off probably two or three hundred yards of line?
Mark: Yes, depending on how spunky they feel at the moment, how bad the hook hurts.
Ed: Mark, describe the battle. I know we had some pretty interesting things happen. This tarpon was trying to cross a sandbar.
Mark: Yes, that was a pretty interesting moment in our relationship, Ed. I remember it well. I think I was trying to impress upon you the importance of not letting this tarpon get across the sandbar which of course, you did.
Ed: Now, Mark, at that time, you had no clue I was a pastor, did you?
Mark: None at all. None at all. If I remember correctly, I think I let out some emotional replies to that tarpon getting across the sandbar.
Ed: Yes, you had some choice words.
Mark: Well, it’s an emotional moment and I’m passionate about seeing people live their dreams of fly-fishing for the silver king.
Ed: So we caught the fish.
Ed: And that was a great day of high-fiving, hugging. I almost got teary, I think.
Mark: Oh, yeah. You were a little shaky. I know you needed some water, too.
Ed: Yes. On our trip back to the marina, I think we had some good conversation going on.
Mark: Yes, I think that was the time you dropped the bomb on me when I asked what you did for a living.
Ed: Yes, I think I told you I was from the profanity patrol and you were busted or something like that.
Mark: Yes, there’s nowhere to hide on an 18-foot skiff.
Ed: Well, anyway, Mark, it’s been great to know you and see what God has done in your life. I know that you and your wife, Kelly, are involved in the church there in the area. I also know that you have been telling me you have been listening to a bunch of our tapes and checking out FellowshipChurch.com, correct?
Mark: Yes, that’s correct. I like it.
Ed: I appreciate it.
Mark: You do a good job.
Ed: Thank you, I work for a good company, great benefits, eternal benefits, Mark.
Mark: That’s right.
Ed: One other thing, Mark. You have had something else happen in your life that is really awesome, so tell them about that.
Mark: Finally my wife and I were blessed with a little baby boy.
Ed: A little baby boy named Parker.
Mark: Named Parker.
Mark: Bubba Parker
Ed: Bubba Parker?
Mark: That’s his nickname.
Ed: I like that. It sounds like a true fisherman. Bubba Parker. I look forward to talking to you again very soon. I’ll try to get back to Florida next summer so we can catch another big silver king. Let’s show Mark our appreciation, Captain Mark Becton!
All right, talking about fishing reminds me of childbirth. I don’t know why but it does. Lisa and I have four children and I know a lot about childbirth, at least from a male perspective. I did something pretty stupid, though, when the twins were born. This is a pretty sad move. I had the video camera in the delivery room. We had the twins and I was taping those moments and we were in tears and all that. Landra was born and Laurie was born and everything was going great. They wheeled Lisa to her room and the twins to their room. I had the video camera with me and family and friends were gathered around and I said, “Hey, I want to show you video of the first few moments of life.” Everybody said, “Yeah, okay.” I’m showing the video to everyone, the grandparents are kind of getting weepy and everybody’s saying things like, “Oh, that’s so cute, look at them. She looks like you.” I got so excited, though, and I showed that tape so much, that I accidentally erased one of the births of the twins. I am not certain which one I erased, but it’s gone. Lisa was not a happy camper when she found that out, but I did erase it.
Fishing and childbirth you are saying, “Ed, what is up with that? I know you are ADD, but give me a break. What’s the connection here? Did I miss something?” No, you didn’t miss something. I am continuing this series through the book of James.
James is the most practical book in the entire New Testament. Last weekend, I kicked the whole series off. It’s called X-Trials. It’s called X-Trials because we all face trials of various kinds. There is an X-factor out there. Sometimes we face temptations. Sometimes we face testing.
Today, we are going to talk about a subject that every one of us deals with, temptation. If we are going to process temptation, we have got to understand the connection between fishing and childbirth. I didn’t make it up. I am just telling you what James talked about because James hammers this one home to all of his readers.
Now, who is James? James was a half-brother of Jesus. James penned this letter and he wrote it to Christians who were dispersed throughout the Mediterranean world. You see, back then they were dealing with temptation too. I don’t know about you, but it’s something that I deal with. So if I deal with it, then I better go to God’s word, the Bible, to see how to process temptation.
