“When tempted, no one should say, ‘God is tempting me.’ For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.” James 1:13-15
What is the difference between being tested and tempted?
I read the above verses about temptation the other morning and thought about the fact that temptation comes from our own evil desires, which after conceived gives birth to sin. I often feel like when temptation comes that I want to blame circumstances or someone else. After all, I didn’t put the billboard up with that desirable picture of a caramel frappe on it! I wasn’t even thinking about how good this thousand-calorie drink tasted until I saw the sign. How is that my fault? But, truly, it’s my own desires within me that allow such temptations to give birth to sin, rather than saying no to something I know isn’t good for me.
But doesn’t God have control over all things? Is He the one tempting me?
I thought about the verses from the Old Testament that tell us that God tested His people. For example, Psalm 66:10 says “For you, O God, tested us; you refined us like silver.” I specifically remembered Exodus 15 where the Israelites were grumbling against the Lord because they were in the dessert and came to a place of bitter waters, and the Lord told Moses to throw wood into the waters to make them sweet to drink. Exodus 15:25b-26 said “There the Lord made a decree and a law for them, and there He tested them. He said, ‘If you listen carefully to the voice of the Lord your God and do what is right in His eyes, if you pay attention to his commands and keep all His decrees, I will not bring on you any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians, for I am the Lord, who heals you.'”
Isaiah 48:10 says ” See, I have refined you, though not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction.” Job certainly knew affliction and said that when God had tested him, he would come forth as gold (Job 23:10). Hebrews 11:17 reminds us of how God tested Abraham to see if he would sacrifice his only son, and Abraham obviously passed!
I often thought of God’s testing like temptation. But, James tells me that this viewpoint was wrong. So, what’s the difference?
It wasn’t until I was giving my finals last week that I began to see the distinctions between the two. Allow me to use my class as an example to illustrate the point. As an instructor, I work hard to give my students the skills and knowledge they need to pass my exams. From homework assignments to lectures to fun review games, I am investing time and energy into my students in hopes that they will ace my tests. I am overjoyed when students are learning and do well in my class! I don’t ask questions that will purposely trip them up; I am simply gauging whether they have truly learned the material.
In the same way, God has given us ample instruction in His Bible, through our pastors and teachers, and by His Spirit so that we have everything we need to pass His tests and come through affliction refined and purified. He isn’t sneaky and trying to trip us up; instead He loves us, and He even sent His Son to die for our sins for the times we’ve failed.
He doesn’t delight when we give into temptation, and He isn’t the one tempting us to do wrong. He may test us, but He knows that we CAN PASS His tests! We have everything we need to ace them!
So, the next time we’re sensing strong temptation; we must first realize that it is not from God. It is our own evil desires within us that allows temptation to give birth to sin. But, we can stop that from happening and overcome it; as James tells us “Don’t be deceived” (James 1:16). Instead, we need to dig into God’s Word to see what we should do. After all, “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him” (James 1:12).
Are you feeling trials and temptations? It reminds me of the old hymn “What a Friend We Have In Jesus” (linked below). Know that Jesus knows our every weakness – so take it to the Lord in prayer! If you’re struggling with temptation, if you’re feeling like God is testing you and you’re not sure that you’re coming out refined without being burned, then I recommend you pray and lay it before God. He wants you to pass! He’s the One who will strengthen and equip you for this leg of your journey. Trust Him rather than blame Him! See how He will help you overcome!
Dear Heavenly Father, thank You for Your Word that helps us. Thank You, God, for being faithful. You don’t trick us, You don’t tempt us, and You don’t discourage us. Rather, You bring us through the difficult parts of life so that we may pass and become refined, more pure, and more like You. God, thank You for preparing us so that we can pass the tests of this life. Thank You for allowing us to bring our needs to You, our faithful God, in prayer. Thank You for showing us once again just how much You care for us! We don’t deserve it, but we humbly praise You for it. Father God, help us become healthy and thin for Your glory. Help us resist temptation, not allow it to give birth to sin in our lives. Instead, help us go through trials and temptations and press on to receive the crown of life You have for us. We love You, Lord God. In Jesus’ Name we pray, AMEN!