Part 2: Trials: God's Testing Or The Devil's Tempting?
In these days of apostasy, it is important to know the difference between God's TESTINGS and the devil's TEMPTINGS. In Revelation 13:2, the dragon gives his power to the beast to rule "over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations" and to receive worship from them. This man will rule with Satan's miraculous power, his throne and such great authority that the Bible says he will overcome the saints and wear them out and behead a great number of them. The devil does have miraculous powers (2 Thess 2:9), a throne (Rev 2:13, seen as anti-christ's throne in Rev 16:10), and great authority (Rev. 13:2), and God ALLOWS this; He is not ignorant of the fact that it lies in our near future. In Revelation 2, we also see the martyrdom of the saints in the early Church at Smyrna. Again, God knew this was going to happen. In fact, Jesus Himself told this church,
Rev 2:10 Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a CROWN OF LIFE.
Being all knowing, why does Jesus seemingly stand aloof from this soon-coming, fearful situation, telling the church at Smyrna that some of them will be imprisoned, tried, go through deep trials, and be put to death? He KNOWS what is going to happen to them, and yet He DOES NOTHING about it. The risen Christ is certainly ALLOWING it. He is telling these saints that some of them will be slain, and yet doesn't promise them deliverance in the natural, but a Crown of Life if they do not yield to temptation within that situation. Along these same lines, James wrote,
James 1:12 Blessed is the man that ENDURETH TEMPTATION: for when he is tried, he shall receive the CROWN OF LIFE, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him. 13 Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: 14 But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.
Someone might say, "Lord, you're placing me into a situation of temptation." I am sure His reply would be, "You're to be ready for any situation. I am placing you in a situation where your faith will be tested for your good benefit." God does everything according to His word and He expects us, as His children, to do the same - IN EVERYTHING. That's why Scripture says GOD TEMPTS NO MAN. If we're His, He expects us to live by His words from the heart to the death. Real faith is of the heart, and we can know that we have real faith when His word, and the faith that word brings, is in our hearts and we live by that standard no matter what the cost.
Jesus also said to the saints at Smyrna,
Rev 2:11 He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death.
Overcome what in this trial? Death? No, fear of death; I believe it is appropriate to say the temptation to fear in their very hard situation was unbelievably real.
God's Testings And Satan's Temptations
In these verses, two things enter the picture: God's testing and Satan's temptations. We have to know the difference, because such times are coming upon us as well. Look at these four points:
Gods Tests Faith For Eternal Purposes
God tests faith in the heart for eternal purposes, that we might receive praise, honor and glory from Jesus when He returns:
PRAISE: Matt 25:21 His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.
Temptation Comes On The Heels Of Testing
What it boils down to is that there is really only one true TEST for the Christian, while there are manifold temptations. Paul said of this test,
2 Cor 13:5 Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove (Strong's: 3181: test) your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?
Satan, on the other hand, tempts the heart with worldly purposes that we might receive condemnation, judgement and damnation at the Lord's coming. Constantly setting our "affections on things above, not on things on the earth" is half the battle to doing God's known will. It's "Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God" (Heb 12:2). God's testing is simply His giving us responsibilities with the expectation that we will walk in the image and likeness of His Son come in the flesh.
The confusion about whether we are being tested by God or tempted by the devil is a matter of great importance, especially as we watch what is happening in the Church concerning the apostasy. These people no doubt believe they are being tested by God, when in reality much of it is the result of yielding to the temptations of the adversary. THE WORD OF GOD DOES TEST OUR LIVES, AND WHEN IT DOES, THE ADVERSARY FOLLOWS WITH TEMPTATION, OFTEN CONFUSING TESTING WITH TEMPTING. HOW OFTEN HAVE YOU HEARD SOMEONE SAY, "I DON'T KNOW IF THIS IS GOD TESTING ME OR THE ADVERSARY TEMPTING ME." The only sure way to know is to get into the word of God and find out:
Matt 13:19 When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the way side. 20 But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it; 21 Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended. . .
Changing The Truth Into A Lie
True saints take root in Christ and don't "change God's word for a lie" in the face of overwhelming trials. As children of God, we are expected to live totally by His standard, meaning His Son as He is related in His word. When we love the truth and hold to the truth, we love Him. Our affections are on the things above, where Christ is seated at His right hand. But Paul said of those who don't, who consider the creature - even their own selves - more worthy than God:
Rom 1:24 Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: 25 WHO CHANGED THE TRUTH OF GOD INTO A LIE, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.
In Jesus, we have victory over every temptation "for we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin" (Heb 4:15). The devil could find no place in Him (John 14:30), and through His testing His word in our hearts, God wants the same for us for eternal gain.
The devil loves to change the word of God and the truth of that word into a lie, so that we doubt God. When he attempts to do so, when we doubt something we were excited about that we believed God had really said, we need to scrutinize the origin of our thoughts to see if there is a "Hath God said . . ." underneath them. God's word stands for ever, and we alone can determine whether we stand or fall:
Eph 4:27 Neither give place to the devil.
We only stand if we retain the armor God has given us in His word:
Eph 6:14 Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; 15 And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16 Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: 18 Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;
Continued in Part 3.