Trials and Temptations

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.

James 1:2-4

God often allows us to face trials and temptations. He allows these to test our faith. Not unlike how we must complete tests in school before moving on to the next semester or the next grade level, so too must we face testing before stepping into the next thing God has for us. Testing, when handled well, matures our faith and fills in areas where there may be holes. But it will take some perseverance.

When trials and temptations come our way, they don’t have to discourage us or make us feel weak and sinful. Remember that Jesus was tempted but didn’t sin (Hebrews 4:15). Just because you face trials and temptations doesn’t mean you have sinned. The enemy likes to try to guilt trip us just for being tempted, as if we’ve already sinned. But don’t believe those lies. That’s the oldest trick in the book.

Instead, we can view our trials and temptations as useful tools that may reveal vulnerable areas or immature areas of our spiritual life. If we let them, they can function as a spiritual “check engine” light that comes on in the dashboard of our life. We can find joy in them because God is using them to show us where He wants to grow us and mature us. We can laugh at our weakness and vulnerability as it reminds us just how dependent we still are on the grace of God.

We can also rejoice in knowing that tests don’t last forever. When the day of testing comes to an end, and we’ve withstood the test, graduation is imminent. God always allows testing in our life before graduating us to the next level of responsibility and/or anointing in the Kingdom. He wants to find out ahead of time if we will be able to handle the weightiness that comes with the next assignment. He doesn’t want the weightiness of it to break us, so we get tested before it comes.

Testing also acts as a refining process. Like gold in the fire, we get refined as the impurities are burned away. God removes things that don’t need to be there, and He brings life in areas that have been dry. “Not lacking anything” is His goal for us.

So what trial are you facing? What temptation is knocking at your door? Don’t be discouraged. It doesn’t mean you are a miserable sinner forever prone to sin. No! You are a new creation in Christ, the old is gone, the new is here (2 Corinthians 5:17). This trial and temptation, brought by the enemy to entangle you, can be used by God as a test to strengthen you. This test is revealing areas God want to solidify in you. And this test might be showing up in your life right now because it is right before a graduation/promotion that God wants to give you.

Finish Strong

Samson led Israel for twenty years in the days of the Philistines.

Judges 15:20

When people think of the biblical character Samson they usually focus on his strength and the fact that he was seduced by Delilah. Growing up in church, I heard over and over again the story of the end of Samson’s life–how Delilah deceived him into revealing the source of his strength and how that led to his demise.

But did you know that he led Israel for 20 years? Did you know that Samson’s story in the book of Judges stretches from chapter 13 through chapter 16. Samson’s life got four chapters of the Bible but usually only the last one is taught.

Did you know that the angel of the Lord showed up to Samson’s mom in the same way that He did to Gideon? Did you know that Samson’s mom had to commit to a Nazarite vow while she was pregnant with Samson even before Samson committed to it in his own life?

Did you know that Samson was married to a Philistine girl long before Delilah entered the picture? Yet, the girl’s father ended up giving her away to another man while Samson was gone on one of his exploits. To do this in that day (even in our own) was a total betrayal of trust.

Think about how many times Samson must have fought for and rescued the Israelites from the oppression of the Philistines in twenty years. Two decades of being an instrument of the Lord to save and deliver the people of God is no small thing. Yet, so many of us only remember the last few months of his life.

I believe this is a good warning for those of us following Jesus with our life and especially for those in full-time ministry. Finishing well is such an important thing in God’s Kingdom. People won’t remember the twenty years of faithful ministry. They’ll only remember the big mistake that brought you down. We’ve seen this truth play out with more than one famous minister that we respected.

The apostle Paul reminds the Corinthians about how the Israelites rebelled against God in the desert and then gives them a warning:

These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come. So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.

1 Corinthians 10:11-13

Paul reminds us:

1) If you feel strong against temptation, don’t get arrogant but stay humble. God’s grace is what empowers you to walk in holiness.

2) The enemy doesn’t have new tricks; his temptations with you will be the same that he’s used against others.

3) God is faithful. If you are following Jesus, He’ll help you navigate temptation.

4) The Holy Spirit will show you a way out and a way through. You’re never alone when facing temptation.

Paul knew how important it was to finish the race strong. We aren’t given permission to peter out at the end of our ministry or at the end of our life. God’s expectation is that we will run the race of life hard all the way through the finish line. We are never to let up and never get complacent.

To the leaders in the church of Ephesus Paul articulates the vision he has for his own life and a vision we should capture for our own:

 I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me…

Acts 20:24

How can you make sure you finish strong?