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Trials And Temptations

Trials And Temptations

by Mark Grant

Published in
The Christian Informer
November, 2003


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Last updated:
November 3, 2003.

In James the first chapter we read, "My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing" (James 1:2-4; KJV). James doesn't say IF we "fall into divers temptations", but whenever we DO we are to "count it all joy." James teaches us that all Christians are going to have to face "trials and temptations" in life and that it is possible to profit from them. As Christians we are not to pretend to be happy when we face adversities but we should have a positive attitude since it is an opportunity for joy because of what struggles it can produce in our lives. James is teaching us that when difficulties come our way we can turn them into times of learning.

One of the many beneficial purposes of afflictions in this life for the child of God is to test the genuineness of our faith. We can't really know the depth of our character until we see how we are going to react under "trials and temptations." Solomon said, "If you faint in the day of adversity, Your strength is small" (Proverbs 24:10; NKJV). God knows that tough times can teach us perseverance as well as help us to mature and become complete. So next time instead of complaining about your struggles, you should see them as opportunities for growth. The New International Version reads this way, "Dear brothers and sisters, whenever trouble comes your way, let it be an opportunity for joy. For when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be strong in character and ready for anything" (James 1:2-4).

WHAT IS TEMPTATION?

Webster's dictionary defines temptation as, "1. A tempting or being tempted 2. Something that tempts; enticement" (New World Dictionary, pg. 1464). While most people associate temptation with only an enticement to sin, the scriptures do not limit it's meaning as such. Marvin Vincent describes how temptation is used in the bible by saying, "It is a mistake to define this word as only solicitation to evil. It means trial of any kind, without reference to its moral quality" (Vincent's Word Studies Of The New Testament, Vol. 1; pg. 44). The Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible explains the word "tempt" as, "To test, try, put to the proof. "Tempt" and "temptation" are used in the Bible characteristically of the testing of man or of God" (Vol. 4, pg. 568). We can understand then, that temptation is used in two different ways.

First it is used in a good sense of God testing man by proving his belief in obeying God's word. The prophet Jeremiah wrote, "O LORD of hosts, You who test the righteous, And see the mind and heart..." (Jeremiah 20:12; NKJV). God's testing is always for the good end of exposing loyalty and disloyalty, faith and unbelief, for what they are; but it is never an enticement to do evil (James 1:13). Secondly, it is Satan who tempts man to do evil through the lust of the flesh (2 Peter 1:4). Temptation then, is simply a trial which serves to show us what we are and what is in us. It brings to light the strength or weakness of our faith, our love to God, and our regard to His law. It was Job who said in his trial, "But He knows the way that I take; When he has tested me, I shall come forth as gold (Job 23:10; NKJV). As gold is heated, impurities float to the top and can be skimmed off. Likewise our trials, struggles, and hardships refine and strengthen our faith by teaching us patience (Romans 5:3,4; 1 Peter 1:7) and help us grow to be the kind of people God desires.

HOW DOES GOD TEMPT MAN?

In Genesis the twenty second chapter and verse one reads, "And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am. And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of" (Genesis 22:1-2; KJV). To offer Isaac as a burnt offering was surely the supreme test of Abraham's faith. Abraham was given the decision to choose between his affectionate love for his son or obeying God's word. As Abraham was about to slay his son the Angel of the Lord called to him and said, "Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me" (Genesis 22:12; KJV). God's test for Abraham was matched by his faith and trust in God.

"By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son" (Hebrews 11:17; NKJV). The great lesson this story bears for the believer today is that all trials allowed by God are for the strengthening of one's faith by enduring the trials that come our way, by neither growing weary nor quitting, we can prove our faith in God to be genuine.

It was God who allowed trials to into the lives of the Israelites as they wandered in the wilderness in order to humble them, prove them, and test their obedience. "And you shall remember that the Lord your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not" (Deuteronomy 8:2; NKJV).

It is imperative that we all understand that God created man as a free moral agent in order to be put to the test. We can choose to serve God, and submit to His word and live with Him in eternity, or we can choose to serve Satan through the lust of the flesh and spend eternity in torment. "The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it? I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind, Even to give every man according to his ways, According to the fruit of his doings" (Jeremiah 17:8-9; NKJV).

HOW DOES SATAN TEMPT MAN?

As long as you and I are in this physical body then we are going to be tempted to do evil by old Satan. James wrote, "Let no one say when he is tempted, 'I am tempted by God'; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death" (James 1:13-15; NKJV). Temptation to do evil comes from sinful desires within us and not from God. Jesus said, "Out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies" (Matthew 15:19; NKJV).

Temptation to sin is a process that begins with an evil thought and becomes sin when we dwell on the thought and allow it to become an action. There is no sin in just being tempted; for Jesus "was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin" (Hebrews 4:15; NKJV). Temptation, however, does become sin when we are drawn away by our own desires and enticed and then yield to the enticement from within, followed by action and finally and ultimately death. Sin does not force itself on the unwilling, but is chosen because of its attractiveness. "Drawn away...and enticed..." are primarily hunting and fishing words, used metaphorically here to explain the consequences of yielding to Satan's enticements. It was the beauty of the forbidden fruit that acted as a lure for Eve, the bait, which resulted in her being caught upon the hook of sin (Genesis 3:1-6). Forbidden pleasure, however great the desire for it may be, must be firmly excluded from our lives, lest we be caught in Satan's snare.

"Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you" (James 4:7; NKJV). Submission to God is an attitude of the heart shown by obedience to His Word, while resist means that you refuse to cooperate with the devil. Let us as Christian's learn to exercise discipline by rejecting the appealing "bait" with which Satan lures his trap of enslavement to sin. Let us determine that we will never do or go to any place where there is the possibility that we may be tempted to sin. As Paul said, "Abstain from every form of evil" (1Thessalonians 5:22; NKJV).

OVERCOMING TEMPTATION

Oscar Wilde once said, "I can resist anything, except temptation." No one is immune because we all have to battle with temptation everyday of our lives, and at times we may lose the battle. But we must keep fighting and fighting to resist Satan. That is why we need to watch out for Satan for he will do his best to attack us and try to destroy us (1 Peter 5:8). While it is certain that Satan will attack us, we need to know and understand that Satan is limited in his power because God has put certain restrictions upon Satan's efforts.

In first Corinthians the tenth chapter in verse twelve we read, "Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it" (1 Corinthians 10:12-13; NKJV). When faced with temptation no one needs to feel that they have been personally singled out.

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