James 1:13, 14 “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.”
Temptation and Trials, Why and When….
Temptation and Trials are topics not often studied by Christians. Why is that? Well, that can involve a number of reasons. One may be that many Christians are not into the actual study of the scriptures which is sad. Yes, they read a little but actual study involves much more than reading. It involves research and most importantly application to your life. We many times allow the desires of the flesh and the busyness demanded by our world to keep us from allocating time to the spiritually important matters like studying to show ourselves approved unto God (II Tim 2:15).
Let’s ask a couple of basic questions about temptation and trials this morning and of course look for the answers in the one place we find truth without error, that being the Word of God. Keep in mind a couple of very important truths. First as the opening verse notes God will NEVER tempt us with sin. A Holy God can have no part with sin. Second is that the temptation in and of itself is not the sin. What we do with the temptation determines whether or not it turns into sin. Do we flee it or do we develop it?
The temptation to sin can also come from multiple places. The world with its god who is satan according to scripture (II Cor 4:3, 4) will throw temptations up in front of us without our permission or our flesh can put them up in front of us with the intent of developing them. Evil thoughts can be developed into sin if we allow them to. Like a snowball rolling down a hill sin grows more destructive the more we let it have its way. The best time to stop a temptation is before it is too strong or moving too fast and is out of control.
II Tim 2:22 “Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.”
As we study temptation we also need to keep in mind that there are temptations to sin and there are trials in our lives that God leads us into so that we can develop spiritually. Temptation to sin and the Trials found in our lives are two different topics. That understanding is vital to our understanding both of them. Many versions use the word temptation in both contexts. Which is OK when we keep in mind that studying requires understanding that scripture never contradicts itself.
So if God reveals one truth in one book or verse He will never contradict it in another. The verses need to be taken together and not by themselves to be understood. Maybe the best example is faith versus works. An example is found in the book of James and the verse on faith without works is dead which cannot possibly mean that works are required for salvation because others passages in scripture note that no work can save us apart from Jesus’ sacrifice for our sins. Just like an athlete needs to progressively move along in their training and levels of competition we need to do the same spiritually for our development. So God as any good Coach and Spiritual Father does bring trials to our lives for our spiritual development. But as scripture notes He does not tempt us with sin.
So, it is important to not get the temptation to sin mixed up with the trials of life. God cannot and does not temp us with temptations that can lead to sin but He does bring trials our way so that we develop spiritually. The trials spoken of in James 1:2, 3 are not sinful temptations. They are spiritual trials brought our way by God for our development. How do we know that? Because scripture tells us that God can have nothing to do with sinful temptations. He is Holy and sin cannot enter His presence or be designed by Him.
Remember, God’s word never contradicts itself so you must take all the themes before understanding important topics like this. Trials that continue our spiritual development should be looked at in a much different manner than our flesh would view them. Because they are necessary for our development we should be joyful that come our way. It’s the ‘thank you’ we are to express for the trials in our lives that like God’s peace passes worldly understanding. Note that scripture does not say if we go through trials but WHEN we go through trials.
James 1:2, 3 “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.”
Romans 8:28 “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”
So, let’s take a look at how to handle the temptation to sin. We find our best example as we study Jesus’ life on this earth. Remember that Jesus was tempted as we are so His example truly provides us with hope and the knowledge of how to battle temptation and sin.
Hebrews 4:15 “For we have not a high priest that cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but one that hath been in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.”
So how did Jesus respond to temptations to sin and battle them? In Luke 4:1 we see that God the Holy Spirit was with Jesus and He is with us as believers also. As believers we never walk alone although the Holy Spirit as He did with Jesus may lead us into a time of testing. We sometimes think at times we walk alone without God but if we are ‘born again’ then we have the Holy Spirit in us (Romans 8:9) and He never leaves us. So how did Jesus combat satan’s temptations to sin? “It is written…” Knowing and obeying God’s Word is an effective weapon against temptation.
It is important to remember that during temptation satan misinterpreted scripture to try and make it fit his plans. Which again is why it is so important to be a student rather than just a reader. The enemy will attack us in the same manner and must see us as push over’s vs. attacking the Son of God with misinterpretation of scripture. If you are not sure what some passage means talk with your Pastor or Elders within your church or other believers you know to be students of the Word. Jesus reminded satan not to test God.
Additional scripture helps for fighting temptations to sin. The Holy Spirit in II Timothy 2:22 reminds us to flee the Temptation to sin. RUN AS FAST AS YOU CAN. Remember to replace the temptation with an activity that pleases God. An example would be a TV program or music. The concept to flee is biblically correct. To help win the battle replace the tempting one with one that you know is God honoring. I.e. Christian music vs. secular music.
I Cor 10:13 reminds us that God is always with us and He makes a way for us to escape. The key is that we are the one to make the choice to use the way of escape.