When God Tests Us by Pastor Abidan Shah

WHEN GOD TESTS US by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

whengodtestsusIntroduction: We’re back in our series on the Lord’s Prayer called “Talking to the Father” and today’s message is titled – “When God Tests Us.”

Matthew 6   9 In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. 10 Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us this day our daily bread. 12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. 13 And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.

Overall Background: We have come to the last and probably the hardest petition in the Lord’s Prayer – “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” Unlike the other petitions, this is the only negative request that is asking God not to do something. This morning we will be answering some very important questions from this passage but first let me say – Both trials and temptations are a normal part of the Christian life. 1 Peter 4:12 says, “Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you.” Men and women of God through the ages have gone through them. They’re not fun in the least. But God has a purpose in them for us and He is faithful to deliver us and refine us through them if we let Him.

Questions: Are you going through some trials in your life? Does it feel like it just keeps coming? Does it feel like the Enemy keeps winning in your life, your home, and your world? Have you prayed for God’s deliverance? Are you submitting to God’s will in your life? Are you saved? If not, then you are already in the clutches of the Evil One?

3 Questions we will answer this morning:

I. DOES GOD LEAD US INTO TEMPTATION? 

“And do not lead us into temptation…”

Background: When you think about it, this petition seems to go directly against James 1:13 “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone.” Typically, some people have tried to solve this dilemma by pointing out that the same Greek word “peirasmos” is used for testing and temptation, which is true. They suggest that the translation should be changed to “Lead us not into testing” and the problem is solved. That’s not true. Actually, it creates some new set of problems. Again, James 1 says, 2 “count it all joy when you fall into various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.” It means – testing is not harmful but helpful and we should be joyful in the face of it. If that were the case, why would Jesus teach us to pray against something that is helpful for us?

To understand what Jesus really meant, we need to understand 2 things – First, the word “peirasmos” and the verb “peirazo” have been consistently used in a negative sense in Matthew. When Jesus gave this petition, he had the negative “temptation” and not the positive “testing” in mind, especially since He even brings up the Evil One. Second, we may have problem with this petition but the Jewish people didn’t. In the Talmuddic prayers, we come across a similar petition – “Lead my foot not into the power of sin, and bring me not into the power of iniquity, and not into the power of temptation, and not into the power of anything shameful.”

Here’s the point: Jesus meant what He said and His original audience had no problem with the statement that sometimes God leads His people into situations where the Enemy is allowed to tempt them. Several examples from the Bible come to mind here:

Job and his friends by Ilya Repin

Job and his friends by Ilya Repin

In the opening chapter of Job, we see God bragging on Job to Satan. Job 1   8 “…Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil?” 9 So Satan answered the LORD and said, “Does Job fear God for nothing?…11 But now, stretch out Your hand and touch all that he has, and he will surely curse You to Your face!” 12 And the LORD said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your power; only do not lay a hand on his person.” After Satan wreaked havoc in Jacob’s life and Job didn’t deny God, God again bragged on Job. Again, Satan tells God that it’s because it’s not hot enough. Job 2   5 But stretch out Your hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will surely curse You to Your face!” 6 And the LORD said to Satan, “Behold, he is in your hand, but spare his life.”

We see a similar situation in the life of David. 2 Samuel 24:1 Again the anger of the LORD was aroused against Israel, and He moved David against them to say, “Go, number Israel and Judah.” We don’t know exactly why God tested David in this way but look at the parallel passage in 1 Chronicles 21:1 “Now Satan stood up against Israel, and moved David to number Israel.” Very strange! On the one hand, God is testing David but, on the other, Satan is tempting David.

Christ in the wilderness - Ivan Kramskoy

Christ in the wilderness – Ivan Kramskoy

Turn to the NT to the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. Matthew 4:1 says, “Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.” It’s as clear as day.

On the night of the Last Supper, Jesus has an eerie conversation with Peter. Luke 22   31 And the Lord said, “Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. 32 But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.” 33 But he said to Him, “Lord, I am ready to go with You, both to prison and to death.” 34 Then He said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster shall not crow this day before you will deny three times that you know Me.” There is a sense of finality in Jesus’ statement of what was about to happen in Peter’s life.

How about Paul? 2 Corinthians 12   7 And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. 8 Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. 9 And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.”

