What is the difference between being tempted and being tested?
Maybe you have asked that at times.
Maybe you are talking with someone and they say, “I believe God is testing me.” You may want to ask, “Ok, how do you know that?”
James 1 talks about being tempted and tested. James says, “Consider it all joy, my brethren when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, that you may be perfect and complete lacking in nothing” (2-3).
Later, in the same chapter, James says, “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God.'”
So, what’s the difference between being tested or being tempted? God tests us to mature us to grow us… Satan tempts us to cause us to sin… God will not tempt us… God only tests us.
In Genesis 22, there is the story of God testing Abraham. God had just given Abraham Isaac and God wanted to see if Abraham loved God more than he did Isaac. So, God told Abraham to offer Isaac on Mt. Moriah. God intervened at the last minute and spared Isaac after God knew that Abraham would sacrifice Isaac if called upon to do it.
You may ask, “Ok, how do I know if God is testing me?” In my experience, it’s not easy to determine. To determine it, we have to have some spiritual awareness. Transparency here… I believe God has been testing me some… and I didn’t pass several tests. God has been slowly getting rid of things in my life that were important to me than they should have been.
If God is testing you, He’s doing it to prove you… to mature you. And when that is the case, we can, as James told us, “Consider it joy when we encounter various trials.”
“How much money do you need?” is a question we may have been asked.
And the response for many of us is, “Just a little bit more.”
We always think more money will solve our problems.
But money does not solve all problems. Now, before I go any farther, I recognize that in some cases, a raise in salary or a job that pays better will help someone out. There are some people who needed a job desperately and a low-paying job is all they could get at the time thinking they would continue look for a better-paying job. But more money isn’t always the answer.
Hebrews 13:5 says, “Let your character be free from the love of money, being content with what you have.”
There is nothing wrong with making money… but it is wrong if we begin to love money.. if we are consumed by money. A love of money has led some to break the law. A love of money has led to the breakdown of a marriage. A love of money has kept many people from giving.
At times, people will say, “When I make more money, I will start giving.” That’s probably not true. If we aren’t giving now, we likely won’t start giving later.
There is nothing wrong with money… unless it begins to consume you. The apostle Paul said, “For the LOVE of money is the root of all evil” (I Timothy 6:10).
Work hard… and if you make good money, thank the Lord. But don’t let the love of money or making of money consume you.
All of us have, at times, compared ourselves to others. It may be one of our siblings or, a friend of ours or maybe someone at school or a neighbor. Normally it’s someone we would like to be like.
Maybe you wish you were more athletic so you wish you were like someone who is. Maybe someone else looks like you would like to look.
Maybe someone else has the charisma you wish you had.
Whatever it is or whomever it is, you can look at someone and wish you were them. And, that can lead to discouragement and even a mild case of depression. Because we can never be someone else.
But we shouldn’t focus on others. Hebrews 12:2 says, “…fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.” The word “fixing” means to “consider attentively.” It means to take our eyes off of other people and focus on Jesus. Why? Because Jesus never lets us down. Jesus accepts us like we are.
The Christmas season is just around the corner. Maybe your money has been tight and you are not going to be able to spend the money you normally spend on Christmas. And, that may be frustrating because you see and hear what others are giving and it frustrates you. But, instead of focusing on others, we need to keep our eyes on Christ.
Jesus accepts us as we are.. He doesn’t want us to be someone else. Jesus loves us as we are… Jesus forgives us… Jesus never lets us down… He never disappoints us. We should keep our eyes fixed on Jesus.
Years ago, I knew a man who watched a particular Preacher on TV. That particular had a moral problem and resigned. During that time, I was visiting with the gentleman I knew and he said, “Gregg; I hope you never let me down like that man did.” I was a young Preacher and didn’t know what to say.
I should have told him, “Sir, I hope I don’t either but, don’t worship a Preacher; keep your eyes fixed on Jesus.”
We should do the same.
In the movie “Raiders Of The Lost Ark,” Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) is looking for the lost ark of Israel. The Germans are looking for it as well.
When the Germans find it but they have no respect or reverence for the significance of the ark. And, if you remember the movie, when they open it, they are consumed by fire from God.
Proverbs 1:7 says, “Fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.”
Psalm 111:10 says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”
What does it mean to have a “fear of the Lord?” It means reverence for God. And, that is missing in today’s world and in some cases, today’s church.
Reverence is a recognition that we are in the presence of God. It means no moving around. It means quiet.
When I was growing up, children were taught to go to the bathroom prior to the beginning of worship. If you got up to go to the restroom during church, you better be about to bust! That’s not the case any longer. At times, our worship services can look like a track-meet with people getting up and moving around. Doing that distracts other worshipers.
Do you have a fear of the Lord and, are you trying to instill that in your children and grand-children?
Theodore Roosevelt once said, “To educate a man in mind but not in morals is to educate a menace to society.”
Folks, God isn’t “the man upstairs…” God is Holy and in our daily lives and worship, we should have a reverence for God.
My Dad was a science teacher. Science is based on proof that something exists. But Christianity is different. Christianity is all about faith and, that can be a problem for someone who doesn’t believe anything exists that can’t be proven.
Lots of people have heard the gospel but will not believe in Jesus because they can’t prove that Jesus exists. Which is why Christianity is about faith.
