Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Difference between Testings and Temptations (James 1)

What is the difference between testings and temptations found in James Chapter 1?

Verses 2-4 (NIV) 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.

Verse 12 Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he
will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.

Verses 13-15 When tempted, no one should say, "God is tempting me." For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.

Testings in our lives will draw us closer to God, because in testings, our attention are drawn towards Him. C.S. Lewis says "God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world." The answer to the problem of pain is that we are works in progress, being made lovable by a God who loves us even when we are not yet lovable. Says Lewis, "If the world is indeed a 'vale of soul making' it seems on the whole to be doing its work."

Whereas, temptations draw us away from God, causing us ultimately to sin. God will never tempt us, but He will test us. The difference is this, as David Pawson puts it, "You test people in the hope that they will pass the test, but you tempt them hoping they will fail."

We can be facing the exact same situation but our response can determine whether it is a test or a temptation. My son a few months ago met with a minor car accident, for which he admitted was his fault. Being a probationary licence holder, this accident would cost him 10 out of the 12 demerit points which he would have over the two years. If he looses all his 12 points, it would mean he would have to sit his driving test all over again, meaning to push the reset button and start over.

At the police station, a carrot was offered to him for the law enforcer to look the other way. At that point in time, this situation can either become a test or a temptation. In some sense, my wife and I can pat each other's back and say "Well done!", as our son's first instinct was to live with his mistake rather than with a guilt conscience. He was taught well by the Lord to reject this form of sin, and we are so proud of him. We paid the RM 300 fine and he lost 10 demerit points. Which means he cannot afford to make any more mistake but he lives with a clear conscience and a maturing heart. I believe he had a choice on that day. He could have been seduced by temptation and take the easy way out by paying less than the fine and still maintain the 12 demerit points. Or he take the inconvenient way and walk away in peace (and a more careful driver from that day on!)

How can we differentiate testings and temptation? How do we respond rightly to a situation? The answer can be found in James 1:5 If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.

Spiritual wisdom helps us in that area. This is a wisdom different from human wisdom which is attained by normal life experiences. Spiritual wisdom is more than that. It is a wisdom that in the midst of challenging times, we cry out to God for wisdom to handle the situation and He will give it to us generously. This reminds me how often I try to use human wisdom. This by itself is not wrong. But how often we rob ourselves of a higher godly wisdom! Foolish man that I am! Stop struggling and look to God for this heavenly wisdom. Just remember to ask Him!

No comments:

Post a Comment