Here’s the point: God does not tempt us but He does allow us to go into situations where the Enemy can tempt us. It is part of His grand design to purify and humble us.

Application: Are you facing temptations in your life? Are old habits, attitudes, and behaviors resurfacing in your life? Don’t panic. Don’t lose heart. Realize that God is allowing the Enemy to tempt you. He has not abandoned. He is with you. He has a purpose for you. Trust Him. Do you believe that in your worst moments God has not abandoned you but He is very near to you?

II. HOW SHOULD WE PRAY DURING TEMPTATION? 

13 And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.

Background: Some people say – “I get it. Satan wants to tempt me but God wants to test me. I guess I should be glad that I am going through this. I am just going to grin it and bear it because it’s all going to work in my favor when it’s over. After all, doesn’t James 1:2 say, ‘My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. 4 But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.’ To be honest, we should be looking forward to testing because it’s good for us! In fact, God – bring on some more! Also, doesn’t I Corinthians 10:13 also reminds us that, “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.” God knows my limit and He won’t put any more temptation on me than I can take.”

Here’s the question: If temptation is productive and God knows my limits and will not put on me any more than I can take, why did Jesus teach us to beg God not to lead us into temptation? To start with, Jesus’ original readers did not have any problem with this petition. In fact, this kind of petition was not uncommon in Jewish prayers of the time. Listen to Psalm 155 from Qumran. It says, “Remember me and do not forget me, and do not lead me into situations too hard for me.” In other words, God, please don’t let me get into situations that will produce overwhelming temptation. Here’s the point – if we ignore the context, we will miss the intent. This prayer is a conversation between a child and the father. How does the prayer begin? “Our Father in Heaven” Jesus is teaching us how to come to God as our heavenly father, something the Jewish people understood very well. This prayer is not a discourse on systematic theology, which the Jewish people were not so keen on – bringing passages from here and there on a subject and constructing a doctrine.

Illustration: Sometime back I was watching our boys playing on the soccer team and this little kid got hit with the ball in the face. It was pretty hard. All of us went “whoa!” collectively. The coach ran up there and the mom ran up there. By this time, the kid was crying and when he saw his mom, he ran up to her and hugged on to her. Let me ask you – why did he go hug his mom? She’s not the coach. She cannot ease the pain. She didn’t cause the pain. Why? To a child, the mother is a symbol of safety and comfort. By the way, he stopped that real quickly when he realized that all his teammates and all of us were watching him.

The point is this – God is the source of comfort in our trials and He wants us to come to Him as a child to his/her father and plead for “mercy and grace to help in time of need.” Paul says in 2 Corinthians 1   3 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our tribulation…” Jesus was not laying out the doctrine of theodicy (Why God permits evil). He was simply laying out the attitude of prayer. Listen carefully – Proper theology leads to proper intimacy but don’t let your theology get in the way of your intimacy with God. In other words, stop teaching God the Bible and just pray.

Application: How do you pray? Do you pray like that little child, flinging himself in his mother’s arms? Or do you let your theology get in the way of your intimacy with God? Do you come to Him in in the midst of your struggles and just fall upon Him and ask Him for relief? Or do you presume to teach God the Bible?

III. WHAT IF OUR PRAYERS REMAIN UNANSWERED? 

“And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.”

Background: The word “but” implies that if we have to go through temptation, then please “deliver” us from the Enemy. The Greek word for deliver is “hruomai” which means, “to rescue someone from a fate from which he cannot escape on his own.” In other words, the battle is on and the Enemy is in control and the disciple is too weak to free oneself. Someone else is needed to fight the Enemy and set them free. Now the battle is in the Deliverer’s hands.

Jesus gave the perfect demonstration of this in the Garden of Gethsemane – Luke 22   41 “…and He knelt down and prayed, 42 saying, ‘Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; “Wait a minute. What are you talking about? You came for this very purpose? You know you had to do this.” The pressure is so high that right now it’s only a son talking to his father. But then listen – “‘…nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.’ Meaning: Jesus submitted Himself to the trial. 43 Then an angel appeared to Him from heaven, strengthening Him. 44 And being in agony, He prayed more earnestly. Then His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. He prayed as a child but submitted as a son.

Real Trial. Real Prayer. Real Answer. Real Submission. Real Victory.

Invitation: Are you going through some temptation right now? Are you praying for help? Are you praying for deliverance from the Enemy? Are you saved?

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