Editor's Note: Pastor Roger Barrier's "Ask Roger" column regularly appears at Preach It, Teach It. Every week at Crosswalk, Dr. Barrier puts nearly 40 years of experience in the pastorate to work answering questions of doctrine or practice for laypeople, or giving advice on church leadership issues. Email him your questions at roger@preachitteachit.org.

Dear Roger,

Does God lead us into temptation? When I failed in it, really? Just trying to tell me I am weak… break me. How do follow Him again when following Him leads to heartache over and over again? Lost.

Laurie

Dear Laurie,

I can see why you think God could, or would, tempt us. Jesus taught us in the Lord’s Prayer to pray: “… and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the Evil One…” (Matthew 6:9-13).

Both Luke 4 and Matthew 4 tell us that God led Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted by Satan.

One the other hand, James tells us that God would never tempt anyone to sin: “When tempted, no one should say, ‘God is tempting me.’ For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone;…” (James 1:13).

Perhaps this is a paradox. To us it is inconceivable that both are right. But, in God’s mind there may be no conflict. If this is a paradox then this is one of God’s mysteries. He does have mysteries the answers to which we will only discover in Heaven.

Nevertheless, it is hard to go against the “clear-cut” words of James. That is, “God never tempts anyone to sin.”

The Greek word used in these passages may be translated as either "temptation" or "trials”. The translator must choose which word he or she thinks best fits the context. While I do not believe God will ever lead us into places of temptation, there is no doubt that He often leads us into places of trials and troubles.

In your case I think God is not tempting you to fail or succeed. On the other hand, He very well may be putting you into difficult situations.

“Why would He do that?” you are asking. The answer is that God uses, allows or even creates trials and troubles to make us look more like Jesus.

Molding us to look like Jesus is God’s intended purpose for every one of His chidren.

Romans 8:28-29: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son,…”

This says that all things God may allow or bring into our lives are for the “good purpose” of maturing us to look and act like Jesus.

“Though he was a Son, Jesus learned obedience from what he suffered (Hebrews 5-13).

Jesus endured suffering and pain to accomplish God’s plan for His life. He uses the same tactics to mature us to look like Jesus.

In your question you were asking how you follow God when following God brings you so much pain and misery. The answer is to change your perspective and understanding of what is going on in your life. All of these troubles are designed to help you become more like Jesus.

Hebrews 12:5-11 is the classic passage on how and why God allows difficulties to dog your steps, and not just yours, but to dog the steps of all of us who follow Jesus Christ.