Summary: God uses temptation not to find out about us, but so we can find out about ourselves. Article from Spiritual ethoughts monthly epublication.
A temptation is also called an enticement or a lure. Since we can force no one to do be anything, I contend temptation is the seduction of the will. In the resolve of the mind resides the seeds and plans to do wrong or right.
Although we may feel guilty thoughts when we are tempted, the thoughts themselves are not errant just as receiving an invitation to a party does not equal attending the party itself. An invitation can be refused or go unanswered. Temptation invites us to entertain wrong desires. It cannot force us to attend. These desires when entertained germinate the seeds of wrongdoing. The mind plans what the body carries out, so it is before the action happens that the sin is truly fashioned. As the mind is permitted to desire what is wrong, sin is conceived.
The Bible is quite clear on two points: 1) God does not tempt and 2) God provides an escape route for those tempted.
God is not tempted and does not tempt as stated in James 1:13-14, “When tempted, no one should say, ‘God is tempting me.’ For God cannot be tempted by evil; nor does He tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed.” By these verses it seems to me what remains un-surrendered to God within us allows us to be “dragged away and enticed”. These are strong words describe our potential path to self-destruction. Our desires to do wrong lead to our enticement.
James 4:7 echoes the importance of surrender to God. It establishes surrender must be achieved to forbear temptation. “Submit yourselves, then to God. Resist the Devil and he will flee from you.” We do not resist temptation as a human being who is no match for the supernatural, but we resist but aligning with and submitting to God who is not an equal competitor to Satan but rather all-powerful, Almighty God.
We should also take great courage because I Corinthians 10:13 says, “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. 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 stand up under it.”
I believe that God allows temptation to come upon us not so He can discover something about us. The testing that comes from temptation comes so we can see and know who we are for ourselves. We can know where we stand and we can know to whom we should cling.
Resisting temptation that leads to sin is not about being strong as much about not giving way initially to the desires and seeds of wrongdoing. It is always easier to never start than to go backward and depart when it comes to enticement.
C.S. Lewis has some interesting thoughts on resistance to temptation:
A silly idea is current that good people do not know what temptation means. This is an obvious lie. Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is. A man who gives in to temptation after five minutes simply does not know what it would have been like an hour later. That is why bad people, in one sense, know very little about badness. They have lived a sheltered life by always giving in. We never find out the strength of the evil impulse inside us until we try to fight it: and Christ, because He was the only man who never yielded to temptation, is also the only man who knows to the full what temptation means- the only complete realist.
We ought not agonize when we are tempted often because it is the life of resistance to wrong that is the hardest and the most filled with temptation. Giving in produces the harshest results, so resisting means we more fully understand the power and scope of temptation. As we better understand the structure of temptation we can consider our trails as exercise and a test of which we can prevail.
Be strong against all manner of temptations, my friends. We are called to forbear, overcome and succeed is all things that are right and true. Our strength is not in ourselves as many today ascribe to; it is in our Almighty God who will deliver us from temptation.