Thursday, March 13, 2014

Thoughtful About . . . Trials and Temptations

I figure I'll just keep posting thoughts from my Bible study. ;-) Worked well for me last week, LOL.

This week, the study of James led us into a discussion on temptation. It's worth noting up front that the root of temptation is tempt, and the root of attempt is also tempt. So there's already a link between tempting and trying. And the dual meanings of try--both to try to do something and when something tries (vexes) you--are in the original Greek.

So. There were a few things in the verses we studied that jumped out at me. First is that trials, troubles, tribulations are not themselves any indicator of sin...but they often lead to it. Why? Because when things are going well, it's easy to keep our focus (sometimes) where it needs to be. A healthy marriage doesn't often lead one to an affair. When there's nothing to get mad about, we don't often fly off the handle and hurt somebody. When we're not sick or injured, we're not inclined to drown ourselves in self-pity and curse God (as Job's wife told him to do).

But when the bad things come--that's when that invisible finger curls, beckoning us. Telling us to come this way, it'll be easier. It'll be satisfying. It'll give us what we lack. Sometimes even promising us that Noble Thing we've so long striven for, but in a way that goes against what God instructed.

You can be like God...if you just eat this fruit.

Ever pause to think how clever that enticement really was? Satan didn't promise them riches. He didn't promise them fleshly pleasure. How could he? Adam and Eve already had a perfect life. The one thing they wanted was to be ever more like the Father who walked with them. So that was the one temptation the adversary could offer. You can be like God, just like Him. A good thing--but to do so, they'd have to disobey. So he twisted the words, made them question their understanding. Are you sure he said that? Just like that? I don't think so. And you'll understand as soon as you eat...

But here's the other thing that struck me. When we think of temptations, we think of something external, like that beckoning finger. We are tempted by something. By someone. By some force. And sometimes, yeah, that's true. It's an outside person or being luring us. But in James it says we are led by "our own desires" into temptation.
Not always by Satan. Not always by other people. By ourselves. Because we want the fleshly thing. We want the donut. We want the alcohol. We want the sex. All things that are good in the right time, in moderation, so why not more?

A lot of translators even put "evil" into the verse--that we are led astray by our own evil desires. But that's not in the Greek. The Greek word just means "natural desires." The desire for food, for drink, for warmth, for comfort, for love, for arms around us. Natural. Not bad in and of themselves. But they can lead us toward sin when we put those desires above our desire for God. When we let those desires rule us instead of the other way around.

This is why denying ourselves is a pretty big theme in the Bible. Because we need to get those urges under control. We need to not be enslaved by them. Because if we have to have them, and struggle with it when all is well, what's going to happen when the trials come?

They're going to test us, that's what. Tempt us. Is it God? Well, James says God doesn't tempt. But sometimes God tests--He doesn't lead us to the temptation, but he allows the trials. Why?

This is another lovely realization that came through our study. Because we need to know we're stronger. God already knows--these trials aren't for His benefit. But seriously. How do you know how strong your faith is, until you have to use it? How do you know how much you love Him until you see that love under threat?

I remember back when Xoe was about 11 months old. She was cruising but not walking on her own yet, and in her usual way was going around the living room by holding on to this and that. We had a pedestal end table she'd just grabbed. I was across the room, on the couch. I saw it happen--her hand slip, her knees buckle. I knew she was going down. But before I could get there, she'd already fallen, hitting her head on the table edge on the way down. At 11 months, this was her first bloody injury. And it wasn't bad. A Band-Aid made all well again. But it was the first time I'd seen my baby bleed. The first time she'd been in real pain.

And it made me sick. Dizzy. I had to hand her to David and sink down to the floor until my head and stomach righted themselves, and I have never gotten weird at the sight of blood.

But it was different when it was hers. 

I'd obviously known I adored my little girl. I loved her to pieces. But not until that moment did it become perfectly clear to me how much. The pain--terrible as it was--acted like a lens. With Rowyn, that lens came at birth, when he couldn't catch a full breath and had to spend his first two days under an oxygen hood. Newborn, and my baby had a problem. My heart hurt beyond what I thought it could. And my love just gushed from me.

No one wants trials. No one wants to be tempted. But it's through these tests that we understand how much stronger God is than our weaknesses. How the longing for Him can outdo the longing for anything else.

And then I look at the world around me, and I have to wonder. Because "temptation" has become a sexy word. An alluring word. Not a word of warning, but a word of enticement. Come, be tempted. Give in, the world says.

Hearing the call isn't a sin. Feeling the longing is only natural. But giving in to it--deciding to give in to it--that's where the danger lies. 

But it's not going to give you what you hope it will. It won't. Don't be deceived, James warns in the next verse. Every good and perfect gift comes from God. God. Not the world. The world can make you happy...for a while. But it can't make you joyful. It can meet the needs of your flesh...but not the needs of your soul.

That's why God is always there. Always waiting. He always has His hand outstretched, so that when those trials come, when we feel the temptation, we can turn to Him instead. And we can know that He already gave up so much for us. He already paid the price that sin would exact. He already defeated the temptation.

We just have to remember it.

1 comment:

  1. Roseanna, thank you. This article is so beautiful, so inspiring. We all need this encouragement from time to time.