Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Trials and Temptations

Life is full of tests. Sometimes they involve things that happen to us. Other times they are enticements to do things contrary to our principles. It is interesting that New Testament Greek uses the same word for both. And in the final analysis, both are tests of the same thing. Will we trust and obey God regardless of the circumstances? Even when the times get tough, will we follow God? Even when we want to do something wrong, will we follow God? But there is also a subtler test. When things are going well, do we follow God? Sometimes the easiest time to stop following God and start trusting in ourselves is when things are going well.   

One great assistance in facing these tests is to see them from God’s perspective. The reason God puts us through hard times is to build our character (James 1:2-4; Romans 5:3-5; 2 Corinthians 4:16-18). But this is easy to say when we are sitting in relative calm, in the eye of the storm, and much harder to remember or even care about when the winds are beating down on us. And of course, whether the individual passes the test depends on the choices they make. That is why it is important to pray for wisdom (James 1:5-8), not that we might understand the reason for the trial, but so we would know how to respond to it. Also, we must trust God (Proverbs 3:5,6; Psalms 127:1,2; Isaiah 40:31) and look to the cross (Romans 8:31,32; 5:6-11; 2 Corinthians 12:7-10), for it is there we are reminded that God loves us.

The temptation of good times is that we can forget we need God (Jeremiah 9:23-24; Proverbs 30:7-9; 1 Timothy 6:6-10). But we must remember that these things are only temporary and will soon pass away (James 1:9-11; Luke 12:16-21; 2 Peter 3:10-13). So we need to look past our current situation and ask where we really want our treasure to be (Matthew 6:19-24; James 1:12; Hebrews 11:24-26).

But with temptation to sin, the danger is to refuse to take responsibility for it and blame it on someone else, even God (James 1:13-17; Genesis 3:8-13). And while God gives us power to overcome sin (2 Peter 1:3; 2 Corinthians 3:18; Ephesians 2:10), this does require a response on our part (Romans 12:1,2; Galatians 5:16; Colossians 2:6,7). But it is easy to forget that if we would just take responsibility, come to God, and admit our failures to live up to God’s standard, He promises to forgive us (2 Corinthians 7:10; Proverbs 28:13; 1 John 1:9). Then we are motivated, not by what we are trying to get from God, but by His love for us (1 John 4:19; 2 Corinthians 5:14,15; Luke 7:36-50). But in the context of this, we press on that we might pass the test (Hebrews 12:1,2; Philippians 3:12-14; 1 Timothy 4:7,8). For God allows these tests in our lives, that by going through them, we may become more like Christ (Romans 8:28-30).

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