Divine Testing Contrasted with Temptation to Sin
By Al Stoner
In James chapter 1:2-4, 12-16 we see the souls of believing men and women (even those whom God is presently readying to take possession of an eternal inheritance) being pulled in two entirely different directions and confronted by two completely different kinds of distractions. On the one hand their faith is being proven and tried by the God of Heaven, even as Abraham's faith was sorely tested (Gen. 22:1). The glorified Christ declared to the church at Thyatira, that because of His stern dealings with them, "all the churches (not only Thyatira) shall know that I am He which searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works" (Rev. 2:23). There is none more worthy and more fit to search the reins and hearts than the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of man, and Emmanuel. Let us give thanks that it is He who is doing the searching!
In stark contrast with this, they, as well, often find themselves being drawn away and enticed from the living God by their own sinful lusts. The Apostle Paul identified another law that was in his (and our) members, bringing him into captivity to the law of sin and death, which was in his members. "O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death?", he exclaimed in both his and our behalf. And who is sufficient for these things? But in this grievously harassing experience that Paul is describing here in Romans 7, men are regularly being brought face to face with their desperate need for the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world.
God, who is holy, does not tempt men to sin. When God tests men, He does so, among many other things, to prove them and to make manifest what is in their hearts (cf. Deut. 8:1-4). In the present age believing men are, so to speak, on display before principalities and powers in heavenly places. And the counsels of their hearts are made abundantly manifest by their responses to both testing and temptation.
Divine testing is oftentimes exceeding difficult to bear, but it proceeds from Him who holy, and Him who is true. Men are always the better for bearing up under Divine testing. As James declared, "Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love Him" (Jas. 1:12). Such is the nature of Divine testing that one may even "count it all joy" when one finds trial and testing to be his or her portion (Jas. 1:2-3). The testing and trials are being visited upon men by Him who works all things after the counsel of His own will.
In the one instance we see God summoning men to "give the more earnest heed" to what He is saying in His Word, especially when there is a conflict between what appears to be true, and what saith the Scripture (cf. Rom 4:3; Gal. 4:30). The realm of the seen is continually at loggerheads with the realm of the unseen, which is eternal.
In the second instance we see the Tempter (Mt. 4:3) graphically portrayed, as he is busily making use of his arsenal of subtle devices (II Cor. 2:11), seeking to seduce men away from the God of their salvation. The Devil takes full advantage of the "corruption that is in the world through lust" (II Pet. 1:4), and is yet resident in the part of us that is crucified with Christ, as he makes his crafty appeals to draw men away from the living God. Our commission in this regard is to mortify our members which are upon the earth: "fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry: For which things' sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience" (Col. 3:5-6).