I’ve been guilty of this so many times. I come to a difficult situation and the first thing I pray is for deliverance. I face a temptation and ask God to give me strength to get through it. Anyone else notice the problem with this?

It’s backwards!

The definition of trial is: A state of pain or anguish that tests patience, endurance, or belief (definition found here: http://www.thefreedictionary.com/trial).

The definition of temptation is: something that seduces or has the quality to seduce (definition found here: http://www.thefreedictionary.com/temptation).

As you can see, trials and temptations are not the same thing. Let’s look at a few verses that talk about trials and temptations, and how we are to deal with them.

Trials

James 1:2-3 – Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet various trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.

1 Peter 1:6-7 – In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith – more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire – may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

James 1:12 says, Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.

Temptations

James 1:13-15 – Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and He Himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.

1 Corinthians 10:13 says, No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

Trials inevitably come; temptations for the most part come when we are pulled away to our own desires. Sometimes temptation can come out of the blue, but there’s always an escape, as 1 Corinthians clearly says.

We are to stand the test, remain up under the trial. This is how we grow and mature. We are to flee temptation so we aren’t caught and made to stumble.

So how do we know the difference? A trial is something that draws us nearer to God because most of the time we have nowhere else to turn when faced with it. A temptation draws us away from God. It isn’t edifying.

However, a temptation may not always be glaringly obvious. For an alcoholic or an addict, temptations can be clear: a friend we used to drink or do drugs with, for one example. It’s best to completely break ties to these people. That can hurt, I know, but it’s the best for our continued sobriety.

The not so obvious? One of my personal problem areas in the past was Samurai Jack. Now, it’s a cartoon and I don’t think there was anything wrong with it, but I couldn’t watch it. Why? Because the first time I did was when I was on acid, and every time I even saw a preview for it, that’s where my mind would go. That was a while back and isn’t really too much of an issue anymore, but there are still movies I can’t watch and songs that I can’t listen to – again, not because there’s anything wrong with them, but they take my mind back to when I was drinking. If I dwell on things like that or let them into my mind, it’s only a matter of time before I start thinking heavily about drinking or drugs, and that leaves me open to temptations that could lead me back to the lifestyle I’ve left behind me.

We have to be honest with ourselves and know what our stumbling blocks are so we can avoid them. This is imperative to grow and stay on a path leading away from a less than desirable past. Our goal should be to bear up under trials – with the support of our brothers and sisters in Christ – and to flee temptations – which we’ll get the strength from God to do.

Do you recognize the potential temptations in your life? How has God provided escape for you in the past? Feel free to share in the comments.

(All Bible verses were used from the ESV)

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