RECOGNIZE THE ONE TETHERED TO TEMPTATION
If I am going to do it, if I am really going to be victorious over it, I have got to understand fishing and childbirth and the relationship of the two. Right up front, I have got to understand one thing about temptation. I have got to recognize the one who is tethered to temptation. Here is what James says, Verse 13, “When tempted,”—James doesn’t say you might be tempted—“When tempted, no one should say, ‘God is tempting me.’” When you have that dark desire in your life that begins to go haywire—that dark desire to lie, to lust, to exaggerate, to steal something, to take that materialistic trip, to rev up those envy engines, when you have that runaway dark desire that has gone haywire—James says there’s one thing you should not do. Don’t point the finger of blame God’s way. God, James says, does not and cannot trigger any temptation. God tests us to make us strong. Satan tempts us to make us do wrong. “When tempted, no one should say, ‘God is tempting me.’ For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone.”
“Well, Ed, if God is not tethered to temptation, who is? Ed, wait a minute, you would not be even hinting toward believing that the devil or Satan is responsible for temptation. You said it earlier, but surely you are not serious now, Ed? You are an educated guy, you’ve got your master’s degree, done doctrinal work. You mean to tell me you buy that? You think there is a dark, sinister personal being who has a legion of forces out there wrecking havoc in this world? You believe that, Ed?”
In one word, yes. Yes, I believe it. How do you explain the fact that 60 million people have been slaughtered on battlefields over this past century due to ethnic disputes and border disputes? How do you explain that? How do you explain that 25 million men spend between one to ten hours a day on hard-core pornography websites? How do you explain that? How do you explain seven men taking the life of Officer Aubrey Hawkins? How do you explain a father sexually molesting his daughter? How do you explain that? A damaged chromosome here and there? A flawed educational system? You are not that shallow are you?
I’m talking Satan here, the evil one, who wants to take you out and me out. We have got to wake up and smell the coffee and realize that this is a real deal. We are not playing tidily winks here. James says that when you are tempted, don’t blame God or blame others. I don’t know about you, but I sometimes blame God and even blame other people when I am tempted. I try to make excuses for my sin. Surely, you don’t do that. Maybe I am the only one who has bought some swampland. I mean, you don’t do that, do you? Oh, yes, you do. We have this dark sinister southward pull in our lives that causes us to point the finger of blame. We don’t want to call sin what it is. We don’t want to own up. We don’t want to tell the truth about our condition, so what do we do? We blame. We play the blame game.
The first part of the blame game is called the peer smear. Have you ever done this one? I have. “Well, everybody else was doing it. I just had to do it. You know, pressure, peer pressure, my buddies, people at work. It was a business trip, I couldn’t say no.”
Or some of us do the islander. Have you ever done that before? I have. “Oh, I am on this island, temptation island, Gilligan’s Island. No one has ever felt the way I feel. No one is experiencing a temptation like I am. I mean, I am the only one. This is my island, man. This is it.”
How about the tractor pull? “The pull is just too powerful of a temptation. It’s just pulling me into the mire and the mud.”
The last one we have given, and I have tried this one before, too, is the igmo. Deer in the headlights, “I didn’t know it was wrong. That’s a sin?”
We are so human, aren’t we? 1 Corinthians 10 says this, and this is a promise that I have held onto for so long, “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out”—a way of escape—“so that you can stand up under it.”
How many people in here drive a truck? Just go ahead and lift your hand. I drive a truck. Go ahead. Truck drivers are a special breed, let’s just face it. When we talk about trucks, people say, “Yes, is that a one-ton, three-quarter ton, half-ton truck? What kind of truck is that?” (A Country boy can survive in a country state of mind.) When we ask that what are we saying? We are saying that the manufacturer who made the truck has said how much the frame of the truck can handle: one ton, three-quarter ton or half ton. Put that thought in your frontal lobe.
Now check this scripture verse out, Psalm 139:15, David said, “My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place.” What was David driving at? David was saying, “God, you know my frame.” God knows your frame and my frame. He knows how much of a temptation load our frame can handle. He’s the manufacturer, whether it’s one ton, three-quarter ton, or half ton. Isn’t that great? Put your hands together. I like that.
I have got a promise from God. He is not going to put too much on my frame. Then—I hope you checked this out now—he will provide a way out, a way of escape, a freeway if you will. We cannot find the freeway or the way of escape on our own. No, it has got to be by God’s grace, his discernment, and his power. He will always, though, provide a way. He will never ever put you under too much stress. He is not going to bust your shocks or flatten your tires. You will be able to process it and handle it. I like that.
