Points to Ponder: The Joy of Trial and Temptation
Points to Ponder
The Joy of Trial and Temptation
by Pastor Dennis Whitmore
My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. (James 1:2-4 NKJV)
Trials and temptations are essentially one and the same thing; at least as far as the results they can produce in one's character and in one's faith.
"Count it all joy." Can you imagine really living that out as you are facing the wall or are crushed by circumstances beyond your control? A trial is an adversity that puts you through a testing, a proving of the depth of your current strength and resolve. Often you find that your continuous resistance against a temptation or your driving will to press on through a trial will bring you to the deepest limits of your soul. Then once you have been taken there, and you know the Lord is with you, you find a hidden well of new strength, a pushing back of what you thought was the end of yourself.
Abraham had faith in God's promises, but when he was fully prepared to raise the knife and sacrifice Isaac to God, then he knew how deep his faith really was. James recalls this: "Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? Do you see that faith was working together with his works and...was made perfect? And the scripture was fulfilled which says "Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness". (James 2:21-23 NKJV)
The "works" Abraham did was going through the trial of being asked to offer his son and the potential, if not real, temptations of holding back. Trials and temptations are counted as joy because they perfect our faith and build our character.
Author and Pastor Paul Cedar sums up well the three kinds of trials/temptations, which sincere Christians face in life.
First are those which result from disobedience. The "cause and effect" trial comes when you are reaping what you have sown. (Gal. 6:7) Despite good advice and sound teaching you went your own way. You cannot intentionally go against God's word and expect Him to bless your endeavor. I have seen the trials, which have befallen couples who cohabitate before marriage and teens who think drinking and driving is cool. The trials do come for those who ignore God's clear instructions from scripture regarding business practices, who "fudge the numbers" because that's how it is done. Numerous people come to our church for help with their trial of homelessness or unemployment; in every case I have seen, the current situation is traceable to one or more bad decisions. Such "cause and effect" trials can provide a valuable education if it is received with humility and even joy. Why? Because God's grace can redeem it and use you for a greater work which, without that experience, you could not do.
The second type of trial/temptation is the spiritual kind.
Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. ...if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. (I Peter 4:12-14, 16 NIV)
If God is working in your life, be sure that the Devil is going to come hunting for you. If you were not rocking his world for Christ's sake, he'd leave alone. Jesus said, "If they hate me, they will hate you." (John 15:20)
In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. (II Timothy 3:12 NIV)
The third type of trial/temptation are the "spiritually mysterious", Cedar says. Why did this disease strike you? Why did your child die? Why are so many unjust things happening against you? There is no rational or logical reason. There are numerous books by a variety of authors who wrestle with that irrationality. Why? Why? Yet no matter how well written or how comforting, the question will not be answered on this side of heaven. The trial is in determining to go on. The temptation is to regress, to stop, to resign--maybe in protest against God's "unfairness" and silence. Some of the strongest, wisest, most inspiring saints of God I know are those who have gone to that deep well and found that God had filled it with the "living water". It flows up out of them as the spring of the water of life. (Only a believer in Christ whose been there knows what this means). In other words, the natural man will understandably be stopped, or at least hindered, from their full potential by these trials and temptations. But it will be clear, even to the staunchest skeptic, that the one who is pressing on in the joy of the Lord has something very real, which is beyond mere flesh and blood.
Trials come from outside; temptations come from within. The stuff of which they are designed and formed comes from the circumstances of life. It is not what these things are doing to you that matter; it is what you are doing with them.
I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. ...I can do everything through him who gives me strength. (Philippians 3:10-11 & 4:13)
This column can be found on the web at: www.fumcl.org and is downloaded for your reading pleasure. Pastor Whitmore is not affiliated with Picket News, nor does he submit any material directly to our publication. We regularly reprint interesting articles found at his public domain Web site and encourage all readers to visit this site to enjoy similar material.