Summary: Temptation can take us by surprise sometimes. We can get discouraged when we find ourselves giving in over and over. We get overwhelmed when it seems like we can't catch a break. What can we do? It's important that we understand what's going on so we can
1) The difference between testing and temptation.
• Testing is good; temptation is not (Vs. 17). Every good and perfect gift is from above. Therefore, since God doesn’t tempt anyone temptation is not good. However, it isn’t sin, since Jesus was tempted. But wait-if temptation is bad, how can it not be sin? It’s not good because its intent it to entice to sin. It is an agent for sin (which renders it bad) but it is not sin in and of itself. Testing is good in that it is meant to draw us closer to God. It is meant to strengthen our faith, Temptation, however, is meant to pull us away from God and weaken our faith. Sometimes we can confuse the two because both can be present at the same time. In fact, you can probably guarantee that when God sends you a test, Satan will send you a temptation. 1st Thess. 3:2-5, “We sent Timothy, who is our brother and God’s fellow worker in spreading the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you in your faith, so that no one would be unsettled by these trials. You know quite well that we were destined for them. In fact, when we were with you, we kept telling you that we would be persecuted. And it turned out that way, as you well know. For this reason, when I could stand it no longer, I sent to find out about your faith. I was afraid that in some way the tempter might have tempted you and our efforts might have been useless.” Satan uses the tests and trials that are meant to strengthen our faith to tempt us to sin in the midst of our trial and lose the opportunity to grow from our perseverance.
• Testing is meant to draw you out of your comfort zone while temptation is designed to draw you into it. When God sends a test our way the purpose of it is to challenge us to a deeper faith. Therefore, the test will be designed to draw us out of our comfort zone and prompt us to rely on God. Temptation, however, is meant to pull us deeper into our comfort zone. We’re tempted to do what will make us feel good, what will make us comfortable, in the moment. There’s no challenge in giving into temptation. Testing challenges us to do what isn’t easy. Temptation incites us to take the easy road. Temptation isn’t there to motivate us to rely on God but to rely on ourselves. In a test, we are challenged to be selfless and please God by being obedient to him. A temptation is meant to cause us to be selfish and please myself by being disobedient to God. Serious contrasts.
2) Temptations intentions.
• Solicitation (vs. 14). Temptation: solicitation to evil. To solicit means to attempt to draw somebody into participating in illegal or immoral acts. That’s what the intention of temptation is-to draw us into or drag us into evil. By our own evil desires we are dragged away and enticed. We are taken captive by desires that are already within us. Satan doesn’t tempt us with that which has no hold on us. There are some things I am tempted to do and others which I am not. Some synonyms for temptation are: attraction, appeal, persuasion. Therefore, certain things attract us where others don’t. I might be tempted to eat a plateful of cookies but I won’t be tempted to eat a plateful of cauliflower. Certain temptations have appeal, and others don’t. The opportunity to steal might not entice me but the opportunity to lust might. The temptation to gamble might not be a strong one but perhaps the temptation to get drunk is. Certain temptations have the tendency to trap us more so than others. That’s because of the desires that are already there. They might not be in the forefront of our minds, we might not be thinking about our evil desires all the time but, given the opportunity to think about them and be tempted by them we suddenly find ourselves dragged away and enticed. [Cathy]
• Sin (Vs. 15a). Once we allow the dragging away, once we entertain temptation long enough, we end up in sin. That’s what happened to Adam and Eve. Gen. 3:1-6. They were entitled to everything except one tree. Curiosity got the best of them. They were able to be dragged away and enticed by the lust of their eyes and their greedy desire for gaining wisdom that only God had. They felt deprived. They believed Satan’s lies and because of it they became disobedient to God.
• Death (vs. 15b). When desire gives birth to sin, sin gives birth to more sin. On and on it goes, growing bigger and bigger, dragging us further and further away until the end result is we get so far away we are completely given over to sin and we have brought ourselves to the state of death instead of persevering and getting the crown of life. Therefore, if you think just because you are a Christian you can go on sinning and it won’t matter in the end think again. James tells us where that will get us. It’s very sobering to think of but we need this reality check. It doesn’t happen overnight either. It’s usually a slow process where Satan pulls us away, little by little; sin by sin. All the while as it rolls along like a snowball becoming bigger and bigger and picking up speed. We heap sin upon sin thinking it’s not that big of a deal; nothing to worry about. But then we are sinning more; spending more time in sin and less time with God. We make compromises; except when it comes to our sin. We get dragged further and further away until we’re completely out of touch with God and his people to the point of not even caring anymore. All we care about now is getting our fill of sin-dying more and more as we go until we reach the end of the road where our sin is now “fully grown” and we die.