TEMPTATION IS CUSTOMIZED TO OUR WEAKNESS
We have got to recognize the one who is tethered to temptation. We have got that one. We have to do something else as well. We also have to recognize that temptation is customized to our vulnerabilities or weaknesses. We are all vulnerable at certain times. We all have weaknesses. The evil one, that master angler, knows where we are weak. He knows when we are more susceptible to take the bait.
This big tarpon here weighed right at 100 pounds. This bad boy ate this little fly. Look at this thing. In the fly fishing world, this is called the cockroach. Check out the hook. That thing bit the hook. This represents a bay fish that the silver king, the tarpon, likes. You can tell he likes it right now. It was customized to fit that tarpon. He was in the mating mode in Boca Grand, Florida. Everything was going great for him. Love was in the air. All of a sudden a beautiful fly kind of floated by and he was on the fly. The fish was so big, he didn’t even know he was hooked for a while.
Let’s look at Verse 14, “Each one is tempted”—each one, an individualized thing, a customized thing—“when by his own evil desire he is dragged away and enticed.” That’s the process of temptation. It’s not an event. It’s a process.
If you love to fish like I do, there’s an expression in fly-fishing that goes like this, “you have got to match the hatch.” If you are in Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, trying to catch a rainbow trout, you discover what kind of insects are hatching. Maybe they are mayflies. If there are mayflies in the air, the rainbow trout are feeding on mayflies. You go and buy a fly or you tie a fly that looks like a mayfly. Then you tie the fly to your fly rod and the rainbow sucks it down and you catch a rainbow trout.
Conversely, if you are fishing for redfish on the Texas coast, and the redfish are eating shrimp, you buy or tie a fly that looks like a shrimp. You have got to match the hatch. Satan is matching the hatch. He knows where you are weak and I am weak. He knows where you and I are vulnerable. He knows those times and he is patient and he waits. Each one is tempted by his own evil desire.
What is temptation anyway? Jot this one down. When I say temptation, we are talking about taking the bait and being led into sin. Temptation is using our God-given desires in a God-forbidden way. Guess what? God is pro desire. He has given us desires. Desires are great. God thought them up. He created them. What if we didn’t have desires? What if I didn’t have a desire to eat or drink? I would die. What if I didn’t have the desire to get rest, to sleep? After awhile, I would die. What if we didn’t have the desire to procreate? We wouldn’t be here. Desires are good. We must use those desires, though, in a God-honoring way, not in a God-forbidden way.
“Each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed.” Here is what those phrases, “dragged away” and “enticed,” mean. In the original language they mean to lure a fish from cover, to bait a hook. So the evil one is out there. He is thinking about you and me and he is matching the hatch.
So, I am going to tie a fly right now. I love to tie flies so I’ll just tie one up right now. Let me see. I will tie one up that a tarpon will eat. What do you think? Take a couple of yellow feathers out. Tarpon love yellow. This fires me up just thinking about tarpon fishing. You have got to get some feathers that, when they are pulled through the water, kind of pulsate like fins on a fish. I’ll just take my scissors here and cut them off.
Now, while I am doing this, I want to tell you something. The evil one is tying a fly right now just for you and me. He knows where we are most vulnerable. It could be any sort of fly, any sort of temptation, but he is a patient angler. He waits and waits. That looks pretty good right there, yellow. We’ll give it some contrast. See, a great fly disguises the hook. You barely even see the hook. The evil one knows this is right. This is looking sweet there.
What kind of fly is he tying? Where are you most vulnerable? Maybe to brag and promote yourself? Maybe it’s the fly of lust? Maybe you are tempted to rage on people. I don’t know, but he is tying it. He’s been doing this for thousands of years. The evil one’s trophy room is incredible. You would not believe the Christians who are up there mounted on his wall. He is confident. He just waits. This fly is almost done. I won’t make this fly too finished because I don’t have the time, but I will make it just good enough to catch a tarpon. There we go. How do you like that baby? Yes, you can tell he likes that. That’s the fly.
Now, the evil one attaches the fly to the fly rod. He just waits. Then he begins to cast. There is one great thing about fly-fishing. When you fly a fish, it’s a much better…. I don’t have a hook on there! People are ducking. I saw a couple of attorneys reaching for their cards. I wouldn’t put a hook on there. You ought to be ashamed of yourselves.
Anyway, fly-fishing is a lot better in many circumstances than conventional tackle because you can do it in a quiet way. Satan waits and waits and then he presents the fly. He softly strips in the fly. The great thing about fly-fishing is you can keep the fly in the strike zone longer. You don’t have to reel in and cast. You can just keep casting and casting. “Oh, right there in front of him. What is it? What is it?”
