Temptation: The Hardest Test You Will Ever Take
- Friday, April 01, 2005
When I was the pastor of a church in New Jersey the usher board president came to me to get my permission to use the church van for an outing. I noticed that she did not say where they wanted to go in the church van, so I asked her what would be their destination. She told me that they wanted to go to Atlantic City. That was just after gambling had once again been legalized in Atlantic City. She assured me that they did not want to go to any of the casinos in Atlantic City; they just wanted to walk along the boardwalk and sit on the beach.
I reminded her that there were at least a dozen other cities along the Jersey shore that had a boardwalk and a beach, and I urged her to go to one of those cities instead. She tried to persuade me that no other city or resort along the Jersey shoreline was as appropriate for this trip as Atlantic City, and if they could not go there in the church van then they would reserve a bus that would take them to Atlantic City. It did not seem to matter to her how much satisfaction the devil would get if somebody who was not a believer could see a church van parked outside of a casino, or how inappropriate it was for a church group to rent a bus to go to a place where they could gamble their money away. The devil is always testing our attitude to see what kind of people we are. The devil is always trying to find out if there is anything we would not do if we thought we could earn some money in the process.
The second test will involve what we are willing to do in order to make God prove Himself to us. In this second test you and I are assigning to God a task or a test that God must pass in order for us to believe that God is really there. If you are God then heal my body before tomorrow morning. If you are God then meet my need for a job or a spouse. We put God to the test by asking God to do whatever it is that we ask God or perhaps even tell God to do in order for us to continue to believe in God. “Lord, I know that you can heal me, so do it!” “Lord, I know you can give me this blessing I desire, so do it!” Lord, I know you can answer this prayer, so do it!”
We need to learn to come before God like Jesus did in the Garden of Gethsemane. There was something that Jesus desperately and urgently wanted God to do for Him; “Let this cup pass from me” (Matthew 26:39). Jesus knew that unless something happened, He would soon be handed over to His enemies who would condemn Him to death by the cruel process of crucifixion; being nailed to a cross and left to die from exposure, asphyxiation and horrendous physical pain and trauma.
Even in the face of that prospect Jesus did not put God to the test; He did not tell God to do something as a way of proving that God was real. After He told God what He wanted, He ended His prayer by reminding Himself that what He wanted was not the most important thing. He ended His prayer with the ultimate words of humility of one’s self and the ultimate exaltation of God: not my will but your will be done. Whatever it is you may be asking from God, remember that Satan is testing you to find out whether you are willing and able to end that prayer by saying these words of Jesus: “Not my will but your will be done.”
The third test we will surely face some day involves whether there is anything of this world that comes to mean more to us than our relationship and our obedience to God. Satan told Jesus that he would give Him all the wealth of the world if Jesus would only bow down and worship him. Satan will tell us the same thing; you can have everything this world has to offer if you just turn your back on God and worship some politician or some political ideology. You can have it all if you just turn your back on God and model your life after Snoop Doggy Dog, whose musical lyrics debase and degrade women. Or you can model your life after Oprah Winfrey who has been shacking up with Stedman Graham for the last ten years. Or you can worship the value system found on the TV shows Desperate Housewives or Trading Spouses, where marital vows are ridiculed and the gods of popular culture are honored and adored. Never mind trusting and believing that God will provide for your needs; worship the gods of this world and trust them to provide the things you need.
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