By Ed Tarkowski

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:

  1. Satan TEMPTS our hearts by using material or outward things (the "apples" he entices us with, e.g., possessions, money, fame, positions of importance, etc.) to stir up our inner man's desires for immaterial things, e.g., pleasure, power, ambition, greed, authority, etc. In Smyrna's case, it seems quite possible that the combination of the fear of man and the fear of death brought to them the temptation to possibly deny Christ (the inner temptation) for the sake of their own life in the body (the outward incentive to yield to temptation). If one yields to the temptation of saving his life and thus loses it, we have nothing less than the oft repeated replay of the fall.

  2. God doesn't TEMPT us, but has

    2 Pet 1:4 given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.

    God doesn't TEMPT us into believing in Him and loving Him or even dying for Him. He has told us plainly, as He did with the Smyrna believers, that we are to know His word and do His will, and know the cost and reward of His will towards us as related in His plainly-stated word:

    1 John 2:16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. 17 And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.

    God speaks plainly to us. He's given us His word in the Scriptures, and it is His standard and we're to live it, all of it. The devil has all the other words. God can't and won't tempt us with His word because His word is out in the open. He never wants anything FOR US except what is in His word, and He allows us to choose if we want to be reconciled to Him from our sinful selves and live by Him and enjoy Him for eternity. Furthermore, He never wants anything FROM US that He didn't go through in overcoming the world FOR US through His Son's cross and the empty tomb. In these two events, He overcame the world, and John said,

    1 John 5:3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous. 4 For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. 5 Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?

    His commands "are not grievous"? No, they are not, even if they lead to the point of obedience in the face of temptation that could bring physical death. Why? Because from God's perspective, such an act is the crowning glory of His Son in fallen man.

  3. Satan TEMPTS our hearts with the seen and unseen things of this world for one purpose: to cause us to desire and pursue anything but God and His will, and He will even counterfeit God's own Son to do it.

  4. God TESTS our hearts, meaning that He tests the desire of His children for Him and our commitment to His word. That is for our benefit, not God's, so that WE can see where we are not walking according to His word and not desiring Him above all things:

    1 Pet 1:6 Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: 7 That the trial of YOUR FAITH, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, THOUGH IT BE TRIED WITH FIRE, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ: 8 Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory: 9 Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls.

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.

HONOR: John 12:26 If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man serve me, him will my Father honour.

GLORY: Col 3:1 If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. 2 SET YOUR AFFECTION ON THINGS ABOVE, NOT ON THINGS ON THE EARTH. 3 For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.

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.

Eph 6:11 Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. 13 Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

1 Pet 5:8 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: 9 Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world. 10 But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you. 11 To him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.

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.