Adam, Eve, Cain, Abraham, Esau, Joseph, Joseph’s brothers, Jesus…
What do all of them have in common? They were “tempted.” In English, we are used to the connotation of the word “temptation” as referring to a solicitation of perpetrating evil. However, if this is true, it means that God directly temps individuals. James 1:13 (please hover mouse over verse) makes it abundantly clear that this cannot be. The word “of” is essential to our understanding of God’s nature in this aspect because it indicates the origin of something. Does temptation originate with God? Or is it His desire to test our hearts? And this brings forth another question: Is temptation equal to a trial?
In Matthew 4:1 (please hover mouse over verse) we are presented with the temptation of Jesus Christ. Did God purposefully want Jesus to make an ostentatious demonstration of His power by having Jesus turn stones into bread? In other words, did God directly tempt Jesus to see if He would fail or not? Of course not.
We must understand that Jesus was fully man and at the same time fully God. The Father had to test Jesus as any other human being so that it could be said of Him that “in every respect [He] has been tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15) And not only for that purpose, but so that He could sympathize with His chosen ones in every aspect of human life.
While God seeks to test and refine the heart either to prove loyalty or help the Christian grow, the agents that actually tempt are Satan (Matthew 4:1), his evil angels (Ephesians 6:12), and ourselves (Romans 13:14) (Galatians 5:13) (James 1:14).
God does not contradict Himself. He does not tempt anyone. He does, however, put Christians through trials. His goal is to achieve His perfect will in us and conform us to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29) not to purposefully drown us in our own sin. The purpose of Satan, his angels, and our flesh, however, are to destroy us and keep us as far away as possible from reaching the stature of Christ (Ephesians 4:13).
God will never test you beyond what you can endure (1 Corinthians 10:13), but you cannot just expect God to provide the way out as He promises without you engaging in spiritual discipline and seeking divine resouces. You must pray for God to deliver you from trials so that you don’t rely or depend on your own strength.
It is up to the Christian to allow trials to become temptations. We must look to those examples God has given us in His Word that have overcome trials and experienced the beauty of living God’s will in their lives.
I leave you this passage to consider (Genesis 50:20). Not only was Joseph ready for the test, he passed it!
What must we do? We must thank God for experiencing trials every day. Because this is the way He shows His love and care for us, that we might grow in His Son’s image every day more and more. His main purpose, however, is not to strengthen you. When He gives you trials, His goal is not to help you (although it is a secondary result). His will is to glorify Himself. And we must always be humble enough to admit that it is not for our glory that He saved us, but for His. It is not for our glory that He helps us, but for His.
I will leave you with several passages that really help me understand how we can be spiritually ready to face trials: Psalm 119:11; Matthew 26:41; Ephesians 6:10-18; James 4:7. The one that really struck me was Psalm 119:11. while many times we believe that passage is obvious enough, we miss the big picture. To actually keep God’s words hidden in your heart, you have to study His Word! Many times we believe this is as easy as reading a Psalm or a Proverb a day without any lasting or clear effect in our lives. Wrong. Alongside reading, you must “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17) so that God softens your hardened heart and make it receptive to His commandments, that you may walk in His statues (Psalm 119:1-16). For all of us become hardened and dull to God’s soothing voice. May we flee from forsaking the Lord who endured all temptation and sin for us. Think about that.