We learn about a man named Jesus by reading the bible. But, how do we know that the Bible is true? We accept it by faith. And, as we exercise faith, God grows us and matures our faith.
Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Think about that verse… “faith is the ASSURANCE of things hoped for..” That means that we are confidence.. we are sure.. that the promises of Christianity are true.
What are those promises? One is that Jesus is real… even though we have never seen Jesus, we believe Jesus is a real historical person.
The Bible says if a person will repent of their sins and believe in Jesus, they will be saved. Millions of people have done that… when we did, we didn’t see Jesus come into our lives but we felt it. We believe that Jesus is real.
We believe that Jesus died and is returning.
We believe that Jesus will provide for our NEEDS. The apostle Paul said, “My God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory” (Phil. 4:19). Hebrews 11:6 says, “And without faith it is impossible to please Him…” Today, if you are struggling with faith… if your faith is weak… ask the Lord to strengthen you faith and He will.
Do you know someone that has lost a loved one? Someone that’s lost a Husband or Wife or Dad or Mom, and they need someone to “stand in” for their departed loved one? I saw an example of that last week.
I work for a company that officiates weddings and this year, the Lord has blessed me with many weddings. I’ve seen some very moving things in the weddings I’ve officiated, but this past Saturday, I saw one of the most moving moments. I was officiating the wedding of a young couple from south Florida. They came to a beautiful venue in Blue Ridge, GA, known as Aska Farms for their ceremony.
On the front row of the congregation, there was a chair with a police hat and a picture of the father of the bride, John Morash. Mr. Morash had passed away in October of 2003. He was a member of the West Palm Beach, Florida Police Department. When he passed away, his daughter, Totyana, was a small girl. At the time of her father’s death, some men from the Police Department told her that they would be there for in place of her Dad.
When Totyana graduated High School, members of the Police Department were there to stand in for her Dad.
And, on her wedding day… on November 3, 2018, in north Georgia, (a ten hour drive from West Palm Beach) those men and a lady were there.
As the ceremony began, member of the honor guard escorted the bridesmaids down the altar.
Then, the one female member of the Honor Guard escorted the flower girl and ring-bearer down the aisle.
Finally, a member of the Honor Guard escorted Totyana part of the way down the aisle to her mother who then walked her to the groom and gave her away.
Then, throughout the ceremony, the Honor Guard stood at attention.
When I pronounced Rhyan and Totyana as husband and wife, members of the Honor Guard walked into the aisle and stood at attention as the bride and groom walked through them as they left the ceremony. It was one of the neatest things I’ve experienced doing weddings.
After the ceremony I spoke with members of the Honor Guard. They explained to me that in 2003, when Thomas Morash died, they told Totyana (Thomas daughter) they would always be there for her. That meant attending her weddings which was ten hours away.
As I thought about what these men and women had done, I thought, “The church could learn from them.” The church is the family of God. If you are a member of a church, the people in the church are your brothers and sisters in Christ. And family takes care of another… at least that’s how it’s supposed to work.
Now, go back with me for a moment… go back to 2003… none of us were there but can you imagine how a young lady felt when her Dad died? I can’t imagine. Then, to hear men and women he worked with tell her that they would always be there for her?” That’s a strong commitment and maybe Totyana thought, “Yeah, right…”
But these folks honored their word. They flew to north Georgia to stand in for her Dad. Christians, this provides an excellent example for us. We have a tendency at times to reach out to people after a death or a divorce or some other trial, but then, in time, our concern diminishes. We need to do better at staying with people… not forgetting about them.
Is there someone you need to “stand in” for? Someone who has lost a father or mother or a husband or a wife? Is there someone that needs you to be there… not necessarily say anything… just be there.
When my daughter got married this summer, one of Holli’s nieces, Laci Shuman and her husband Steven and their daughter Ashton, drove up from southeast Georgia. James Knighton, Holli’s oldest brother and Lacy’s Dad passed away in 1990. The night of Sarah’s wedding, Lacy told Holli, “I’m here standing in for my Dad… He would be here if he was living.”
Is there someone that needs you “to stand in” for someone on their behalf?
Have you ever prayed for something and it didn’t happen? And when it didn’t happen, did you get frustrated? Maybe you asked God “why?” That happened to me this week.
Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct Thy paths.” I quoted that verse a few times last week and I prayed that my request would be granted.
But it didn’t. I didn’t get what I prayed for. And I was initially, aggravated. But then, the Lord reminded me of something… The verse says, “…lean not on your own understanding.” I wanted what I was praying for. I wanted it bad. I wanted it so bad I started to send an email about five or six times making one last appeal. But I didn’t… I kept telling myself… “leave this in the Lord’s hands.”
And then, it didn’t happen. God answers all our prayers. He answers either, “Yes,” “No,” or “wait.” We don’t like two of those responses. So, does God love us and know what’s best for us? Sure He does! If God knows us and knows what’s best for us then we can trust God to do what’s best for us.
So, as I thought about my prayer not being answered, I thought, “Ok, there must be some reason God doesn’t want me there. And God knows what’s best for me.”
Today, if you are praying for something and God has said, “No;” don’t get bitter with God. God knows you and knows what’s best for you.
When God says “No,” it’s either, 1) The timing is not right or, 2) We aren’t ready to do what we are praying for. Whatever reason it is, we can trust the Lord.