Temptation and Testing

What is the difference?

by Dr. Ken Matto

I believe there are many Christians in this world who have a problem distinguishing between temptation and testing. How do we recognize the differences in them? Let me offer you a principle which can help you detect the difference between the two.

A temptation is designed to help establish a disobedience pattern in your Christian walk but a test is designed to strengthen and mature you in your Christian walk.

Within the confines of every temptation is the test. There is no temptation which can come at you which is not a test of your Christian strength and faithfulness. I know, I know I have confused you again!

When I say a temptation is designed to build a disobedience pattern in your life, I mean that a temptation is not there for a one time event. There is always a pattern which leads to a disobedient lifestyle and that pattern begins when a person chooses to obey evil temptations. In the life of a Christian, sin is voluntary because we have the new nature and yet we do sin because the old nature wars against the new nature. (Rom 8:1 KJV) There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.

A Temptation Scenario
Let us look at the sin of drinking alcohol. A young person who has never drunk an ounce of beer in their life sees an ad or hears people talking that drinking is so mature. So this person decides to try it. They have been tempted and because he chose not to look at the negative sides of drinking and to weigh up both sides, he begins to drink. He has maybe one beer or two. He finds he likes it so he makes it a regular thing. Now he begins to establish a pattern that he drinks a beer at a meal. Then he widens the pattern and has a beer at night while watching TV or something. After a while he establishes a pattern that when he goes out to a restaurant, he has a beer with his meal, comes home and has another one. Then he goes to work and the gang says they are going to the sports or go-go bar for a few beers and he goes.

One difference, tonight he has increased his beer intake and has now coupled it with "fun." Now the association has been made that he needs alcohol to have a good time. Once the association has been made, he now graduates to a stronger drink. His friends tell him to have a boiler maker which is a shot of whiskey and a beer. No longer does he realize that Satan has built a fortress in his life because he now indulged in the sin of drinking very heavily. The drinking increases and now he is exchanging meals for drink. Instead of eating lunch, he now downs a few beers and some whiskey. He is now in the beginning stages of drunkenness and does not even have a clue that his one temptation has led to a disastrous lifestyle.

Now he begins to miss work and becomes a trouble maker, he is fired and now looks to the bottle as his comfort. Then he turns to the world for pity and says I have a disease. It didn’t start out as a disease, it started out as temptation. SATAN HAS SUCCEEDED! The gradual escalation principle, which is Satan’s most undetected method of enslaving people, can be applied to anything which can be used in patterning sin, such as: drugs, smoking, TV addiction, pornography, laziness, workaholism, ministry addiction, religion, gluttony, body worship (fitness), etc. Satan is the tempter but we as Christians have the ability to close the door of temptation and pass the test of obedience.

(James 4:7 KJV) Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

Where is the Test?
Another principle to keep in mind is that the test is always at the beginning of every temptation. The person who drinks in our scenario failed the test of closing the door while walking through the door of temptation. Any time we surrender to temptation, we fail the test of obedience. Remember, it is not a sin to be tempted, it is a sin to capitulate to that temptation. Always keep in mind that God will never tempt you with evil. (James 1:13 KJV) Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man:

Let us look at a temptation which probably has hit everybody on the Internet, especially if you have AOL. Have you ever been on line and a little screen pops up and says something to this effect, "The Best XXX porn is only one click away." What did you do? Did you delete (close the door and pass the test) or did you click on the hyperlink and walk through the door of temptation and fail the test? With every test you pass, the stronger you become in your walk with the Lord.

Let us look at some biblical scenarios where we find people being tempted and tested. We will draw some principles from their experiences so you may apply them and be warned when the times of testing and temptation come your way, AND IT WILL.

(Gen 3:2 KJV) And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden:

Here is probably the most famous temptation of a human in the Bible. God gave Adam and Eve specific instructions concerning what trees they may eat from and which one they were not supposed to eat from. Eve’s big mistake when approached by Satan in the garden, was that she struck up a dialogue with Satan instead of resisting at that moment. This is why God commands us in 2 John10-11 KJV "If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: {11} For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds." Whenever a cult comes to your door or someone brings a false doctrine to you, you are to immediately reject them and the doctrine. Some folks, when approached, do not want to be impolite so they engage in a conversation. The reality is they are bringing you a false gospel which could send an unsaved person to hell for eternity. How polite are they being with your eternal soul?

God warns us about the effects of too many words. (Prov 10:19 KJV) "In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin: but he that refraineth his lips is wise." If Eve would have evaded a dialogue, she would not have sinned. Have you ever heard long winded theologians or philosophers speak on a favorite subject or doctrine of theirs? They overkill their subjects so much that you begin to start accepting their thoughts because their many words begin to sound palatable. When confronted with a temptation which could be hazardous, to your spiritual or physical life, it is necessary to cut it off right at that moment. Having a committee meeting with yourself will only interfere with what you must do. Don’t look for the good in evil temptation, because there is none.

(Neh 1:4 KJV) And it came to pass, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned certain days, and fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven,

Here was a test for Nehemiah. When he heard the words that his beloved Jerusalem was in ruins, what would he do? Keep in mind that he was a captive and the King’s cupbearer which meant he had a subservient position in the King’s court. Yet, his heart was broken but he could have cried and then went on with his business thinking he had a good position in the court, he wasn’t in a prison or a slave camp somewhere with a guard standing over him all day and adapted an apathetic attitude. Nehemiah did not take that road and had his heart set on desiring to do something about it.

Nehemiah’s test was what was he going to do with the information he received, would he just grieve or desire to do something about it? Let us bring this scenario into today’s mindset. Have you ever received any information about a need which needed to be filled? What was your response? Was it your desire to jump in and help or was it your desire to hope that someone else would help? That is the test.

(2 Tim 4:10 KJV) For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed unto Thessalonica; Crescens to Galatia, Titus unto Dalmatia.

There is probably no greater test for the Christian than the world itself. Since all we have ever known is this present world, it holds many beauties and twice as many traps. Here we see Demas who was a close friend to Paul (Col. 4:14) yet I do not doubt that he tried to have one foot in heaven and one on earth and it seemed he loved the things of the world, so for that time the world won. The Bible does not tell us whether he became saved at a later date or not. The greatest temptation the Christian has is to go with the flow of the world system while the greatest test is to oppose it’s evil systems right at the start before rationalization sets in.

If Demas would have viewed the world through eternal eyes he would have had no problems in who to be faithful to. As Christians when we view things through the eternal lens, it becomes easier to make a decision who to obey, momentary desire or eternal God.

The vast difference between a test and a temptation, is the test will mature you. When Nehemiah faced the test to be either involved or removed from the situation in Jerusalem, he took on the task and as a result, his leadership abilities shined. If he would have failed the test by going into hiding, he would have never known the leadership ability that God gave him. Sometimes a divine test will help reveal something about us we never knew before, both good and bad.

The temptation will never build you up in the Christian faith unless you walk away from it. Never dialogue with sin like Eve did. As a Christian you should pray that the indwelling Holy Spirit will give you much discernment in identifying a temptation. Most of the time it is not hard to spot. We have difficulty in identifying temptations when we are away from Bible study, prayer, and fellowship with other believers. If you neglect these three things in your life for a period of time, you will be weakened instead of sharpened and will fall prey to temptation. There are times when we may walk through the door of temptation and suffer consequences which may be irreversible, our sins may be forgiven but the aftermath is still there. Choose your steps wisely.

My foot hath held his steps, his way have I kept, and not declined.

(Job 23:11 KJV)