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?

HOW TO DEAL WITH THE FORBIDDEN FRUIT

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HOW TO DEAL WITH THE FORBIDDEN FRUIT by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church

HOW TO DEAL WITH THE FORBIDDEN FRUITOnce again, it’s good to be back home. Nicole and I had an amazing time in Israel! We were concerned, as many of you were also, about our safety. After we checked in the hotel in Tel Aviv, we decided to walk down to the ancient site of Joppa on the seashore, which was just 10 minutes from the hotel and it was only 8 o’clock in the evening. Since Joppa was not on our itinerary, we figured if we quickly walk there we could say we’ve been to the place where Jonah boarded the ship to go to Tarshish instead of Nineveh and where Peter had the vision of the unclean animals to teach him that the Gentiles were also welcome into the kingdom of God. So we crossed the street and got on the boardwalk that led to the site. It was well lit for couple of hundred yards and there were people there so we felt safe. Five minutes into the walk we realized that the streetlights didn’t go all the way to the site. In fact we had to walk through this dark road for a couple of miles. We said to each other let’s go a little bit further and if it gets worse we will turn right back and there’s the hotel. Just then I heard someone running behind me. I’m thinking all the worst. I turned to look and it was a girl jogging with her dog. Next thing – I see somebody else jogging from the direction we were going and it was a woman. As we kept walking, we saw men and women walking together leisurely and children playing around. It was more than safe. What was amazing was that it was about 10 o’clock when we headed back from Joppa and guess what – more people were just coming to the boardwalk to jog and exercise. We saw women by themselves and families and couples. The next day I asked the guide about it and he said – “The media paints a very negative picture of Israel. What you saw is normal. What you didn’t see was that there were plain-clothes policeman everywhere. Because we have to deal with terrorism so much, the result is that we’re probably the safest country on earth and our people know it.”

We saw a lot of sites and took as many as 5000 pictures and videos and plan on passing it along to you but we also had loads of fun!

This morning we’re back in our series on the Life of Christ and I’m preaching a message from Matthew 4 on the temptation of Jesus titled – HOW TO DEAL WITH THE FORBIDDEN FRUIT. I’m going to read this passage right from the wilderness of Judea where Jesus was tempted by the devil.

Matthew 4 1 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterward He was hungry. 3 Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” 4 But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’ ” 5 Then the devil took Him up into the holy city, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, 6 and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written: “He shall give His angels charge over you,’ and, ‘In their hands they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone.’ ” 7 Jesus said to him, “It is written again, ‘You shall not tempt the LORD your God.’ ” 8 Again, the devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. 9 And he said to Him, “All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me.” 10 Then Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only you shall serve.’ ” 11 Then the devil left Him, and behold, angels came and ministered to Him.

Judean Wilderness

Judaea Wilderness (All images © 2015 Abidan and Nicole Shah)

Overall Background: The wilderness of Judea extends from the Dead Sea to Jerusalem. It is 35 miles long and 15 miles wide. It is an area of yellow sand and crumbling limestone. Even to this day there’s nothing out there but wild animals. As we drove through it, I tried to imagine what it was like for Jesus to be out there, isolated and hungry, tormented by the devil himself. He didn’t have to go through that but He did. Why? He did it to teach us how to overcome temptation in our own lives.

This morning we will learn 4 things from the life of Jesus on how to deal with temptation or the forbidden fruit:

I. TIMING: USUALLY FOLLOWING THE MOUNTAINTOPS. 

1 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.

Background: To understand the seriousness of this passage, you actually have to read it in its context. In the verses directly preceding this passage, we read about John’s baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River. By the way, we’re skipping over this message that I preached right by the banks of the Jordan River. You’ll get to watch it in a few Sundays. But this baptism was a very important event in the life of Jesus. As Matthew tells us that when He came up out of the water – 16 “behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him. 17 And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” Wow! Jesus was fully God but also remember that He was fully man. This was a mountaintop moment in His life. Gone were the days of just being a carpenter’s son in Nazareth; gone were the days of saying “My time has not yet come.” Gone were the days of waiting patiently. Luke tells us in Luke 3:23 that Jesus was thirty years of age at this time. His Heavenly Father had acknowledged him. You would think that the next thing would be for Him to find a pulpit and preach a thundering message or put up a sign up sheet of who wants to be my disciple or march into the temple in Jerusalem and declare that He was the Son of God here to save the world.

Instead, the very next verse says – 1 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. I actually love Mark’s rendition in Mark 1:12 “Immediately the Spirit drove Him into the wilderness.”

King David's Tomb

King David’s Tomb (All images © 2015 Abidan and Nicole Shah)

There’s a powerful principle here that you cannot afford to miss – “Be careful about the mountaintops in the Christian life. It’s right after a great message, a great service, a spiritual victory, and some positive experience in our lives that we face some of the worst and the lowest moments of our lives.” In fact, we are the most vulnerable right after we have seen God’s glory. We had the opportunity to see the tomb of David. I couldn’t help but think of Psalm 23 1 The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. 2 He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. 3 He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake. Now the very next verse – 4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death.

Application: Are you dealing with the wilderness of temptation? Do you feel that the enemy is after you? Are you on the mountaintop?

