Can You Tell the Difference between a Test and a Temptation?

Either way, our reaction should be the same.

Sometimes it’s tough to tell whether we’re facing a test or a temptation. Situations of struggle don’t always come with a label to clue us in on the source. They key is to know the different purposes of each. 

Can You Tell the Difference between a Test and a Temptation?

(Photo courtesy of Ben White at Unsplash)

A great example is the road tests automakers perform on one another. As objective as the tests claim to be, the goals remain clear. GM tests Ford to show Ford’s weaknesses. GM tests GM to show its strengths. When Ford does the testing, however, they test GM to show its weakness. 

This type of testing is biblical. Both God and Satan perform tests on you and me. These road tests reveal how the rubber meets the road in our Christian lives.

But the two tests have two completely different goals. Can you tell the difference?

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How to Resist Temptation Like Jesus

The Lord's strategy in the Judean Wilderness also works today.

Everybody faces temptation. And on some level, everybody has fallen to it. Everybody but Jesus. I have walked in the wilderness where Satan tempted Jesus.

Judean wilderness

(Photo: Judean wilderness. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

Good grief, what a place. As far as my eye could see, it was empty, dry, and depressing. I tried to imagine the solitude and struggle Jesus would have endured for over a month. But I could not.

How did Jesus resist temptation here?

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How to Stay Alert to Your Evil Adversary

There are essentials we must keep in mind in order to stand firm.

You have an enemy. No, it’s not that other political party. It’s not your boss. It’s certainly not your spouse. I’m not even talking about terrorists. I’m talking about an adversary you can’t see.

How to Stay Alert to Your Evil Adversary

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He’s hidden, but there, just biding his time until he can take you out. The Apostle Peter reveals his identify:

Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. —1 Peter 5:8

Contrary to Hollywood or popular fiction, Satan isn’t some imp with horns, a pitchfork, and a bifurcated tail. He’s not even the horror flick typecast of a spook who causes heads to spin and doors to slam. That stereotype is just what the devil would have us believe. Why? So that we will laugh him off as fiction, fantasy, or the superstition of simple-minded Bible thumpers.

Let’s clear our heads for a moment. Jesus Christ spoke of Satan as a reality.

You need to know you have an enemy. You also need to know what to do about it.

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Why to Linger Longer Over Your Lousy Mistake

We all blow it. For us as Christians, what often makes it worse is that we knew better—but we did it anyway. Nobody forced us. We chose it. Now we’re feeling regret.

Why to Linger Longer Over Your Lousy Mistake

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The emotional fallout we experience from grieving the Spirit of God feels like a literal weight on our souls. It’s not a weight of shame as much as it is sorrow—disappointment with having not loved Jesus enough to obey Him.

If we take the proper next step, we’ll recognize our folly and confess our sin to God. But understand why we confess:

  • We don’t confess in order to guarantee or keep our place in heaven. Our forgiveness of sins that would condemn us took place on the cross when Jesus died in our place (Rom. 8:1).
  • We confess in order to restore our fellowship with God—not our salvation. The result of our confession? He promises immediate forgiveness (1 John 1:9).

But before we move on—before we slap grace over our lousy mistake and forget it—I’m suggesting we linger a little longer over our sin.

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My Biblical Encounter with a Russian Prostitute

I discovered there isn’t time to ponder your reaction when propositioned by a prostitute. Your first response is your response. It happened to me in a Russian hotel.

My Experience with the Bible and a Russian Prostitute

(Photo: St. Basils Cathedral in Moscow’s Red Square. By Soerfm. Own work. CC-BY-SA-3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

I went with some missionaries to Moscow to help train national pastors. On our first morning, I headed to the hotel lobby to meet our team. Stepping out of the elevator, I scanned the lobby for others in our group. I saw no one I knew.

A small group of ladies at the bar sat and chatted with each other. All of them, that is, except one. This one very attractive woman was smiling and staring—straight at me.

As our eyes met, I suddenly remembered someone told me that prostitutes sat in the bar, looking for customers. This woman kept smiling and then leaned forward—and a literal chill ran up my back. I can still feel it. I froze.

At that moment, I heard three very distinctive words in my head.

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Where Overcoming Temptation Begins

We are more than physical creatures with physical needs. Notice in most prayer meetings that you’ll hear requests for God to help with the tangible needs. That’s fine, except it often ends there.

Where Overcoming Temptation Begins

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We don’t always realize how desperate our need is for truth beyond the tangible.

The trouble is, when we face temptation, our challenge is anything but physical—even when the temptation appeals to a physical needs or desires.

Overcoming temptation begins long before temptation.

Jesus shows us how.