Here is what happens. When the evil one casts the fly, here is what he says. It’s like a talking fly. If the fly could talk, and it does in temptation—the evil one says, “Hey, take the fly. You will be a real man/woman if you take the fly. No one will know if you take the fly. You will not get caught. You are too smart. You are not an igmo. Take the fly. You deserve to take the fly. God is holding out on you. Take the fly. There is not a hook in the fly. Just go ahead and take the fly.”
He keeps doing that over and over. Why do we take the fly? Because we believe the lie. We want to use our God-given desires in a God-forbidden way. We want action now, pleasure now, fulfillment now. We don’t see the hook. We don’t see the consequences. We don’t see the problems. Temptation is customized to our weaknesses. We are dragged away and enticed. We have got to recognize that. But it keeps going.
TEMPTATION IS DECEPTIVELY DISGUISED
There is another thing we have got to recognize. James says in Verse 15 that we have to also recognize that temptation is deceptively disguised. I have touched on that already. I have talked about this fly. To a tarpon, the hook is deceptively disguised because all these feathers excite the tarpon. They get his desires to eat really going and that is what temptation does. It kind of lures in our desires. We are enticed, we don’t even think about the hook, and we just take it.
Verse 15, now James is going to talk about getting pregnant. We are talking about childbirth now. He says, “Then after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin.” So when we have desire, getting pregnant, it gives birth to sin. Sin, when it is full grown, gives birth to death. That is the thing about sin that will trip you and me up time and time again. There are always consequences to our sin. A lot of us are living in sin right now, but sin has not gone through puberty yet. It has not grown up yet. It is still a baby. You are saying, “Ed, no problem. I am living a lie. I am living as a cheater. I am living as a person in sexual sin. No problem. Everything is okay. I am making a lot of money. My life is going well.”
Just wait. That’s what James says. Just wait. This tarpon didn’t know he was hooked. Just wait. Then he felt the pressure. “Something is wrong,” he said. Then he felt the sting of the hook and went nuts. He began to jump and thrash about, but I had him. A tarpon like this, while I was in Florida a while back, jumped into a boat and almost killed a man. What happens when we feel the hook of sin? We thrash around and jump around. We damage a spouse, don’t we? Maybe a daughter or son, co-workers, friends? Sin. It comes from desire. It’s full-grown.
“Well, Ed, I am on Satan’s wall. I am in his trophy room.” A lot of us are just mounted right there. And here is what Satan does. Satan pulls out the heavy artillery when he has mounted us, when he has stuffed us on his wall. Here is what he says to us, “Hey, what you did is unforgivable and unbelievable. God can never use you again.” Some of you right now believe that line. You are saying, “You know, Ed, you don’t know what I have done. If you knew, if you could put on the side screens what I have done, there is no way God can use me and forgive me again. He cannot do it. I am going to be on this wall for the rest of my life.”
Temptation is a bad thing. Sin is a bad thing. Satan is tethered to it. It’s customized. Temptation is deceptively disguised. What do we do? Does James leave us hanging? What do we do when we are tempted? I want to know what to do. He tells us what to do.
REMEMBER THE GREATNESS OF GOD
I want to talk to you about several things real quick. First of all, when you are tempted—and think about the temptation you most deal with—when you are tempted, remember the greatness of God. Did you hear that? Remember how great and how awesome God is. The whole theme, the thrust of this book is spiritual maturity, how to have an authentic faith. How does a fish become a giant fish? I will tell you how it does. It lets a lot of flies swim by. It doesn’t do anything stupid. It just lets a lot a flies swim by and it gets bigger and bigger. That is what I have got to do as I mature in my faith and so do you. We have got to let a lot of flies swim by and to do that, we have got to realize that God has the best for us. We have got to realize that using our desires God’s way on God’s track in His house with his agenda is the only way. The moment we step outside of that and try to use our God-given desires in a God-forbidden way, watch out.
God is awesome. We have everything when we have God. Our relationship with Christ is our heartbeat, our lifeline.
“Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers.” In Verse 16, James says, “Every good and perfect gift is from above,”—there is only one who can truly satisfy and that is God—“coming down from the father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” God cannot change for the worse because he is holy. He cannot improve or change for the better because he is perfect. So if you know Christ personally, if you have a personal connection with God through Jesus, you have got it all. So why look at anything else? Why go anywhere else? Why eat any other bait? Take the real food. Remember the greatness of God.
