Tuesday, March 16, 2010


Our house church family was recently discussing the Lord’s prayer. One of our brothers admitted he’s always struggled with the section where Jesus teaches us to pray, “…and lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.” Because we know that God doesn’t tempt us to do evil, it seems strange that Jesus would ask us to pray that God would not lead us into temptation.

According to the book of James, we are not tempted by God, but God does use our testing and trials to strengthen our faith.

“Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. When tempted, no one should say, "God is tempting me." For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone.” – (v.12-13)

So, what is Jesus saying in this teaching? What are we to understand from God’s Word about the intricacies of temptation and testing?

While God may not directly tempt us to sin, he does allow us to be tested – or tempted – in order to help us grow in our faith.

At the moment my wife Wendy and I are praying about sending our oldest son, Dylan (14), to attend the Orange County High School of the Arts. Dylan has always been a very creative young man and from an early age he has always expressed a desire to be an artist.

A few weeks ago, Dylan auditioned to become one of about 40 new students at this special arts-focused high school. He and 2,400 others showed their portfolio, submitted an application and turned in three drawings created during the interview process. We’ll find out in April if he’s made the cut.

If he does make it, we will be releasing our oldest son into the public school system, which, for home school parents like us is more than a little frightening, to be honest. We know that for the first time in his life Dylan will be exposed to ideas and language and behaviors he has only observed from a distance until now. We pray that he will continue to make good choices as temptations and distractions come his way at this new school. Frankly, we’re not fully convinced that this really is God’s best for Dylan, but we’re willing to take a leap of faith with our son.

As we were sharing our concerns along these lines with an older couple a few months ago over dinner, one of them said something that has continued to echo in my ears. He said, “Virtue untested is not virtue.”

Because of this simple sentence, I am willing to allow Dylan to step into a place where I know he will have his faith tested and his ideas challenged. Why? Because he is becoming a man now and sooner or later he must be allowed to succeed – or to fail – on his own. He must learn how to deal with failure and to recover from mistakes and he needs to do that without his Mom or Dad hovering over him. Dylan needs to discover for himself who he is and if what he believes about life – and about himself – is true or not.

This is similar to how God deals with us, I believe. He teaches about Himself. He shows us His love. He fills us with His Spirit. Then he allows us to be tempted and tested to see if we can live out what we say we believe. I think it’s more for our benefit because God already knows our heart. He already knows what’s in us. But, we do not. We need to discover the places where our faith is all talk and to see ourselves in the light of reality. We need to hold on tight to God when we can’t hear His voice. We need to fall flat on our face and realize that we weren’t really the spiritual superstars we thought we were. We need to be humbled and we need to know how much we really do rely on God for every single breath.

This is why God asked the Devil if he had seen Job’s faith. It’s why God prompted David to number the men of Israel. It’s why there was a tree in the Garden that wasn’t meant to be touched. It’s even why the Spirit of God drove Jesus into the desert to be tempted. We need to know how weak we really are. We need to learn to trust God no matter what.

So, we need to pray and ask that God would lead us – not into temptation – but away from evil, because we know that we are weak and hopeless without Him.



Anthony said...

We are specifically told that the Holy Spirit lead Jesus into the wilderness to be tested? Why should it be any difference from us?

On the night of his betrayal - his prayer was not that the apostles not be tested - but rather they would be delivered from the evil one.

Who incited David to take a census of Israel? Is is Satan per 1 Chronicles 21 or the LORD per 2 Sam 24?

Marc said...

I think our translation of "temptation" may be off from the context. While our context is piety, Jesus surroundings was one of potential bloody revolution against the Romans. I think it was Brian McLaren who said a better translation might be: lead us not into the time of trial (i.e. revolution) and deliver us from the evil one (i.e. Rome).

Like a Mustard Seed said...

I would have to point out that any honest reading of any of the gospels clearly shows that Jesus was not talking about Rome when He refers to the "evil one"...

Christ did not attribute people's slavery to the occupation of Rome, but rather puts His finger on their slavery to their own sin...

To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."
They answered him, "We are Abraham's descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?"

Jesus replied, "I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. I know you are Abraham's descendants. Yet you are ready to kill me, because you have no room for my word. I am telling you what I have seen in the Father's presence, and you do what you have heard from your father."

"Abraham is our father," they answered.

"If you were Abraham's children," said Jesus, "then you would do the things Abraham did. As it is, you are determined to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. Abraham did not do such things. You are doing the things your own father does."
"We are not illegitimate children," they protested. "The only Father we have is God himself."

Jesus said to them, "If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and now am here. I have not come on my own; but he sent me. Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father's desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me! Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don't you believe me? He who belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God."
John 8:31-47