II. BAIT: NOT MUCH HAS CHANGED 

Background: The tactics of the Enemy haven’t changed much since the Garden of Eden. We’re going to follow the chronology of the temptations as given by Luke in his gospel. Matthew was not concerned about the order, which is fine.

First Bait – Luke 4:3   And the devil said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” He appealed to His appetite. Remember – he did the same to Eve in the Garden of Eden. Genesis 3:6 “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food…” People will do almost anything just satisfy their taste buds and belly.

Second Bait – Luke 4:5 Then the devil, taking Him up on a high mountain, showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. 6 And the devil said to Him, “All this authority I will give You, and their glory; for this has been delivered to me, and I give it to whomever I wish. 7 Therefore, if You will worship before me, all will be Yours.” He appealed to His eyes/pleasure. Once again remember he did the same to Eve. Genesis 3:6 “…that it was pleasant to the eyes…” The eyes are the windows to the soul.

Third Bait – Luke 4:9   Then he brought Him to Jerusalem, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down from here. 10 For it is written: “He shall give His angels charge over you, To keep you,’ 11 and, “In their hands they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone.’ ” He appealed to His pride. Once again remember Eve. Genesis 3:6 “…and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate.”

The baits haven’t changed – Appetite, Pleasure, and Pride. Listen to 1 John 2:16 “For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world.”

Does this mean we cannot enjoy good food, pleasure, and have ambitions? Of course not. The question is – “Is God the center and focus of your life?” 1 Corinthians 10:31 “Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”

Application: Are you letting food, pleasure, and pride rule your life? Are you aware of the enemy’s bait in your life?

III. DEFENSE: GOD’S WORD. 

Each times the devil tempted Jesus He replied with Scripture. He used the “sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” (Eph. 6:17)

#1 Food – Luke 4:4 Jesus answered him, saying, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.’ ” He was quoting Deuteronomy 8:3.

#2 Pleasure – 8 And Jesus answered and said to him, “Get behind Me, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only you shall serve.’ ” He was quoting Deuteronomy 6:13.

#3 Pride – 12 And Jesus answered and said to him, “It has been said, ‘You shall not tempt the LORD your God.’ ” He was quoting Deuteronomy 6:16.

Most people (and I’m not exempting Christians from this category) tend to live by their emotions, intuitions, or experiences. As a pastor I do a lot of marital and premarital counseling. I explain to the couples that your emotions can be very misleading. You hear things like – “I felt I had to do that.” “I just had this feeling.” “You know when you get that feeling.” Men – You’re married but what if you were to come across this woman and immediately you feel a connection with her. It’s amazing! She’s the one! You can feel it deep within! I made a huge mistake and married the wrong person and I need to get with this one. You might wanna try Tums! And the same goes with you ladies.

One of my favorite quotes by J. Sidlow Baxter is “Your emotions are the shallowest part of your nature. God doesn’t do His deepest work in the shallowest part.”

So what is the surest way of handling temptations? It is the truth of the Word of God. Listen to Psalm 119:11 “Your word I have hidden in my heart, That I might not sin against You.” That’s why at Clearview we focus so much on the Bible with adults and youth and children (Awana). By the way, you better know your Bible because sometimes the enemy may even use the Bible against you. Jerome the church father who translated the Bible into the Latin Vulgate (we stood in the place where he worked and later his grave was) said, “Therefore if anyone is not feeding on the Word of God, that person is not living.”

Application: What is the place of God’s Word in your life? Are you feeding upon it? Are you reading it? Are you hearing it preached? Are your children coming to Sunday School, youth, Awana, etc?

IV. KEY: JESUS WAS MORE THAN OUR EXAMPLE.

It is very easy to misunderstand this message. “Jesus has given us an example on how to deal with temptation. All you have to do with temptation is know the timing, recognize the baits, and use the Bible.” Not true.

Israel wandering in the Wilderness

Israel wandering in the Wilderness (All images © 2015 Abidan and Nicole Shah)

Have you noticed that every time Jesus responded to the devil He quoted from Deuteronomy? These words were actually given to the people of Israel when they left Egypt and were headed to the Promised Land. God had told them to trust Him, look to Him, wait upon Him, and they will be all right. As you know, the people blew the test. They didn’t trust God, didn’t look to Him, and didn’t wait upon Him. They griped, complained, worshipped the golden calf, and disobeyed Moses. What was the result? They all had to die in the wilderness.

Jesus in those 40 went through what the people of Israel went through in 40 years and He showed how it is more than possible to walk with God in faith and obedience. But there’s more – He did it to become our provision as we walk through the same trials and temptations. Listen to Hebrews 2:18 “For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.”

Meaning: My job and your job in dealing with trials and temptations is to keep our eyes on Jesus.

Sea of Galilee

Sea of Galilee (All images © 2015 Abidan and Nicole Shah)

In Matthew 14:22 we read how the disciples were in the middle of the Sea, tossed by the waves. We were on the Sea of Galilee and its quite frightening how it can go from being perfectly calm to a storm. As you know Jesus walked to them and they were afraid thinking it was a ghost. But Peter said, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” Jesus said, “Come.” And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus. But when he saw that the wind was boisterous… Meaning: He took his eyes off Jesus. Immediately he began to sink. They key is to keep our eyes on Jesus.

Invitation: Do you have your eyes on Jesus? Are you saved?

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