Whether you’re a newer Christian or you’ve been a believer for a long time, you probably know that temptation and testing are something you will deal with periodically. But what’s the difference between testing and temptation? And what’s the purpose of them?
God Tests Us
God doesn’t tempt us, but He does test us. James 1:13 says, “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.”
God doesn’t test us to watch us fail; He tests us to make us stronger and more mature in our faith. He tests our hearts and our minds to see if we will be faithful to Him (1 Thessalonians 2:4, Jeremiah 17:10).
From the Garden of Eden until now, God has been testing His children. He put Adam and Eve in a garden and told them they could have it all, except for one tree. Some may think that this was cruel or that God was “setting them up”, but the truth is, without a good choice and a bad choice, how would God know whether they would make the right choice?
Exodus 16:4 says, “Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you. And the people shall go out and gather a certain quota every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in My law or not.’”
This passage makes it clear that the purpose of God’s testing is not to trip us up or cause us to sin but to determine whether we’ll follow His ways or not.
Satan Tempts and Deceives Us
In Revelation, Satan is described as the “deceiver of the whole world” and the “accuser of the brethren”. John calls the devil the father of lies (8:44). Satan’s goal in tempting us is to get us to sin or disobey God. Satan wants us to fail and to give in to enticement. He lies and deceives hoping that we will forsake our faith and our God.
Additionally, James 1:14-15 points out that sometimes we are tempted because of our sinful nature: “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.” So, we cannot blame everything on the devil; we must take responsibility for our own sinful desires and resist them.
We can’t be naïve. We have to “Be sober [and] vigilant; because [our] adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8). He doesn’t play by any rules, and there’s nothing he would like more than to destroy God’s children. We must put on the full armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-17) to stand against the enemy, and we can rejoice that “the Lord is faithful, who will establish you and guard you from the evil one” (2 Thessalonians 3:3).
How Jesus Handled Temptation
Even Jesus, the Son of God, endured testing and temptation. Matthew 4:3 says, “Now when the tempter came to Him [Jesus], he said, ‘If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.’” Satan came at Jesus three times, targeting Him physically, mentally and spiritually, but Jesus fought back with the Word of God as His weapon each time. We too must use the Word of God as our weapon to stand against the devil.
Temptation can be very difficult, but Hebrews 4:15-16 tells us, “For we do not have a High Priest [Jesus] who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
Jesus knows exactly how it feels to be tempted by evil, so He can relate to what we’re going through. We don’t need to be ashamed when we’re tempted because temptation isn’t sin unless we give in to it. Hebrews 2:18 says that because Jesus was tempted, “He is able to aid those who are tempted.” When we’re in the midst of temptation, we can cry out to Jesus for help, and He’ll give us the strength we need to overcome.
In fact, when we come to God for help, Jesus intercedes for us, asking His Father to help us: “Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:25). I don’t know about you, but knowing that Jesus is interceding for me sure helps me feel like I can overcome anything!
1 Corinthians 10:13 teaches that “… 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.” It’s our job to choose the way out that He provides. And James 4:7 promises, “Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” If we’ll do our part (submitting to God and resisting Satan), then God will do His part in making the devil leave!
Even though testing and temptation are not a lot of fun, they produce good things in our lives. James 1:2-3 says, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.” Is it easy to be joyful during trials and testing? No! But if we keep our eyes on God through it all, we will find ourselves getting stronger in faith, patience, and endurance, just to name a few.
However, during trials and times of testing, we must be careful to trust God and not to tempt Him like the Israelites and Pharisees did (Hebrews 3:9, Matthew 22:18). We have to hold on to the truth that God’s testing is to strengthen and mature us, not to harm us or cause us to fall.
And when we stand firm through testing and temptation, James 1:12 assures us, “Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.” Persevering through trials, trusting God no matter what the circumstances appear to be, and choosing to be faithful to God instead of giving in to temptation will result in life overflowing with God’s blessings!
~ by Jennell Houts