Friday, May 20, 2016

The great debate

We all have rough days every now and then. And since we know that God is guiding us every single moment along the way, when something bad happens or a struggle arises, we know that He either put it in our path or, at the very least, knew it was coming. These moments can cause us to cry out to him, yes. And many times we say (or hear) the phrases "God is testing me" or "God is tempting me." But is he really? Does our all-forgiving God actually test us? Does he tempt us?

That brings me to this: The tempt vs. test debate. Have you heard of it? Well if you haven't, it is your lucky day. And, if you have... perhaps you can get some sort of small reminder from this post.

Before we more forward, lets take a closer look at Webster's meaning of the words test  and tempt.

Test: "a critical examination, observation, or evaluation..." or "... something...for measuring the skill, knowledge, intelligence, capacities or aptitudes of an individual or group."

Tempt: "to cause (someone) to do or want to do something even though it may be wrong, bad or unwise."

Even though we may intertwine these words sometimes, defining them shows a clear difference!

So... Does God test us?

When we were kids in school, teachers taught us for our benefit, didn't they?  They would give tests to see what we have learned - to see what our brains had retained, right? Well, God is our greatest teacher. He wants to know what we have learned, too. Except he focuses on our HEARTS. Deuteronomy 8:2 (NIV) says "Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands." Granted, we are not all led into the wilderness, but he doesn't have to send us there to find out what is in our hearts. He can do so by testing us at any given point on our journey.

We may be walking through life just as happy as a pig in mud when all of a sudden something happens that wipes our smile straight off our face... and sends us into a period of trial; a rough patch; to the bottom of a really tall mountain. What do you do? How do you handle it? Jeremiah 17:7 (NLT) says "Blessed are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord their hope and confidence." Maybe God wants to see if you turn to him and follow as you have been taught - "Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you... " Psalm 55:22 (NIV).

Or maybe he is testing your faith. Did you ever think about that? When he sends your life into what may feel like a downward spiral, are you still frowning? Or are you rejoicing because your faith in God is so strong that it overcomes any obstacle? James 1:2-4 (NIV) says, "Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything."  Yes, I just said that - find joy in your trials. Uh-huh. Sounds odd, right? And hard. I know. But think about it this way -- You walk through life, happily spreading the word of God and all that He is, all that He has done, and all that He can do... and then, when you come to a difficult point, do you turn away from him? Do you get angry? Or do you open your eyes and realize that your faith is being tested, smile, "...show that your faith is genuine," 1Peter 1:7 (NLT), and move ahead? After all, if you truly believe God is the Almighty,  is your Creator and can move mountains and part waters -- then you would truly believe that he has your back in a time of need better than any friend or family member ever could. With God, you are golden, my friend -- no need to fret!

Now, what about temptation. Does God really tempt us? 

The definition above says that a temptation may entice us to do something  "even though it may be wrong, bad or unwise." Why would God do that? He doesn't. James 1:13 (NIV) says "When tempted, no one should say, "God is tempting me." For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone." Our God isn't like that. He wouldn't lead us to something that could harm us when he went to all the trouble to send his son here to be crucified for the forgiveness of our sins - only to tempt us to sin? Sounds a little foolish, don't ya think? My God, well, he just is not foolish. 

Yes, we are tempted. We ALL have at least one vice that tempts us. And God sees this. I mean, He sees everything. But did he lead you to that temptation? For example, does he pave the path for the alcoholic to walk right into a bottle of vodka? No. Satan may, of course. He may tempt us-- Try to entice us to commit sins. But God does not put these evil desires into the very hearts that he hopes to have filled with love!! 

Think about it -- even Jesus was tempted! Matthew 4:1 (NIV) tells us that "Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil." See those words? Tempted - by the devil. NOT GOD!

It is in times of temptation that we need to turn to God for strength to get us through -- to overcome temptation. After all, he didn't lead us to it, but he can save us from it... IF WE BELIEVE! 

Well, there you have it, folks. My version of the great debate. My God is an AWESOME God. He tests us to make sure we remember he is there and that our hearts are pure. And when we do succumb to temptation that leads us to sin, he is still ALWAYS there for us. We are human and we all mess up -- and how comforting is it to know that God is forgiving when we do?! 

I'm going to close with the Lord's Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13)... We have all said this so many times. But today, look more carefully at the words: 


Our Father, which art in heaven, 
Hallowed by the Name. 
Thy Kingdom come. 
Thy will be done in earth, 
As it is in heaven. 
Give us this day our daily bread. 
And forgive us our trespasses, 
As we forgive them that trespass against us. 
And lead us not into temptation, 
But deliver us from evil
For thine is the kingdom, 
And the power, and the glory, 
For ever. 
Amen. 

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