October 24, 2009

Staying in the trials

The line is fine between trials and temptations. The first serves as a test of my faith and an opportunity for God to show me His faithfulness. The second is sin bidding me to enter in and forget about God and His power to deliver me from it.

I had a dream last night that started out as a temptation. In my dream, my old self had little struggle against it and who knows what I might have done in that dream, but I woke up. Immediately those thoughts changed from temptation to a trial or test. I weighed them against the Word of God and faith helped me give my mind to other things.

Everyone faces temptation. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 10:13, “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man. . . .” Every person, Christian or not, faces things that bid them to sin. How we deal with that temptation makes the difference.

I suppose some who do not have faith can say no to some sins because they see the lack of personal profit in them, but as a Christian, my reason for turning away is different. I have been forgiven. Why grieve the God who died to save me? Why ruin the good things He has done in my life?

My power to resist is different too. Paul finished that verse in Corinthians with, “. . . but 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.”

God helps me say no to sin. As I think about temptation, every one that I can remember is based on a lie or lies. God’s way of escape is truth. Most temptations also have an element of temporary pleasure in them. God’s way of escape is thinking with an eternal perspective. One example is Moses.

By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he looked to the reward. (Hebrews 11:24-26)
Moses could have had the wealth and position of being the leader over a great nation. Instead he stayed on the trial side of the line and picked suffering with His people. He fixed his mind on the eternal reward of remaining faithful to God and that was his way of escape.

In a life filled with trials big and small, my faith is constantly tested. That line of temptation becomes visible whenever I decide the trial is too hard and I want out before God takes me out. At that point, that line, opportunities to sin will pop up. Certain this is why Jesus taught His disciples to pray and included this request. It is to be part of my prayer pattern too.

And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen. (Matthew 6:13)
Does God lead me into sin? Certainly not. But He does allow the trials of life that test my faith and uses them to make me stronger, better equipped to resist sin and to endure.

Temptations are also a test, but they are the sinful response to trials and on the other side of the line. Instead of offering a way to pass the test, they present a strong pull toward sin. For that reason, Jesus says I must ask Him to keep me from crossing the line.

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