Times of Testing

There are only a few certainties in this life. Those often highlighted are death and taxes. But if we look at Scripture seriously, and even our own experiences, we know that another certainty must be added to our former list: temptation. The Lord Jesus knows that the life of His disciples will not be easy one. Such knowledge, much to the chagrin of many a prosperity preacher, does not infuriate us but rather gives us great joy. For it is undoubtedly the path of suffering that is the most direct to the Suffering Servant who is Christ the Lord.

When you consider the last petition of the Lord’s prayer recorded in Matthew 6:13 we learn something about temptation, “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” (ESV). In the immediately preceding verse (v.12), we do well to note that God has forgiven us as Christians of our past sins. Therefore, this petition in turn is properly a request seeking God’s aid to guard us from future sin. This petition reveals to the believer one of the greatest joys, namely that our God is in control of the universe. The Lord God is not a victim of circumstance, nor subject to creation; rather He is on the move, even when we cannot make sense of it. Such knowledge is indeed too great for our finite sinfully-inclined minds, nevertheless it stands as the necessary point of departure. But what is meant by temptation?

Temptation has various facets and connotations attached to it but the only the question that really matters is this: What did Jesus mean by it? Temptation does not mean so much “an enticement to sin” as much as a “putting to the test”. We see this particular sense even a couple of chapters before our passage in Matthew 4:1 when Jesus himself is led by the Spirit to be tempted by Satan. Jesus was led into “testing” by the Spirit of God Himself! Understood rightly, testing itself has an assortment of possibilities in terms of potential consequences such as purification, affirmation but also a clear demonstration of absolute and abysmal failure. The testing mentioned by Christ is with reference to being tested to overcome sin or fail against it; both yielding our need to race to God for His grace, and mercy which is found in Christ alone.

Christ’s petition is meant to lead the sinner to ask God to fortify them in times of testing, that they may rely on God by His Holy Spirit to support them in overcoming their indwelling and remaining sin. It is also a cry to overcome the tempter himself who is Satan, and the ungodly world and society all around. This is a prayer for help to stand steadfast in an uncertain and foundationless world. We trust God because He does not tempt us with evil, indeed He cannot (James 1:13-15). Instead, He gives us His Word that we will never be tested beyond our ability, and that there is always a way out of our temptation (cf. 1 Corinthians 10:13). But we must take it. We must flee from sin. We must not linger in those dark corridors of our hearts; we must flee. Paul makes this clear explicitly in 1 Corinthians 10:14, “Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.” We must run from temptation into the arms of our God who is willing to wash us clean, but we must run.

Where, what or from whom do you need to run from today and towards our great God? What alleys do you need to stop frequenting in your heart? Where instead do you need to be resting in Scripture and God’s promises? God says there is always a way out with Him. Take it today. Run into the arms of our great God who promises to always be with you in Christ.

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