REMEMBER YOUR BIRTH ORDER
There is something else we have got to do. We have to really think on this one. We have got to remember our birth order. All of us have a birthday, don’t we? Mine is March 16, 1961. I am 40 years old. I thought about something the other day. I didn’t have anything to do with my physical birth. I didn’t. My parents got together and got Ed Young. I had nothing to do with it, nor did you. We all have parents.
I had nothing to do, either, with my spiritual birth. Yes, I received Christ, but my spiritual birth, like my physical birth, also had a couple of parents. The parents of my spiritual birth happen to be the Spirit of God and the Word of God. The Spirit of God took the Word of God and the miracle of rebirth occurred in my life. That is what it means to get born again. When you get born again, it means you are born into the family of God; and once you are born again into the family of God, you can’t get out.
Now check this out. You won’t believe this one. God, throughout the Old Testament, rejected the firstborn. Why? Just think about that. God rejected the firstborn. He rejected Cain, firstborn, and received Abel, second born. He rejected Esau and received Jacob, the second born. He rejected Ishmael, firstborn, and received Isaac, second born. He rejects my first birth because if I just rely on my first birth, my physical birth, there is no way I am going to get to heaven. There is no way I have cleansing and forgiveness and a purpose for living. There is no way. It’s a pipe dream.
Handling temptation? There is no way. But God says, “Ed, you need a second birth. You need to get born again.” The Spirit of God, years ago, took the Word of God, convicted me, I came to my senses, I called sin what it was and is, I turned from it, bowed the knee, asked Christ to come into my life, and I was born again. Because of my second birth, I have a power within me now to face any temptation.
I have got to ask you something. Have you been born again? God is going to reject that first birth. I am talking about spiritually speaking, have you been born again? Do you have a spiritual birthday? You can have it today. Just say, “God, I want to get real here. I want to stop playing the blame game. I want to turn from my sins and turn to you, Jesus. Come into my life.” Many of you need to say that. It’s the answer to life.
Remember your birth order. James 1:18, “He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.” Now where was he going with firstfruits? What is that? In the Old Testament, the Jews gave their firstfruits as offerings to the local house of worship. The Bible says we are the firstfruits. We are the top of God’s food chain. We are it. We are made in the image of God. So God says, “Don’t mess around with junk. Don’t mess around with a bunch of fake feathers hidden pitifully with hooks. Eat on my food and mature.”
REMEMBER THE SEASONS
There is one last thing that we have got to do with this temptation thing. We have got to remember the seasons. As I told you, tarpon like this can always be caught May and June in Boca Grand, Florida, during their migratory route. They do that to mate. It’s that giant singles bar, that tarpon’s singles bar, that Mark was talking about. That is when you get these tarpon.
There is a certain season in your life and mine when the intensity of temptation is cranked up higher and higher. When you see that fly going by you in many different ways, you say, “This is intense. I am not sure I can hold on here. I am not sure my frame is strong enough.” Yes, it is. You hold on to the promises of God. You hold on to getting involved here at Fellowship. You hold on to your trusted friends and your Home Team. You hold on to that stuff, and I am telling you, the temptation one day, the season, will kind of flow on by and the volume will decrease. And you will say, “I don’t feel the intensity of the temptation anymore.” Then, as you look at yourself, you say, “I am stronger now. I am more mature now. I am more developed now. I have an authentic faith.” That is how God uses even temptation.
So, again, I have got to ask you, what are you dealing with right now? What kind of temptation? What kind of sin? What is Satan floating by your life?
I didn’t tell you one thing about this tarpon. I forgot to tell you this. This tarpon is not the actual fish that I caught. I don’t kill fish. We released the tarpon. That tarpon is somewhere swimming happily in the Gulf of Mexico right now. If I catch him again, I will let him go again. A lot of us, though, think, “Well, I have sinned. I have messed up and I am on Satan’s wall. I am his trophy and it is over because Satan has told me you can never get down off the wall. You can never swim again. What you did was unforgivable.” That’s a joke. That’s a lie from the pit of hell. If you have had a second birth, based on the authority of Scripture, Satan has to practice catch and release. He has got to let you go, so that you can minister and move and discover the greatness that God has for you.
So what is it going to be for you? I’ll tell you what God wants you to do. God wants you to swim, swim, and swim.