As we take a look at the topic of understanding what Scripture means when it discusses the terms “trials” and “temptations”, let’s first look at two of the prominent verses that tackle these troublesome obstacles to our lives.
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you
face trials of many kinds, because you
know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.
Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete,
not lacking anything. ” James 1:2-4 (NIV)
“Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life, which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren.” James 1:12-16 (NASB)
In our Christian walk, we all encounter various kinds of trials and temptations. The two are not the same. Notice that James mentions trials and temptations as separate entities. One similarity is that we are snared by Satan in both kinds of circumstances if we aren’t prepared to react with godly responses. The difference relates to Satan’s modus operandi when he employs one or the other. Let me explain.
Trials originate from without and are aimed at testing our faith. If we respond to them in a joyful manner, they result in our maturity and completeness in Christ (cf. James 1:2-4).
On the other hand, temptations originate from within. This is because the enemy of our souls entices us with our own evil desire (lust). He loves to throw out lots of golden baits as he tries to appeal to our senses. In all these endeavors, he seeks to do us harm by wishing and hoping that we would bite into them. If we do, he will draw us deeper and deeper into the snare of his net with the aim to keep us in a life of sin. However, we must never let Satan win the battle. Instead, the Bible says we should resist him (cf. James 4:8), always remembering that “Greater is He (Christ) that is in us than he (Satan) that’s in the world.” (cf. 1 John 4:4).
A Deeper Look
As we look at some significant points that highlight the differences between the two forms of real life challenges, think about your own level of spiritual maturity as the Lord brings issues you have faced to mind.
What does a trial accomplish and how should we respond to it practically?
The footnote below, found in my New Living Translation, reveals a trial as being synonymous with a testing. When we understand the goal of being tested and what the Lord has in mind when He allows us to go through the fire, we learn a great deal:
We can’t really know the depth of our character until we see how we react under pressure. It is easy to be kind to others when everything is going well, but can we still be kind when others are treating us unfairly? God wants to make us mature and complete, not to keep us from all pain. Instead of complaining about our struggles, we should see them as opportunities for growth. Thank God for promising to be with you in rough times. Ask Him to help you solve your problems or give you strength to endure them. Then be patient. God will not leave you alone with your problems; he will stay close and help you grow.
So what goals does Satan have in mind when he sets out to tempt us? A stanza of an old hymn gives us this insight:
“Yield not to temptation, for yielding is sin;
Each victory will help you some other to win;
Fight manfully onward, dark passions subdue;
Look ever to Jesus, He’ll carry you through.”
(YIELD NOT TO TEMPTATION, Retrieved on 10/8/2007 from http://library.timelesstruths.org/music/Yield_Not_to_Temptation )
It is often in a moment of weakness that Satan will strike at us. Dr. Charles Stanley’s commentary of 2 Samuel 11:1-5 clarifies this for us:
- “Scripture is filled with descriptions of men and women who sinned in moments of weakness. The first of these true stories is Adam and Eve. First Corinthians 10:11 says these stories are given for our instruction. God wants us to learn from the mistakes of others.
- King David’s idleness caused his mind to contemplate adultery with Bathsheba. Weariness led Elijah to view death as preferable to life. Genesis 3:6 indicates pride may have played a part in Eve listening to the serpent. Lust may have prompted Solomon to desire many wives, including unbelieving ones. Add to these a sense of spiritual or emotional neediness and emptiness, and we have at least six situations that are fertile ground for temptation. In some biblical examples, temptation was resisted. But in others, the individuals gave in. We can all identify.
- The many different types of temptation follow a similar pattern. The eye looks, the mind desires, and the will acts. King David looked at Uriah’s wife and inquired about her. Then, he acted. Joshua 7:20-21 tells the story of Achan. He helped in the Jericho conquest and noticed all the material wealth. Then, he coveted it in his mind and took what he wanted.
- Regardless of the reason for vulnerability, each person is responsible for his actions. In times of weakness, don’t let yourself become too Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired. This warning forms the acronym “H.A.L.T.” Most importantly, we need to fix your attention on the Lord, draw strength from Him, and experience victory over temptation [Taken from In Touch Devotional of June 25, 2007 by Dr. Charles Stanley. Emphasis added].”
As we close this first in the series of taking a look at trials vs. temptations, let’s go back to one of the key verses quoted at the beginning of Part I. After discussing trials and temptations, the apostle James issues a caution to us: “Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren” (James 1:16). This is therefore a call for us to emulate King David’s example of commitment and trust in the Lord to rescue him in Psalm 25:15: “My eyes are continually toward the LORD, For He will pluck my feet out of the net. “ Next time we will take a look at how we can victoriously overcome temptation and stand firm at the times of trials.