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Mary Magdalene—A Change You’d Never Expect

Her name is as well-known as any apostle. Yet the truth about her life often lies shrouded behind myths, fiction, and flat-out conjecture.

Mary Magdalene—A Change You’d Never Expect

(Painting by José de Ribera. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

Modern art and bestselling novels paint her as everything from a prostitute to the infamous woman caught in adultery to the wife of Jesus Himself.

But the Scriptures portray Mary Magdalene as a different person altogether.

Surprisingly, she was more like us than we would expect.

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Revealing the Lies of Temptation

Congratulations, Mr. Stiles, you’ve just won an all-expense paid trip to Hawaii!”

“No thanks.”

“You mean . . . you don’t want it?” I hung up. It was a short conversation.

Revealing the Lies of Temptation

(Photo: Design Pics, via Vivozoom)

A solicitor does not call to give anything—unless he or she ultimately gets more back in return.

I have discovered the devil is the same way. Satan knows how to market to people. He’s been doing it a long time. From the beginning, in fact.

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Two Life Lessons from Fishing Lures

Cold and blustery. Hardly anyone at Lake Ray Roberts. Five dollars for worms. Hooks snag in the underwater weeds. Worm guts under the fingernails.

Fish won’t bite. A hook pierces my thumb.

(Photo: by Túrelio, Creative Commons)

“Daddy, a stocked pond might be more fun,” I heard over my shoulder.

We fished with worms, hooks, and bobs while a nearby man cast a fishing lure with his rod. As we were leaving, this man caught a bass!

We caught nothing. Go figure. But his success got me to thinking.

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Temptation’s Lie: The Devil Made Me Do It

More than thirty years ago Flip Wilson kept America in stitches with his television characters “Reverend Leroy,” the friendly, pompous pastor of the “Church of What’s Happening Now,” and “Geraldine Jones,” the sassy African-American woman in a miniskirt.

Whenever Geraldine would impulsively buy a dress—or do anything she shouldn’t—she excused her urge by blurting the line she made famous, “The Devil made me do it!”

America laughed at Geraldine for her obviously lame excuse. In fact, to say, “The Devil made me do it,” became the rage all over the country.

A widespread theology exists that seems to be a strange mix between Reverend Leroy and Geraldine. We find ministries with leaders who point to the Devil and his imps for the sins that plague us. For example, one very radical ministry told a Christian woman who visited them that her problems came from a “legion” of demons within her, and in order to get rid of them, she needed to vomit them out right there in church! Others are told they have a “spirit of divorce,” a “spirit of lust,” “neglect,” or “procrastination.” These spirits are blamed for people’s sins, and the solution to these sins then becomes casting out the spirit causing them. Geraldine would be proud.

Frequently the Bible uses the word “spirit” to refer to a demon, often attaching a descriptive word or phrase such as “unclean spirit” (Mark 1:23), “evil spirit” (Acts 19:12-13), “spirit of infirmity” (Luke 13:11), and “deaf and mute spirit” (Mark 9:25). Words such as “unclean” and “evil” describe the nature of the spirit itself. But phrases like “spirit of infirmity” and “deaf and mute spirit” describe the particular affliction the spirits cause.

Unfortunately, many people launch from these verses into theological error when they confuse affliction with transgression, naming a demon after their sin.

The Bible never describes the work of demons in the lives of believers directly in terms of immorality. In other words, to say a believer has a “spirit of lust”—as if his real problem is a demon—assumes something the Bible never teaches. The demonic realm can influence a believer’s morality. However, God’s Word describes demonic influence in a believer’s life not as “possession”—or even “oppression”—but primarily as temptation.

So, how should we respond to temptation? We must know and hold fast to the Word of God. When Satan tempted Jesus in the wilderness, the Devil again tried to muddle God’s Word, as he did with the woman in the garden. But Jesus not only knew the Scripture, He clung to it—and sent the Devil packing (Matthew 4:1-11).

The best way to counter temptation’s tug is to choose to do what’s right. James 4:7 gives the strategy, “Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” A number of other great verses include: Ephesians 6:10-18; 1 John 4:4; Matthew 6:13; Matthew 26:41; Romans 6:1-14; Galatians 5:16; 1 Corinthians 10:13.

Mark it down as a fact: We will always struggle with temptation in this life. But God has not left us alone in the struggle. We cannot cast out temptation. But we can resist.

We have a great opportunity to glorify Christ by responding with faithfulness in the face of every evil enticement.

Taken from Wayne Stiles, “The Devil Made Me Do It?” Insights (July 2005): 1-2. Copyright © 2005 by Insight for Living. All rights reserved worldwide. Snake photo by Ltshears. “The Temptation of Christ” painting by Ary Scheffer, 1854. Public domain.